Cruiskeen Lawn February 27th, 1945

 

Myles was a natural historian of mid-20th century bores. His collection includes “the man who spoke Irish at a time when it was neither profitable nor popular” and “the man who does his own carpentry and talks about it”. The subspecies described here was rarer, even in the 1940s. But it can probably still be found today. FRANK McNALLY

THERE is one other awful man I feel it my duty to describe; I mean the one who is mortally curious to know “how is it done?”

This monstrous clown never looks at you when he is talking and never mentions names; he is very wealthy; he says: “I went out to Leopardstown on the bike on Saturday. Lost a packet, of course . . .”

You shrivel slightly at this humility of going to a race meeting on a bike, in order to lose the price of fifty taxis.

You know this man is insane and cravenly await what you know is coming.

He continues: “Who do you think I seen there?”

“Who?”

“Our friend.”

“Our friend? Who?”

“A certain particular party that you know and that I know.”

What makes you choke with rage here is the realisation that you know perfectly well whom he is talking about and thus that you are yourself embroiled in his paranoia.

The voice goes on: “On the inside, of course, chatting jockeys and owner, getting the card marked all over the show. And the big heifer of a wife standing about in the fur coat. Know what I’m going to tell you?”

“What?”

“That man put fifty notes on a thing that was rode be a certain jockey that wouldn’t be third home if he was on a V2. But did that take a feather out of our friend . . .?”

Charnel-house chuckles follow, hinting that no feathers were taken out of this speculator. Your tormentor goes on: “Back in town at half six, I feel like an egg and a bit of toast and I walk into the counter of a certain place that you know and that I know. Who do I see there with two dames?”

“Our friend?” (O wretched man! You have answered the friend, and correctly!)

“Sitting up there as large as life. Bowl of soup first, of course; but not without a drop of madeira in it. Know what he fancies next?”

The monster has produced a penknife and goes through the wrist motions associated with the opening of oyster shells.

“A dozen each for all hands. Know what they had next?”

You would dearly love to say something outrageously exaggerated, like “roast peacock’s breast” but you lack the courage to stand up to this torturer.

You say: “No. What?”

“A whole turkey between the three. They were working away here for two hours, chattin’ the heads off each other, with all classes of liqueurs being fired back thirteen to the dozen,

And a taxi ticking away outside . . . !”

There is a pause here.

The fiend is getting ready for the finale, you can nearly hear him flexing his madhouse nerves, When the voice comes again, it is changed and earnest: “ Now to my certain knowledge, that man is in a certain department of a certain store and he is paid the munificent subvention of three pounds fifteen per week. Three pounds fifteen shillings per week!

You know the sad watery eyes are looking vacantly upwards in mute puzzledom.

You know that he is now about to enunciate his supreme interrogatory formula. You dread the impact of the end of this inevitable predestined conversation. But you are powerless.

The voice says: “What I want to know is this . . .”

Yes, there is a pause here. You knew there would be.

Then: “How is it done?”

You are a bit dazed. You notice his fingers go through the motions of pressing the keys of cash registers.

You have received a pat on the back – this ogre’s only form of farewell – and he is gone.

And you are lucky to be alive, so you are.


To celebrate the work of Myles na gCopaleen, The Irish Timeswill print one of his Cruiskeen Lawn columns each day during October