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Authors: Joel Thomas Hynes

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BOOK: Down to the Dirt
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—Fuck did you get the bucks to?


—Right fuckin’ on. Milk ’em for whatever they’re worth, Keith b’y.

The cheque is a bit soggy but I don’t have no trouble cashin’ it since it’s a government issue and all. I buys a couple of packs of smokes, a dozen and a half beer and a big bag of chips. But rather than go straight back to Gerald’s I takes a walk up the track above the store where I devours the chips and flattens five beer. It’s comin’ on dark and I feels a few drops of rain so I sets off down through the woods again. I’m so drunk that I spends most of my time on my back or face down in the bushes. The world in front of my face seems to freeze as I moves through it. Then the picture breaks off and floats away before I can focus on the next frame. I struggles to keep myself walkin’, not wantin’ to pass out in the woods in the rain and maybe die. I runs faster but that only causes me to tumble around more and to hit the ground harder when I do. At some point I stops to vomit. I’ve put nothing in my stomach all day but the chips and the beer and that’s all that comes out. And vodka. I keeps bumblin’ my way through the trees and the rain. After a while the woods fritter away and I tumbles onto someone’s back lawn. I’m delighted to find that, throughout the whole ordeal, I managed to keep the dozen beer intact. But the box is soaked through and it’s not gonna hold much longer. I staggers across the lawn towards the back porch of what I think is Harold Reddigan’s house. Can’t say for sure. I mindlessly pounds on the door but no one answers. It’s not locked. I walks into the porch and flicks on the light.

—An…body ’ome?

I pokes around until I comes across an old duffle bag full of
someone’s laundry. I empties it onto the floor and puts the case of beer down into it. I considers leavin’ a note or something, but it’s likely to be too much hassle. I locks the door behind me and makes my way down the driveway to the main road.

Gerald’s got his head down on the table, the vodka bottle empty in front of him. I causes a big racket tryin’ to sit myself down and he jumps right out of his chair, fists clenched and ready to go.

—Where the fuck are you goin’, Benny? What time is it?

—Gerald, it’s only me. Who’s Benny?

He picks up the bottle, sees it’s empty and then hurls it at the cupboards. I pulls the beer out of the bag and hands him one. I twists one open myself but I gags on the first mouthful. Gerald takes a chunk of hash out of his top pocket and cuts off a few blasts. Looks like the kind Francey had, soft and oily. I turns on the propane burner on the stove and lays the knives over the flame. No matter how fucked I am, I can always straighten up enough to cook a draw. Once the blades are red hot Gerald drops a blast onto one of ’em. I lets it smolder for a second before pancaking the other blade on top of it. Gerald don’t bother with a funnel. Thick white smoke blasts up into his face. He brings his lips closer and closer to the red blades as the draw burns out. Smoke curls up around his head and drifts to the ceiling. He fills his lungs and then chokes his guts up. Then I does one. Big mistake. The room spins round and round. I tries to make it back to my chair but some cunt’s after fuckin’ with the floor. It’s gone rubbery and keeps slantin’ away like the house is fallin’ over the cliff. Gravity pulls me
across the room towards the far wall. I tries to pull myself back to my feet, but I don’t have the strength. Gerald cheers me on. The ceiling pulsates. It’s gonna collapse. I slumps down in the far corner and vomits onto a pile of shoes and sneakers. Gerald bolts towards me. In a flash he got me on my feet, holdin’ me up by the collar of my jacket.

—You dirty little fucker. I should make you lick that shit up.

—Go fuck yourself.

Don’t know what I was thinkin’ to go and say something like that to Gerald Careen on a drinkin’ night. He draws back his arm and lets me have it square into the face. He hits me so hard that I bounces off the wall behind me and lands right back in the standin’ position, facin’ him once more. Then I says it again.

—Go fuck yourself.

He draws his arm back again, but don’t follow through with it. My knees gives out and I hits the floor. I can already feel my eye swellin’ up. The taste of blood in the back of my throat. My nose is bleedin’ and I starts bawlin’. Fuck. Tears and blood and drool and snots runnin’ down my face as I drags myself on my hands and knees into the bathroom. I wraps myself around the toilet bowl and vomits some more. Not in the toilet though, onto the floor around it.

I lies there for a while, tryin’ to stop from sobbin’ out loud. It’s not the pain. I can hardly feel a thing really. Just, I don’t know, sometimes I bawls for no real reason these days.

