Cupid's dart puts a stop to Vinny's supermarket dash
AGAINST THE ODDS: Locking horns with the other reindeer, Vinny has his eyes on the top prize, writes RODDY L'ESTRANGE
It wasn’t the musty brown pantomime uniform which irritated Vinny Fitzpatrick most, nor was it the mock pair of antlers attached to his potato-shaped bonce, not even the false green nose. No, it was the name: Ralph.
He didn’t want to be Ralph the reindeer. Ideally, he wanted to be Rudolph, or failing that, either Donner or Blitzen. At a pinch, he’d have taken Comet. Instead, he was Ralph. Plain, unlovable Ralph, and it gave him the hump.
Not that many of the folk crammed into Dolan’s Supermarket on Vernon Avenue on Tuesday morning would have known the green-nosed reindeer in the midst of the 10-strong herd was feeling sorry for himself.
All they could see was a cluster of reindeer, stamping and snorting; eager to be on their way in the annual Clontarf Christmas Charity Canter.
The charity gig was open to local businesses and Vinny had agreed, after a vat of excellent stout the previous Friday, to represent Foley’s public house.
“Sure, it’s only a bit of gas and all for a good cause,” insisted Dial A Smile, the head barman, who had been in suspiciously chirpy form since word of a major local Lotto win had got around.
The format of the Canter, an annual fund-raiser in aid of the Central Remedial Clinic, varied. This year, some bright spark had decided to recreate the Supermarket Sweep, last seen on ITV in the 1990s with Dale Winton as the sugary host – Vinny had recollections of demented housewives doing impressions of the Wacky Racers trying to win a few bob and a cheesy grin from Dale.
Today’s MC was a short, squat chap whom Vinny recognised as Neville Ormondroyd, a baritone in the Clontarf Warblers, the local choral society. He tapped the microphone with his fudge-like fingers and climbed a small stair ladder like a starter at the races.
“Right, here are the rules,” intoned Mr Ormondroyd. “All 10 reindeers have five minutes each to run up and down the aisles and gather as many goods in their trolleys as they can, one of each item is the maximum permitted.
“Whoever has the highest value at the end will be deemed the winner. That amount will be kindly doubled by Dolan’s and will be donated to the CRC along with a dozen hampers.”
As the reindeer, complete with names pinned on their backs, circled at the start of the six-aisle race, Vinny looked about. With the antlers and false noses, it was hard to make out exactly who he was up against.
Just then, he felt someone pinch his ample backside. He wheeled around angrily and recognised the willowy figure of Jackie, one of Angie’s old school buddies from Santa Sabina. Their paths had crossed over the years but this was the first time they’d locked horns.
“Hi, Vinny. Or should I say Ralphie?” drawled Jackie. “Lovely to bump into you again. By the way, I’m Cupid and I’m looking to shoot my arrows. If you play your cards right, you never know your luck. After all, it’s a small supermarket.”
Vinny felt himself blush. With his green nose and red cheeks, he briefly looked like a stick of rhubarb. Jackie had that effect on him. She was brash, busty and wasn’t backward about coming forward.
Vinny had been drawn last of the eight reindeer, which suited as he’d have an idea of what to beat – Brennie was in the reindeer unsaddling enclosure and would tic tac the latest information.