I had to be in The Oval at seven. Right now, I was sitting on a stone bench in the park behind The Church bar. I’d just been in Jervis Street, buying some bedding. A raggedy old guy, smelling strongly of booze, settles down beside me. He’s one of hundreds, if not thousands, of abandoned souls who haunt the city centre with nothing to do and nowhere to go.
He takes a good look at the box at my feet and reads the name – Irish Dreams.
“Irish dreams? Irish dreams? More like Irish fucking nightmares brother.”
Last night at home, I fell asleep on the couch in the dark. When I awoke there was someone in the hallway, their face pressed up against the glass. Staring at me, dead eyes. Only for a second.
This morning I saw them again, at the bus stop across the street, out of the corner of my eye.
The Oval’s busy, I settle down, knock back a whisky to settle the nerves and head upstairs.
“What’ll it be pal?”
“I heard you have the finest Apfelstrudel in all of Wien”.
The barman stares at me. And stares at me. Is he smirking? Is this some elaborate joke Few has set up to make me look like (even) more of an idiot?
Eventually, he reached under the counter and takes out a key. Hands it to me and nods to a door in the wood panelling at the back. “Lock it after you”.
I struggle a little with the key, curious punters staring, willing me to fail, and willing me not to be able to even open a fucking door. Bastards. I’m sweating.
It opens, I push it in, I’m in a dimly lit (well it would be wouldn’t it) corridor, green and grey hospital painted walls, peeling, exposed pipes, damp….the whole nine yards. No. Fuck me not again.
I wish I’d had another drink. The door closes of its own volition. The lock clicks. The lights flicker on and off, off and on. Then off. Then on. You get the picture. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re as stupid as you look. I walk down, down and down into the dark. I think if I went into The Oval right now that the door wouldn’t be there anymore. I certainly get that feeling. I try not to panic. Panic stations. STATIONTOSTATION. Hard to believe he’s gone. Is he gone? Maybe here he’s not gone? Maybe this is where he’s gone to. I fixate on that. Maybe there’s a wardrobe, an English evergreen. I’m not dying to know. Irmgard Laurie. I mean who knew she was real? Is Conny Plank still alive? Would like to meet. Think he’s dead. Cluster. Clusterfuck. Clusterbomb.
” the first music I hated was the noise of exploding bombs, grenades and guns to which I had to listen to as a child in World War II”
A door. There’s a door, a glass door with backwards lettering like a private dick’s office. Should the writing be back to front? Isn’t that inside? I catch a glimpse of my fleshy dead friend from last night, face pressed against the pane as the lights fizzle out. Then no more. I knock. No reply. I go in. It’s an office, straight out of Raymond Chandler, hat-stand, gold lettering, drinks cabinet, old newspapers and files piled on the desk. It’s got atmosphere. It’s got the tone perfectly right, it’s instantly and obviously a complete fake. I don’t know why, maybe it’s the smell, I guess it doesn’t matter. What do I care?
Someone is sitting behind the desk, back to me. Smoking. They swing around and there he is. What a sight. Ok, it’s been a while since I saw him but he is a fright. He’s lost some amount of weight, now I wouldn’t say rake, the rakes progress but there’s a hint of a bone structure, even in the gloom, even through the bandages he’s wearing around his face. He’s got on a wig, all gelled up in shock, and shades. Shades, Jesus Fucking Christ. The invisible man, literally and figuratively.
“Brick, listen carefully – I haven’t got much time, I got in too deep. I had to go underground. People are looking for me. McGivney, and much, much worse. I’ve been incommunicado. This is the only safe way. It wasn’t me, remember that Brick, no matter what you hear, what you see, it wasn’t me. Take this…”
He hands me a roll of papers, tied up with old shop twine.
“Three weeks Few, I thought when you heard the news you would be in touch. I know you didn’t get on but……”
“You don’t know do you? David, he’s gone”
“Dead. He died…”
He looks at me, well I think he’s looking at me, with the shades it’s hard to tell…
He stands up, he’s moaning, low but audible, louder and it turns to a scream, a cry of real anguish and pain, like a dog who’s just had his bollocks chopped off.
“Few, Few, Jesus , Few…
The lights go out, we’re pitched into darkness. When they come back he’s gone. Everything is gone, not just Few, the room, everything. I’m standing back at the door, papers in hand.
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