My thoughts are driftin’ and I’m almost passed out when I hears someone poundin’ on the front door. My first instinct tells me it’s the cops. I tries to push myself up with my hand, but it slips in the vomit and I cracks my face off the toilet bowl.
Now my lip is bleedin’ too. I strains to hear Gerald’s muffled voice in conversation with whoever’s at the door. I hears my name. My full name. I forces myself to my feet and steadies my body against the shower. I locks the bathroom door and then opens the window that leads to the back yard. It’s a tight squeeze, but I manages to get out just in time. As I hits the ground on back of the house I hears Gerald knockin’ on the bathroom door.

—Keith, you alright? There’s someone here lookin’ for you. Keith?

Then I’m gone.

I’m out of there.

There’s a path that runs from the back of Gerald’s place right over to the North Side of the Cove. I lets my legs do the walkin’. My nose and lip are stopped bleedin’ but my eye is pretty much swollen shut. I’m soon stumbling down the back steps to Natasha’s house. All I wants to do is lie down with her and go to sleep. She was expecting me a lot earlier but I’m sure she’ll be understanding when she sees the state I’m in. I tries to be as quiet as possible. Last thing I wants to do is get her old man on the go. No such luck though. Someone’s after stackin’ a bunch of beer bottles behind the basement door and they all comes crashin’ down when I opens it. The house snarls to life. Heavy footsteps from the upstairs hallway, stompin’ across the kitchen floor. The basement door squeaks open.

—Natasha, is that you?

It’s the old man. I turns back up the basement steps. My wet boot lands on a loose bottle and I topples out onto the concrete walkway. Then he’s in the doorway, towering over me, silently surveying the mess of broken bottles on the basement floor.

—H…hey, Mr. Healy.

—Don’t Mr. Fuckin’ Healy me, Kavanagh. What the fuck happened to your face? Where’s Natasha to?

—I’m sorry, I don’t…I’m a bit—

—You’re loaded fuckin’ drunk. Where’s Natasha?

—She’s…I don’t—

—What were you told about showin’ up here drunk? And what were you told about usin’ the basement door? I’m not havin’ it. The cops were here lookin’ for you. If you got Natasha tangled up with the goddamned cops I’ll crack your fuckin’ skull.

—I’m not dringin’—

—No wonder she’s after gettin’ so goddamn hard to talk to, the likes of this goin’ on all hours. You listen to me, you little rogue—

—I’m not dringin’—

—Lie to me face now, will you?

For the size of the man he’s pretty fuckin’ fast. He pulls me to my feet and slams me up against the wall. Some set of arms on him. He shakes me around like a rag-doll. This is it. He’s snapped and he’s finally gonna pound me. He’s been lookin’ for an excuse for a good while now anyhow. Then Natasha’s mother appears in the hallway. Thanks be to Christ.

—Oh Jesus Mary and Joseph! Keith, look at your face. Stan, let him in for the love of God, b’y.

That’s his name, Stan. But she’s the only one ever calls him that. Everybody else in the Cove calls him Beef. Me and Natasha calls him the old man, not to his face though. He lets go of me and stomps back up over the stairs. He barks down:

—You deal with him then, and we’ll be done with it. He’s cleanin’ up that mess before he goes too. And ask him about Becky’s little cat.

She leads me over to the couch and sits me down, goes into the laundry room and comes back with a first aid kit. She washes my cheek with an alcohol pad.

—Who were you fighting with? The cops were here.

—I wasn…fighdin…I was—

—My God, you’re loaded drunk. On a school night, Keith? You were told last time about this. Stan wants you gone. He don’t trust you.


She takes out a patch of gauze and tapes it over my eye. Goes to work on my lip with a cotton swab.

—…and Natasha won’t talk to us anymore. We lays down rules and no one listens. I found an ashtray under her bed this morning. She doesn’t smoke. I can only assume it was you—

—I’m not—

—Why is it so hard for her to sit down and have a conversation? Tell us where she’s going or what’s going on in her life? I asked her what time she was coming home and she flew right off the head at me. Like I’m some kind of animal.

Her expression is pained and her eyes well up.

—What am I doing so wrong that my own daughter won’t sit down and talk to me without cursing and swearing and—

—Maybe she’s not fit.

—Pardon me?

She stops cleanin’ my lip. Stands back and looks at me. Looks at the bloody cloth in her hand as if she’s just now realizing that I’m not one of her own.

—What did you say?

—Mentally I mean—

—Mentally? You’re going to look me in the face, with that face, and tell me my daughter’s not
mentally fit
to talk to?

