Spider crawls up Brennie’s back in Shingles

Rarely had Vinny Fitzpatrick felt more content. A few weeks earlier, he had been alone and miserable, now he was on top of the world

 World number two Adam Scott is Vinny’s lay in the Australian Open.

World number two Adam Scott is Vinny’s lay in the Australian Open.

Wed, Nov 27, 2013, 06:00

For the last Monday in November, business was predictably quiet in Shingles pub, a sheebeen-like boozer off the Clontarf Road run by the Greenacre brothers. The lone telly was showing West Brom against Aston Villa, on silent, as a motley crew arrived in a side door a little after eight bells.

There were eight of them, all middle-aged, of diverse girths and assorted hairstyles – one of them, a burly chap in Dublin Bus garb, wore a Bobby Charlton comb-over that went out of fashion in the ’70s. What they shared, apart from scarcely concealed grins, was the most improbable currency of all: Lottery winners.

Between them, they had just scooped over a million euro, or €1,081,544 to be exact. By the calculations of Vinny Fitzpatrick, who was one of the winners, it worked out at €135,193 a head – a prime number to conjure with, he thought.

All week, Vinny had played it cool. He’d even managed to keep the news from Angie before blurting it out over a nightcap the previous Friday – it led to several other nightcaps.

Bucket list
By now, his bucket list would tempt the patience of Dear Liza and Henry. It included trips to Goodison Park, the Grand National at Aintree, St Andrews, New York, Las Vegas and a drive on Route 66 from Chicago to California with his baby Angie “beside me at the wheel”.

Rarely had the 55-year-old felt more content. A few weeks earlier, he had been alone and miserable, now he was on top of the world, just like Cody Jarrett. He was back in the bosom of his family; his kids had their health and he was among his mates, richer to the tune of some 135 grand. Life had never been this good.

As the pints arrived, Two-Mile Boris reached for an envelope inside his jacket pocket. He opened it, and pulled out a piece of paper. It was a cheque, complete with National Lottery logo, which he unfolded and placed carefully on the table. It read: “Please pay bearer one million, eighty one thousand, five hundred and forty four euro.”

“First, I asked you to Shingles this evening so we could conduct our Lottery business privately, away from Foley’s where it would have been impossible. I also wish to raise a matter which some of you may find sensitive, but it is only right that you be put in possession of the full facts.”

With that, a silence fell around the table. Vinny caught Macker’s eye and raised a quizzical eyebrow, which was met by a shrug.

Invited to continue
Two-Mile was invited to continue. “As you know, we have all being contributing €52 a year to our syndicate which I agreed to oversee. That allows us to invest €4 every Wednesday and Saturday, to include the Lotto Plus One and Two.

“Some people pay the full amount in advance in January; others pay before the first draw of the month, while one or two have had to be coaxed along the way.

“Of the eight of us, Vinny, Fran, Macker, Kojak, Charlie Vernon, Spider and myself, are up to date but one of our syndicate has not paid a cent since August.

“Personally, I have no issue as I know he will pay when he can but if somebody else has a difficulty, they should speak now or forever hold their silence. Whatever happens in Shingles; stays in Shingles.”

After a few seconds, Brennie pushed his chair back and stood up. “Lads, Mr Tardy apologises,” he said in a chipper tone. “I owe 12 euro for the September, October and November draws. There’s always one,” he quipped, offering Two-Mile Boris a tenner and a two-euro coin. “There, that’s settled,” said Brennie.

That should have been that but money makes strange of folk. “Hold on there a cotton pickin’ minute,” said Spider. “Not so fast, my little Man United friend.”

That pint-sized Spider, who used to ride out as a work jockey for top National Hunt trainers, should call anyone “little” was absurd. “My understanding of gambling is very simple,” said Spider calmly. “You place a bet and you either win or lose. You don’t bet on credit. Boru Betting don’t allow it and neither do the Main Street players.

“This may seem petty but Brennie wasn’t in, so why should he win? And why shouldn’t we pocket an extra 20 grand each by carving up Brennie’s share of the Lottery?”

Empurpled with rage
What followed made Carl Froch versus George Groves seem like a tea party. Brennie was empurpled with rage, pointed out how the Lottery syndicate had been his idea, and how he’d been on board from day one. “I even agreed to let you in after a year, you snivelling little rat,” he sniped.

Spider jumped off his stool like a mongoose. “You’re a welcher. It’s too late Brennie. You missed the bus, baby.”

As Brennie drew back a fist, Two-Mile and Fran held him back. Spider saw his chance and kicked Brennie sharply in the shins.

“C’mon, let’s be having you Brennie. Winner buys the chips. That’ll cost you 12 euro, if you have it.”

At that, Vinny reached out and grabbed the cheque off the table. “Silence,” he roared. A few heads turned away from the footie; the Greenacres boys stared sternly from behind the taps.

As Vinny held the cheque between two sets of pudgy fingers, seven sets of eyes turned on him. “Gentlemen, gentleman,” he sighed.

“A part of me feels we should rip this up and go back to the way we were, when we had nothing but our friendship which was worth everything.”

“Is that what youse want? Because if it is, I’m game.”

As he ripped a tiny slit across the top of the cheque, Vinny continued: “Should we tear up this cheque? Or tear up our friendship? It’s your call, lads.”

With that, Vinny flicked the high cheque up in the air. As his syndicate colleagues all scrabbled for it, Vinny picked up his coat and quickly made for the door.

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