She was taking the company van. I was going working somewhere else. Ireland’s best sales team was getting disbanded after a record breaking spell of hitting no targets whatsoever.

She hadn’t much experience driving. As far as I could tell she didn’t even have a right license. There was some version of a government issued Romanian document from back long ago but it was hard to know if it was something to do with being on the road or a gammy dole card from Eastern Europe. Didn’t matter a fuck to the crowd in Dublin. They were too tight to pay for the petrol to have it drove back and they wanted her out selling so it made perfect sense that way. The other minor stuff like insurance, experience, ability or general safety never came into the equation. I gave her the keys and she said: ‘Where is spare tyre?’ 


‘Tyre. For Spare. Where does this be?’ 

‘I dunno. Why?’ 

‘In case. Flat. Whoosh. Puncture. It’s ok for boy. What about me? Woman. Alone. Dark and no tyre…’ 

‘I had a transit one time and the spare was under the floor at the back. Probably the same with that…’ 

‘Under the floor? Oh my God. How will I take out?’ 

‘You can ring the breakdown….’ 

She laughed, said: ‘These fuckers don’t pay for breakdown. They don’t even pay wages….’ 

She had a point, but I was already gone and finding it hard to get excited. Then she said: ‘I can’t drive manual. I need automatic.’ 

‘You’ll figure it out.’ 

‘And I never drive left side of road. Right only. Romania is right.’ 

‘Oh right.’ 

‘Yes. I will call Tom.’ 

‘Who’s Tom?’ 

‘He is my friend. He will help me with everything.’ 

‘Sound, I’ll go.’ 

I called back a week later. Tom was there. A saintly type with a van full of tools and a desire to help at all costs. They’d had a few driving lessons during the week that didn’t go well. There was talk of a gate getting a smack in Ballymahon and a pillar getting knocked in Moate. There’d been plenty of road range and a few parking confrontations around estates in Tullamore. And still no sign of the spare tyre. But Tom had a plan. The back doors of the van were open like a horrified mouth and Tom was climbing inside with a black and decker drill and tufts of grey hair under his cap and over his ears. ‘Tis down under here, I’d say….’ 

And he started on the screws around the base. Pulling up the timber, tearing it where necessary, announcing progress as he went along. ‘No sign of it yet, anyway…we’ll try another one…’ 

Soon there was hammers, drills, screws and broken bits of timber and stuff like sawdust strewn around everywhere inside and outside. Meanwhile she was up in the cab, tearing up the front seat in case it was under there and she might save Tom the trouble of destroying the van entirely. The screws had an angry growl as the drill caught grip, bit like a big dog when you try to pull a bone from its clenched teeth.  

‘You find?!’ She shouted from the front. 

No… said Tom, but sounding determined. ‘Not yet….’ 

I had a feeling this wouldn’t go down well in Dublin. Maintenance, repairs, destruction, generally having to pay for anything always caused a wide eyed look of wonder and mystery at the audacity of being required to spend money. They might even blame me if they heard I was there looking at them. Shtop.

I’ll keep going, I said. I’ll leave ye at it.  






Ruaile Buaile in Tullamore

We got there around nine. Tullamore Hotel.There was a band starting in a while, Rualie Buaile they were called. “Supposed to be mighty.”

Few people in. There was stools in the corner. Took them. Another couple landed. Him with tattoos and an orange T-shirt and a pint of lager. Her with a red wine, black hair and painted nails. Are these chairs taken, do you mind if we sit beside ye, where ye from?
We got talking.
Michelle on to your one about hair, clothes, work, Bank Holiday weekends.
Your man was five foot tall and nearly five foot wide. Square measured head like the graphics off a Commodore 64. What do you do yourself? Are ye stayin here? Was it a long drive?
There was a fight breaking out at the bar. Two clowns pushing and a girl trying to break it up. Something about a joke gone wrong. What do you mean by that? I’ll burst your head. And your one slurring: ‘Leave it lads, leave it!’ And she barely able to stand.
Your man turned to me and said: ‘Don’t ever get involved, lad.’
‘Fights, I’ll tell you, waste of time, take it from me…let them at it.’
‘Why’s that?.’
‘Was outside Supermacs not so long ago… havin a smoke. Seen this fella arguin with his girlfriend, she was wearin a big pink jacket, that’s why I noticed her. She was tryin to walk away and he was pullin her back, and she was screamin at him, and next thing I know he hits her a box in the face and knocks her out clean cold- Bang!’
‘Yeah, so I went straight over to your man, and I says, “Pick on someone your own size!” and I laid him out, broke his jaw with a right hook. There was a crack like breakin eggs. But what can you do? He hit a woman. Anyway, what do you think happened?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Weren’t the cops after landing behind me.’
‘They were not?’
‘They fuckin were.
‘They arrested ya?’
‘On the spot. I put up my hands straight away, says, “I don’t mind, I’ll do the time, he hit a woman, it was worth it. I’d do it again, bring me in lads….”’
‘And what happened then?’
‘About six months later – there was a court case. I was up for assault, Grievous Bodily Harm, somethin else, loadsa shit, and I wouldn’t mind, but I’ve a few convictions already like, so it didn’t really suit, but I was hopin the judge would understand…’
‘And did she?’
‘Why not?’
‘Well, ask me who the first witness was, up on the stand, to testify against me…?’
‘Your man that you hit?’
‘No. The girlfriend. Your one that he knocked out, that I was protecting. Stands up and says it was all my fault, they weren’t arguin at all and I just came over and attacked them….fuckin bitch.’
‘I’m fuckin tellin ya. And she wearin the same fuckin pink jacket. Nailed me the bitch. Stickin up for the bollox that was batein her…’
‘You get a sentence?
‘Nine months. Suspended.’
‘You were lucky.’
‘That’s what I mean though. I’ll tell ya, next woman I see gettin a box….they can tap dance on her fuckin head for all I care, I’m not getting involved, waste of fuckin time…’
I looked back over at the two that were almost fighting. They were posing for a picture now. Hands on each others shoulders and they smiling pure happy. And the drunk girl tryin to take the picture with a phone but she kept pressing the wrong button and the lads jaws were getting sore trying to smile.
‘See what I mean?’ Says Commodore. ‘Waste of fuckin time. Is this band startin or what….?’