Authors: Roddy Doyle
THE WOMAN WHO WALKED INTO DOORS
Roddy Doyle was born in Dublin in 1958. He is
the author of seven acclaimed novels and
a memoir of his parents. He won the Booker
Prize in 1993 for
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.
ALSO BY RODDY DOYLE
Faddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
A Star Called Henry
Oh, Play That Thing
Rory & Ita
Guess Who's Coming for the Dinner
The Woman Who Walked Into Doors
No Messin' With the Monkeys
The Giggler Treatment
Rover Saves Christmas
The Meanwhile Adventures
'He climbs into a woman's skin so brilliantly that you have to pinch yourself to remember this was written by a man ... Doyle triumphs in
The Woman Who Walked Into Doors
because he remembers what other male writers have forgotten – that his heroine is more than just a woman. Mainly, she is a human being.'
'Doyle closes Paula's story with admirable delicacy, solving no problems and healing no wounds, but celebrating the wilful tenacity of a life.'
'This is a wonder of a book, full of mercy, but a real stab in the heart, too. Doyle is more than merely important, he's essential, and
The Woman Who Walked Into Doors
is his best work so far.'
'Anyone looking for a great novel from a brave, brilliant writer should read this book. Read it, and weep. Read it, and learn something new. Read it, and care.'
'This wonderful novel reaffirms the achievements of Roddy Doyle ... It is hard to imagine any lover either of fiction or of life who could remain untouched by Paula Spencer ... Wonderfully written, with urgency and blazing compassion.'
Cleveland Plain Dealer
'Emma Bovary, Anna Karenina and now that foul-mouthed, lively, immensely endearing survivor: Paula Spencer, Molly Bloom's sadder and wiser younger sister.'
Los Angeles Times
'A stunning depiction of a woman's battered soul told with the indomitable wit and the lilt of Roddy Doyle's extraordinary voice.'
Mary McGarry Morris
'Compelling ... astonishing ... Paula's voice is wonderful... It is this mixture of spirit and grief that makes
The Woman Who Walked Into Doors
a painful and beautiful story, a tale where the sadness and despair are redeemed because they are never denied.'
San Francisco Chronicle
'Magnificently constructed . . . What seems to me extraordinary about Doyle's novel is not the awful story it tells ... but the places he travels through Paula's tough, genuine soliloquy...Doyle does a marvellous job. His Paula Spencer is irrefutably alive.'
Boston Sunday Globe
This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
Published by Vintage 1998
21 23 25 27 29 30 28 26 24 22
Copyright © Roddy Doyle, 1996
Roddy Doyle has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work
This electronic book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
First published in Great Britain in 1996 by
Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road,
London SW1V 2SA
Addresses for companies within The Random House Group Limited
can be found at:
The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009
A CIP catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO JACK
The author is grateful for permission to reprint lines from the following:
"Leaving on a Jet Plane" by John Denver © 1967 by Cherry Lane Music Inc., administered by Harmony Music Ltd, la Farm Place, London W8 7SX. "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" by Jimmy Webb © 1968 by Island Music Ltd. Lyrics reproduced by kind permission of the publisher. "All Shook Up", Words and Music by Otis Blackwell and Elvis Presley, © 1957 by Shalimar Music, Inc. all rights administered by Elvis Presley Music, Inc., New York, USA. International Copyright Secured. All rights reserved. "Brown Sugar" by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards © 1971 by ABKCO Music Inc., New York, USA. Used by permission. International Copyright Secured. All rights reserved. "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" by Shel Silverstein © 1974 and 1980 Evil Eye Music Inc., USA. International Copyright Secured. All rights 'reserved. Used by permission. "Knock Three Times", Words and Music by Irwin Levine and Larry Russell Brown © 1971 by 212 Music Co/Forty West Music Corp, USA. Reproduced by permission of EMI Songs Ltd. "Take a Giant Step", Words and Music by Carole King and Gerry Goffin © 1966 by Screen Gems-EMI Music Inc, USA. Reproduced by permission of Screen Gems-EMI Music Ltd, London WC2H 0EA. "Everyday Housewife" by Charles Richard Cason © Full Keel Music Company o/b/o Windswept Pacific Entertainment Company, controlled in the UK and Eire by Windswept Pacific Music Limited. "Tupelo Honey" by Van Morrison © 1971 by Caledonia Soul Music Co. and WB Music Corp., USA. Warner Chappell Music Ltd, London W1Y 3FA. Reproduced by permission of International Music Publications Ltd. "When you Wish Upon a Star", Music by Leigh Harline, Words by Ned Washington © 1940 by Bourne Co., USA, Warner Chappell Music Ltd, London W1Y 3FA. Reproduced by permission of international Music Publications Ltd. "There's No Lights on the Christmas Tree, Mother" by Harvey/Condron and Talisman. Reproduced by permission.
Every effort has been made to obtain necessary permissions with reference to copyright material. The publishers apologise if inadvertently any sources remain unacknowledged.
