Vinny takes eye off the ball as Petra proves to be a distraction

All was going swimmingly as the little Dollymount Gaels packed the bags until . . .

Vinny on duty at the checkouts for the Dollymount Gaels annual fundraiser at Dolan’s supermarket.

Vinny on duty at the checkouts for the Dollymount Gaels annual fundraiser at Dolan’s supermarket.

Wed, Dec 18, 2013, 06:00

As the little helpers of Dollymount Gaels packed the customer’s bags, and cheerfully deposited their tips into a nearby bucket, Vinny Fitzpatrick allowed himself an approving smile as he patrolled the six check-out lanes.

The annual fundraiser in Dolan’s supermarket, off Vernon Avenue, now in its final furlong after three hectic shifts, was running smoother than Vinny, the overseer, had dared hope.

Donations were up on last year, a sign perhaps the recession was over, and the six buckets, which Vinny diligently emptied every 20 minutes into his master cask, were jingling merrily.

By Vinny’s calculations, the club would raise the thick end of €5,000, more than enough to cover the annual rent to the ‘Corpo’ for their pitch at St Anne’s, and a new set of gear for the kids for the Féile. There might even be some change for replacement nets for Pitch 31A.

“We may not be very good but at least we’ll turn up and we’ll look the part,” thought Vinny.

Vinny had divided the 18 kids in the Féile panel into brackets of six and had requested the presence of three mentors, one for each shift, to help ensure there were no hitches.

Thanks to one of the Dads who worked in DG Opel cars on the Cabra Road, the helpers were pinning the stickers, “DG”, on anyone who dropped a euro or two into the buckets. No one was the wiser that “DG” had nothing to do with Dollymount Gaels.

Lumbered into view
For the Sunday leg of the operation, Lugs O’Leary lumbered into view, chilling Vinny’s blood to the marrow, for there was no meaner critter on the northside than the jug-eared giant of the Gaels.

“Thought I’d come down and keep an eye on you, Mr Wobbly, just in case you get tempted by all that loose change knocking around. Not that you need a few bob after your jammy windfall, mind,” sneered Lugs through blackened misshaped teeth.

Vinny managed to give the ogre a wide enough berth as he emptied the smaller buckets into the master strongbox and dutifully kept tabs on the running total.

By 4.30 on Sunday afternoon, when the traffic in Dolan’s was beginning to slacken off slightly, Vinny reckoned the magical five grand barrier had been breached.

He was double checking the contents of a bucket in lane one, well away from Lugs in lane six, when he heard a guttural Eastern European voice he recognised.

“Hello Mister Vincent, I have not seen you in Bubbles for some time. Do you not like to come and see me any more?”

Vinny looked up to see the statuesque figure of Petra, the “Vixen of Vilnius” towering over him – she was six foot in her stockings, to Vinny’s five foot seven.

Vinny blushed as he recalled the opportunity that fell his way with Petra, who worked in Fran’s launderette on the Clontarf Road, on an Irish footie trip to the Baltics a couple of years back.

Out of the shower
Even now, he could recall a naked Petra stepping out of the shower, like Ursula Andress emerging from the briny in Dr No, and asking him to pass her the towel.

An open goal beckoned that night but Vinny had caught his toe on the turf of conscience, aware he could never look Angie in the eye if he strayed offside.

“Hi Petra. Lovely to see you again. Happy Christmas,” he said, standing on his tippy-toes to peck Petra on the cheek.

As he did, he heard her whisper into his hairy ear. “We must finish that shower scene some time, Vincent.”

Quickly disengaging, Vinny made his excuses. “Got to go, Petra. I’ll drop in to Bubbles when I can. We must, er, catch up,” he said, blushing to the nines.

As he turned, Petra called out after him. “Vincent, could you help with my bags to my car please? This is the day I can ask you for a favour, no?”

Vinny paused. He knew it would seem churlish to turn down Petra’s request. As he lifted her bags, laden down with cheap beer, he cast an anxious glance towards his collection chest, which was groaning with coins.

To stick or twist? His consciousness pricked him, as did the notion of becoming entangled with Petra in a lather of suds, soap and sweat in a steaming shower.

He decided to twist. He’d only be gone a minute and he could use a couple of lungfuls of sea air. After placing the bags in the boot, Vinny was caught unawares when Petra planted a kiss on his lumper-shaped head and offered her hand, complete with a fiver. “For your team, who play that silly game of yours. Take care, Vincent.”

On his return to the check-out, Vinny froze: the strongbox with the cash was missing. He glanced left and right, as if expecting to see it materialise from thin air, but there was no sign.

Sank to his knees
He put his hands to his face, sank to his knees and groaned. He thought of the shame that would fall on him for taking his eye off the ball, just so he could be a beast of burden for a Lithuanian lovely, half his age.

Suddenly, he felt a rough hand grab his lapel and haul him upwards with a force that suggested considerable strength, for Vinny was no lightweight. “Get up off your knees, you flabby wastrel,” roared Lugs.

“The chairman’s been on the blower. He wants to pick up all the cash and get it counted so ye’d better get it ready for him. Should be here in a few minutes,”

Vinny was unable to speak. Whatever fate was about to befall him at the brutal hands of Lugs, he fully deserved.

“Well then,” continued Lugs. “It’s just as well I was around to find it.” With that, he ducked under a counter and fished out a large white cask, festooned in “DG” stickers.

“It’s all there. Every euro and cent of it. That’ll teach you to toddle after Baltic beauties. You owe me big time, Fitzer, ye little weasel.”

As Lugs stood there, smirking through the few jagged teeth left in his head, Vinny did something as spontaneous as it was dangerous: he dared give Lugs a hug.