O DANNY BOY / SUMMER HEAT / REPAIRING THE CAT

O DANNY BOY

AN Irishman stands in a country pub – jet black hair, fat as a pig and devastatingly attractive. He is very drunk, but then he always is. Reaching up, he presses his great slab-hands against the roof-beams.

‘I’ll push the bloody roof off, so I will!’ he bellows, as he does every night.

‘Go ahead,’ says the Landlady, taking a long, asthmatic drag through yellowed fingers. ‘See if I care.’

Instead, he lowers one arm, fixes me with a cynical eye and starts to sing in a voice as dark as Guinness:

‘O Danny Boy –’

Everyone falls silent. When he gets to ‘In sunshine and in shadow’ I have to break his gaze.

He knows about the tears.

SUMMER HEAT

SUMMER heat. The traffic lights by the Council estate go red. Halted there, a woman in a newish sports car – cream suit, wraparound sunglasses, Mozart on the radio.

The woman sighs. She desires, so much, that ugly house, that weedy garden full of children’s toys; and just outside, the man in the saggy shorts and the faded vest, creosoting the fence.

REPAIRING THE CAT

MY parents had a liking for whimsy.

In his eighty-fourth year my father took it upon himself to mend the concrete cat, which frost had beheaded the previous winter. My mother had simply ‘planted’ the head in the flower-trough beside the body.

The head, solemn, faintly oriental, almost-but-not-quite smiling, remained there for a whole year before my father went and cemented it back on again. He didn’t make a very good job of it – as always, he was impatient and slapdash and there was a jagged join around the neck. So he fetched one of his oldest ties to disguise the damage, nailing the dangling ends to kitty’s concrete chest. It made me wince every time I caught sight of it, but he hadn’t done it for me.

Knowing that he would soon be gone, he was making a memorial to himself, something my mother could gaze at out of the kitchen window when she was washing up. He didn’t know that, of course, and neither did she. Not in the sense of knowing that they knew it.

It was just a piece of whimsy.

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