At the age of 37—
She realised she'd never ride —
Through Paris —
In a sports car —
With the warm wind in her hair —
'The Ballad of Lucy Jordan'
I was told by a Guard who came to the door. He wasn't one I'd seen before, one of the usual ones. He was only a young fella, skinny and with raw spots all over his neck.
He couldn't have been more than twenty. He looked miserable.
I knew before he spoke. It clicked inside me when I opened the door. (For years opening that door scared the life out of me. I hated it; it terrified me. We had this screeching bell like an alarm that shook the walls when anyone rang it. It lifted me off the floor, the kids started bawling; it was fuckin' dreadful. You were caught, snared, caught in the act. You looked around to hide whatever you'd been caught with, things that Charlo had left in the hall, things he'd robbed and left there. He changed the bell, after I chewed his ear and nearly wet myself five or six times a day. Nicola, my oldest, wouldn't come round the back to get into the house. She wanted to come through the front door; it was more grown up. She rang the bell ten times a minute.
—Forgot me jacket.
—Forgot me money.
—Don't like these jeans on me.
I hit her — she was thirteen, or twelve, much too old to be smacked — the hundredth time she rang the bell one Saturday morning. I hit her the way a woman would hit another woman, smack in the face. I was a bit drunk, I have to admit. I regretted it, tried to stop my hand after it had smashed her cheek and come back. She held her hand up to her cheek. It was red where I'd got it. She was stunned; she hadn't noticed me getting more annoyed. They never do at that age — at any age. I was sorry for her but she'd deserved it. I was sorry I was drunk, ashamed, angry; I usually made sure that no one noticed. I couldn't cope; it was only a stupid bell. She said she hated me, slammed the door and ran off. I let her away with it. The new bell was a nice bing-bong one but it made no difference. I still died a bit whenever someone rang it. The Guards looking for Charlo, teachers looking for John Paul, men looking for money. It's hard to hide in a house full of kids, to pretend there's no one there. Bing-bong. Only bad news came through that door; my sister, my daddy, John Paul, Charlo. Bing-bong.) It clicked inside me when I opened the door and saw the Guard. It was his face that told me before I was ready to know it. He wasn't looking for Charlo; it wasn't the usual. He was scared and there was something he had to tell me. I felt sorry for the poor young fella, sent in to do the dirty work. The other wasters were out in the car, too lazy and cute to come in and tell me themselves. I asked him in for a cup of tea. He sat in the kitchen with his hat still on him. He told me all about his family.
I swooned the first time I saw Charlo. I actually did. I didn't faint or fall on the floor but my legs went rubbery on me and I giggled. I suddenly knew that I had lungs because they were empty and collapsing.
There he was, over there, leaning against the wall.
Fiona nudged me.
—There he is.
I saw him and I knew who she meant. It couldn't have been anyone else, after all I'd heard about him, after all I'd expected. He was with a gang but all by himself. His hands in his pockets with the thumbs hooked over the denim and a fag hanging from his mouth. It got me then and it gets me now: cigarettes are sexy — they're worth the stench and the cancer. Black bomber jacket, parallels, loafers — he was wearing what everyone wore back then but the uniform was made specially for him. The other boys looked thick and deformed beside him. Tallish, tough looking and smooth. In a world of his own but he knew we were watching him.
We'd been dancing together in a circle, our jackets and jumpers and bags on the floor in front of us, and I was sweating a bit. And 1 felt the sweat when I saw Charlo. This wasn't a crush — this wasn't David Cas-sidy or David Essex over there — it was sex. I wanted to go over there and bite him.
He took the fag from his mouth — I could feel the lip coming part of the way before letting go — and blew a gorgeous jet of smoke up into the light. It pushed the old smoke out of its way and charged into the ceiling. Then he fitted the fag back onto his lip and the hand went back to his pocket. He was elegant; the word doesn't seem to fit there but that was what he was.
The music. I remember it. Women always do. Sugar Baby Love. By The Rubettes. It was the perfect song, sweet and fast, corny but mean, high-pitched but definitely masculine. Charlo's theme song and he didn't know it. He had nothing to do with it; the D.J. had chosen it, just then and there. And it fitted; it was perfect. Looking back at it now. But I didn't know he was going to look at me. I didn't know he was going to move away from the wall and walk. I didn't know he was going to stand in front of me. I didn't even have time to dream it.
He was coming over. The cigarette went onto the floor; he flicked it away, didn't look where it was going. He was coming straight at me but he wasn't looking. I was shiteing; he was going to walk past me.
—D'you want to dance?
I let him sweat for a bit.
His timing was perfect. The Rubettes stopped and Frankie Valli started singing My Eyes Adored You. He must have planned it. His arms went through my arms just as Frankie went
his fingers were knitted and on my back by the time Frankie got to
He'd been drinking. I could smell it but it didn't matter. He wasn't drunk. His arms rested on my hips and he brought me round and round.
—But I never laid a hand on you —
My eyes adored you —
I put my head on his shoulder. He had me.