—I don’t mean—


—I didn’t mean—

—Go. Get out of my sight. Get out of my house. We’re not having a live-in boyfriend. Nor a thief. God knows what you’re fillin’ Natasha’s head with.

—Where’m I gonna go to?

—I don’t care where you goes, but if you don’t go now, I’m gettin’ Stan.

She can’t be fuckin’ serious? This can’t be happening. She walks back up over the basement steps. I hears her cross the kitchen floor. She hollers at the old man. He’ll be down soon to have a go at me.

What in the fuck did I have to go and say that for?

I coulda just gone to bed out of it.

I was only tryin’ to say…ah fuck it. Fuck it.

Headlights comin’ my way as I’m walkin’ out the road from Natasha’s. I jumps into the ditch and squats behind an alder. It’s the cops. Jesus. They pulls in at Natasha’s. This is bad. I racks my brain to remember if I’ve done anything illegal. No. Not that I knows of. I’ve been playin’ it pretty straight this past few weeks. Maybe it’s about Francey’s seatbelt? Or the pocketknife? Or the old man might have called ’em when I showed up. He’s like that. I watches him come onto the front porch to meet the cop car. He gestures down the road towards me. I moves further into the woods. Christ, I’ve spent half the day
in the woods. The cops swings their car around and crawls down the road with their big spotlight shinin’ back and forth. I lies down flat and seconds later the light passes over me. They creeps along for a bit, then picks up a bit of speed, and they’re gone. I lets out a breath I never even knew I was holdin’. I rolls down out of the woods into the drain and claws my way back onto the road, the whole time with my eyes on the taillights of their car. They pulls off at the end of the Point and carries on past the old graveyard. Fuck.

I can’t go home. I can’t. Sure the last time I laid eyes on my father I took a smack at him. I came home from school that evening and Mom scarcely missed my head with my ghetto blaster. She was up in my room with the window open, tossin’ all my shit onto the balcony below. Tapes, books, clothes, posters tore in half and balled up. My stereo didn’t break, but when she came downstairs to
me, I showed her how it was done. I jumped it and stomped it and kicked it and smashed it into the ground while she stood watchin’. I had no idea what it was all about, if I had a defence or an alibi or what the fuck was going on. But I figured it was bad. Turns out it was all over a pair of binoculars. How the fuck was I supposed to know they belonged to her father? They didn’t look antique to me. What do she want with a pair of binoculars? Lookin’ around. What’s goin’ on over at the Sweenys’ this evening I wonder? That’s perverted if you asks me. Anyhow, I sold the fuckin’ things in Tors Cove one night for forty bucks and I honestly thought I was rippin’ the guy off. I told Mom I’d get her the money back. She told me to go and not to come back.
So I left for a while. Waited ’til about ten o’clock before I went back. Her and Father were sittin’ in the kitchen. The rest of my shit was jammed into garbage bags. They gave me a choice: I could either seriously change my ways, live there under a new
trial basis
where if I screwed up once more I was gone for good, or I could just go now and find some other place to live. I still thought it was all a bit much for a fuckin’ old pair of binoculars. So I said as much, grabbed a couple of garbage bags and went for the door. My mother lost her head.

—You can go out and give blowjobs to old men, sell drugs, rob the gas station. But the first time I hears tell of anything, I’m goin’ straight to the cops.

She took the rest of the bags and threw ’em out on the ground. I told her to go fuck herself. That’s when Father shoved me off the step. I jumped up and made a run at him. Mom took off into the house and he backed in behind the door, slammin’ it just as I would’ve hooked him in the face. My fist made full contact with the door and afterwards I found out my knuckle was broke. But the look on Dad’s face was the worst. An expression somewhere between fear and…empathy. An expression I never expected or wanted to see on my father’s face. A lot of bad shit, a lot worse than that, has gone down over the years. But something felt different this time. A line had been crossed and I knew there was no going back. I wish I’d just turned and walked away without runnin’ at him like that. That’s no way to be carryin’ on with your father. It had nothing to do with him. He didn’t care about the goddamn binoculars. He was just following orders.

I took a few things from one of the garbage bags, went over and lay down in his truck for the night. But I couldn’t get
comfortable. All I saw when I closed my eyes was his face through the glass as I struck the door. I think I bawled. I managed to get to sleep for a couple of hours, but I got out of the truck before he went to work the next morning. I stood up on the bank overlooking our lane as he made his way to the truck. He got in, started her up, then put his head down on the steering wheel. I figured he must only be tired, that he never got enough sleep.

BOOK: Down to the Dirt
11.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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