As Crowley awaits his wife in this new short story, the contents of his neighbour’s house are thrown in a skip
She walked the kids round to her sister’s. Only two streets away and she was still not back after an hour. Crowley stood in the shower, ironed his shirt and had got the flute ready. He was hoping there’d be a song or two later as he gargled with salt water at the sink and spat it out on to the breakfast dishes.
He flipped the lid on his phone. Debs wasn’t making him wait or maybe she was. Or she didn’t know herself if that was the plan for this morning. She’d deny it.
Might admit to it, angrily. The agenda changed so quickly she couldn’t keep up with herself. What it did mean though was a big rush, fluster and stress, no time to try to enjoy the morning with her now. The chance was gone. Debs and her wit doing her make-up in her great-grandmother’s mirror. The glee her reflection took in shocking him with her coarse secret tongue.
At the front window Crowley, while checking for sight of his wife on the street, discovered there was a skip outside the house opposite, Flaherty’s place. It must have been delivered pretty early because he was up with the kids. Two citizens were guiding a mattress through the front door. First, a short, round red-faced man, and a much younger and taller youth in a Dundalk football strip at the other end.
These two tipped the mattress over the side of the skip and were returning to the house when the thing somehow fell back over the other side and into the road. Only the younger one found it funny. A van was parked beside the skip, grey, new, with a Louth registration.
Flaherty was buried out by the airport three months earlier. A local man, a printer in his time, dapper as they say, a Saturday gambler and a decent hand at the five-string banjo. They had a few sessions together, Crowley and him. The last one, epic, began in the early afternoon and rolled on into the night, and dry too, just tea and a plate of biscuits, tea and music and the light from the fire. The man had a habit of glancing over his shoulder when he sang, over both shoulders, like he was expecting somebody who might arrive from any direction. Debs wouldn’t let her husband into the bed after that last one, refused to even look at him for a few days, and Crowley took the hint. He avoided the man. Flaherty died of a heart attack in the barber’s chair and the blast of a jumbo shook him in his coffin by the graveside. Only six people made the effort, including a priest, Crowley and a Garda inspector with his arm in a sling.
He ought to have been surprised at the appearance of his wife right outside the window and he didn’t know either why he acted as if it wasn’t really her. Or how the way she stuck her hands on her hips and scowled happened to bring him back to his senses and made him open the door for her.
You’ll get a name for yourself lurking there.
They’re cleaning out over yonder didn’t you notice? Have you seen my purse? She was flushed, preoccupied. In the kitchen, he told her the taxi was booked for midday.
Well, sorry to rain on the parade but it’ll just have to wait because I popped into the hairdressers on the off-chance and they can take me right now. Just a blow-dry, don’t worry, I won’t be long. Oh is that a new case? Are you bringing it? The clock was at 11.20. Running her fingernail along the leather of the new case for the flute, she said, quietly, gently, There won’t be any singing at this you know. I really wouldn’t say so. People will want to dance. They’re not that type. You know, they’re more – but you know what? The eyes sprung on him.
Crowley shook his head.
I think I’m going to enjoy myself today.
Good. Great. The weather’s clearing up too.
No, I’m serious. Know why? Me? I feel back in myself. I feel like myself again all of a sudden, I really do. I’d almost forgotten what it felt like. I’m me again. And the gentleness faded from her voice with, So today when anyone asks how I’m doing, what’s the story there Debs, I’m going to be dignified enough to tell them the truth. Well sweetie the scéal isn’t too hot to be honest with you. Shitsville if you really want to know.