Vinny over the moon but Brennie a proper lunatic
Against the Odds: The view from Howth Summit on a chilly Monday night was spectacular. The full moon hung in the southern sky like a gigantic shiny coin, its acne craters clearly visible.
It was Vinny Fitzpatrick who broke the shock and awe. “See that star just to the right of the moon, lads. That’s Regulus, the brightest star in the Leo constellation. Watch how the moon tracks Regulus”.
For several minutes, the cluster of middle-aged men stared in wonder at one of nature’s most mesmerising events: a full moon in a clear night sky above their beloved Dublin. The car park atop Howth Head was dotted with fellow star-gazers, aware the view from Binn Eadair was one of the finest in the city.
“I’ll bet a tenner the moon catches Regulus before we leave for the bus. Who’ll give me three to one?” quipped Fran. The lads laughed heartily, as they all loved a bet. Only Brennie said nothing, his eyes focused firmly on the heavens.
Brennie’s silence was unusual. Vinny caught Macker’s eye, raised a quizzical eyebrow, and shuffled alongside his long-time chum. “I wouldn’t blame you for not taking Fran up on the bet, Brennie. The moon has no chance, he’s carrying top weight and doesn’t like the going,” he quipped.
Continued to stare
Brennie continued to stare out over Dublin Bay. After a bit, he spoke, so softly Vinny could barely hear him at first. “The thing is Vinny, I’d probably have taken the three to one if I had a spare 20 in my pocket. I’ve barely enough coppers for the bus fare.”
Vinny scrunched up his face. “Sure, we all have days when things are tight. Tell you what, as it is pay day later this week, I’ll spot you a 50 for beer money until then.”
Brennie’s lean features stiffened but his focus on the firmament didn’t flicker. “A 50 won’t be near enough for what I need. Don’t suppose you have a few grand to spare?”
“Is everything okay, Bren? I’m all ears,” Vinny said quietly.
The silence seemed to last an age – but it was probably no more than 20 seconds – when Brennie puffed the air out of his cheeks and let his shoulders sag. “I’ll tell you the story, Vinny, no one else, over a nightcap in The Beachcomber.”
Some 30 minutes later, the burly bus driver and the whippet-like bank official were in a quiet corner of the Howth Road hostelry. As Vinny swallowed his porter in three lusty gulps and ordered a couple more, Brennie, without touching his pint, opened up.
Brennie had long been a modest punter, a fiver here, a tenner there, mostly on the nags and football, just like Vinny and the others. But in recent years, the scale of his speculation had gone global.
As the on-line betting craze escalated, Brennie had emptied his Post Office savings; had taken out a five-figure Credit Union loan, and was up to his oxters in credit card debt.
Purged his soul
He owed around €25,000, he reckoned, but couldn’t be sure as there were several strands to his increasingly pressing obligations. As he purged his soul, Brennie’s mood lightened a little.
“Looking back, it was the bloody tennis that did for me, Vinny. At first, I was betting on fellas winning matches, Federer against Murray, that sort of thing. Then it became sets. After that, I started wagering on who would win the next game.
“I found myself flicking from Shanghai on the men’s tour to San Francisco on the women’s, throwing a score here, a 50 there. It was mad stuff; there are tournaments all over the place these days, and it all added up.”
Vinny asked if Brenda, his wife, had any idea. His friend’s brow furrowed and he slipped back into a trough of despair.
“I tried to keep it away from the missus, but it’s coming to the point of no return now. Our eldest daughter’s going to college this year so I’ve got to find ten grand from somewhere.
“We’ve been putting off getting a kitchen extension for ages but Brenda wants it done now. The thing is, that was our nest egg in the Post Office, but I’ve blown that too. I’m stony broke, Vinny.”
Vinny paused over the head of his third pint. Of all his pals, Brennie was the most impulsive when it came to a punt.
He recalled their time at the Texas Hold ’Em in City West a few years back where Brennie got off to a flying start but then called an outrageous all-in play and blew the lot.
He’d shrugged after that it was better to lose like a lion than a lamb but Vinny sensed his friend’s reckless streak had got the better of him.
He compared it to Angie’s shopping spree in the sales where she argued, without any rationale, that the more she spent, the more she saved.
“Have you thought of a way out of the predicament? A bank loan? Counselling even? As for the short-term, I’m sure the lads would have a serious whip around to bail you out,” he said.
Brennie shook his head. Suddenly, he looked older than his 49 years; his cheekbones sunken and his lips almost pencil-like. With his pointy nose and pinched features, he was not unlike a gerbil thought Vinny.
“I have an idea,” Brennie said. “It’s outrageous but I think it might work. Our bank is one of the few banks dealing with cash on the northside.
“We’re awash with the stuff and a lot of it goes through me – you should see what Charlie St John Vernon deposits in rent every week from his tenants.”
As his eyes shone, Brennie continued. “I reckon I could set up a false account and salt away enough to clear my immediate debts. All I need is a few wins to get me back on the straight and narrow.
“With luck, I could have it all cleared in six months. What do you think, Vinny?”
Vinny studied Brennie closely. He noted the bright eyes, the buzz of adrenalin coursing through his veins, and felt overcome by sadness. If his friend wasn’t careful, he was heading for the ’Joy, game, set and match.
“Brennie, there has to be a way around this way without breaking the law. You see the crescent; I see the whole of the moon.”
Bets of the week
2pt win Justin Rose in Honda Classic (14/1, Boylesports)
2pts win Aupcharlie in Jewson Chase at Cheltenham Festival (6/1, Ladbrokes)
2pts Lay Kerry to beat Kildare in NFL (Evens, Paddy Power, liability 2pts)