Against the Odds: Vinny’s home is on mend but his heart is another story

News of Angie’s imminent return sees our hero’s eyes well up

For someone so sure-handed in the cockpit of his Dublin Bus chariot, or when armed with a pint no matter the throng, Vinny Fitzpatrick was prone to the occasional bout of finger-trembling.

He got jiggy whenever he placed a bet, especially a top-heavy one on a nag he fancied; and was known to shake his putter like a water diviner when confronted with a three-footer.

His large, hairy, hands were quivering now after the letter hand-delivered by the local postie, Roundy Maguire, a former rugby player for Clontarf known behind his back as Postman Fat.

It was the handwriting, which Vinny instantly recognised as Angie’s, that had sent tremors shooting down his pudgy fingers.

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Side pocket

He shoved the letter into the side pocket of his tent-like shorts, and called out, “Lads, take an early lunch. Be with youse in a few minutes.”

Vinny was standing outside the old Fitzpatrick family home in Causeway Avenue, overseeing its rebuild from the rubble of despair.

The modest end-of-terrace building had been levelled by a gas explosion a few weeks earlier, which almost hurtled Vinny to kingdom come.

It had taken some time for him to get his head around it all, the vindictiveness of Lugs O’Leary, who was still on the run, and the fortuitous arrival of Hussain Khan, who had saved his life.

Overdue facelift

From the wreckage, he had set about a project of renewal, as the 1930s corpo house was given a long overdue facelift.

The insurance company had committed to paying up in full, to their credit, and Vinny had encouraged Fingers O’Reilly, an architect pal from St Joey’s, to come up with a modern design.

There were two conditions, he told Fingers.

The new house had to have an extended kitchen, with lots of worktops, in memory of his mother Bridie who had slaved for years in a scullery the size of a phone box.

And for out the back, Vinny wanted a wee sheebeen “with just enough room for a counter, six stools, a telly and a tap”, which he would call ‘Finbarr’s’, after his old man.

Upstairs would see just two bedrooms, the larger of which was ensuite and included a giant bath, always Vinny’s preference for a proper douse.

He was also doing away with the narrow weed-strewn garden and had plans for a raised deck and maybe a swing-chair, for two.

It was, he felt, time to move on, to pack up his troubles in his old Gola kit bag and try to smile, smile, smile.

On this pleasant Monday, Vinny was studying the plans with Fingers while Putty Parker, the local builder, and his crew were casing what remained of the Causeway Avenue joint, when Postman Fat arrived.

A few moments later, Vinny was on his own, in the lane which ran behind Causeway Avenue.

Grip and rip

Nervously, he tried to open the envelope with care before resorting to the old-style grip and rip technique.

Feeling his blood chill, he began to read its contents.

Angie was straight up, as was her way. In the opening paragraph she admitted missing her husband “more than she ever imagined” and that she’d made “the worst mistake of her life” by leaving him for Roger ‘The Dodger’ Winston.

She said how if you want to really know someone, you have to live with them and “within a week” she’d realised Roger “at home was different to Roger at work”.

“A week!” thought Vinny.

“All relationships have to operate on a 50-50 level, yet Roger insisted he had to have an edge, like all bookies,” wrote Angie.

With hope stirring in his heavy thumping heart, Vinny read on.

Angie had decided to leave London and was returning home to Dublin, with the twins who, she stressed, “are missing their Dad terribly”.

At that, Vinny felt his eyes well up, and he allowed himself a snotty sniffle before continuing.

Angie was due back in Mount Prospect Avenue by the end of August, in time for the new school term.

She was going to make a fresh start, “on all levels”, at which Vinny felt a yearning from within.

Skinned her heart

With a business degree from DCU, Angie said she intended to find work outside the bookmaking industry, where she had “skinned her heart and skinned her knees” for almost 25 years.

She had come to a decision that after two failed marriages and an elopement, she wasn’t cut out for “any more relationships”. From now on, her focus was two-fold, “work and the twins”.

Emma, her 20-year-old daughter from her first marriage to Big Fat Ron, had agreed to help out with school drop-offs and collections.

Angie said she couldn’t imagine how “wounded” Vinny must feel and how she knew that he could “never forgive” her.

But she promised him “as much access as he wanted” to the twins, and was scrapping the “ridiculous maintenance demands” she’d imposed.

The final sentence, hit home like a Steve Backley javelin throw.

“Sometimes you never appreciate just how green the grass is on your side of the hill. Mine was verdant, virtuous and full of caring vigour. Love, Angie XXX.”

At that, Vinny slumped down on his hunkers, and tears streamed down his chubby cheeks.

He howled aloud, as if in pain, but no one heard him cry.