Thursday, July 17, 2008

How "Psycho" Got His Name

It is a midsummer afternoon and we are sitting in La Jardin Bierre. I am drinking beer with a lemon in it, served in some kind of giant branded wine glass. She is drinking wine, from a regular wine glass. She is telling me about her day. I am trying to listen, but this reedy voice behind me snags my attention, again and again. It's husky and high pitched; I think of a three year old who has smoked twenty a day for forty years.
"Why are you smirking?" she asks
"Nothing" I say "go on."
I seems nothing in her office works. Her computer, the network, the printer. The final straw came with the photocopier coating her skirt in black dust. After a brief but satisfying meltdown, the boss came over and said "Look, just take the afternoon off." Janie, a superbitch in the office was giving her a look when
"Well," says the reedy voice, from nowhere, from behind me - shhitch of a cigarette lighter - "then there's Psycho. D'ja hea' 'bout his latest escapades?"
I nearly jump from my seat, from my skin as a deep bass says "Psycho?" A barrel talking to a nail scraping down a blackboard. About 'Psycho' no less.
The Jardin is one of these bars where the class war is in truce. Everyone is here for the same reason - to drink outside where you can smoke with impunity. The whole bar is outside. That's its theme - a European-style garden bar with an Irish twist (a fully retractable roof for when it rains). We sit around in the afternoon, drinking sensibly, waiting for the evening when we'll pick up the pace and then go our separate ways. She and I will go for dinner, and maybe some more drinks in Shea's Wild West Saloon - a new theme bar where they serve group cocktails in a pitcher shaped like a stetson. I don't know what the odd couple will do - but I guess they return to their own world, their own dinner, their own bars.
The reedy voice is finishing its story about Psycho and whatever it was he did. The deep voice rumbles "I heard about dat. I didn't know his name was Psycho. I know him as Gerry..." he trails off. After a few moments of staring into space, the reedy voice says
"Nice bar, wha? Y'know who owns this joint? You know Spacey? Lives on the corner from yer ma... Yeah, well Spacey's brother: he owns the place"
"Your kidding? I didn't know Spacey had a brother"
"Yeah, yeah. Spent a few years knockin' 'round Europe, then a good time in London. Came back with a bit of money and bought himself a place. Was just settling when some fellah comes along and throws a wad of cash at him - 'will you sell me yer place?' 'will I wha'?' says he. Anyway, that started him, and now he owns a bunch of places. This one is great though, wha'? All sorts in here." his voice lowers "Yuppies an' all..." shhitch, the lighter goes again.
We are talking about maybe buying a place. We've been living together for a while. "Renting is dead money" she says and she is right. I take a sip of beer and light another smoke. Buying is a big step. But then living is a big risk, you could die at any moment.
"D'ja know how he got the name?" the reedy voice asks. Whatever physicality the deep voice had obviously signalled No. There was a cough - a throat clearing. I awaited the mighty voice that would relate to all in La Jardin Bierre the Story of How Psycho got his name.
But the voice remained reedy as it said
"Well, he moved in on the street. But you know he's not one of us. I know you only moved to the street three or four years ago, but yer from the area. He's nah' He came from down by the brewery. Anyway, he moved onto the street and you know the way the kids are? Well this one, Barra Molloy, he'd seen the place all empty for so long was kicking a ball against the window. Y'know the way they do tha'? Anyway, Psycho comes out and grabs the kid by his throat, drags him out to the road and hangs him by his jacket on the railings outside the house. Says nothing, just does that and goes back in. Anyway, later on, the kid's father, Jamie, he comes down the street, big walk on him an' everythin'. He storms up to the door, bangs on it like crazy. The door opens, out comes Psycho and before yer man can say "Who do you think you are?" or "D'jew know who I am" or "I'll ram this fuckin' whatsit up yer arse or down yer throat", Psycho has dragged him out to the street as well. Bates seven shades of shite out of him, then walks back inta the house."
"Say anything?" asks the deep voice.
"No. Nobody said anything" says the reedy voice. "Anyway, it's gettin' late. Fancy a chippaw aw sumthin'? This place'll fill up with yuppies in about half an hour."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Rat Story

Written some time ago...

As it happened, I happened across the rat as I was crossing the road. It was massive, for a rat, and much too fast to stamp on. So I ran instead, pretending not to have seen it at all and that I was dodging traffic. I sought refuge in a Coffee shop. Thank god for Coffee Shops. Came here so long ago to free us all from Caf├ęs, with their instant coffee, domestic tea and week-old scones. Right now, it was a double decaf mocha with a froth I needed, being so wound up. Not a Maxwell House double stirred with congealed sugar and a slice of bread and butter. As I waited, I pointed to a Danish as well. The girl took it from the display with tongs, shoved it in a bag, which she placed on the counter. A Danish would go down nicely. Although, one should never discount the power of a roast chicken pesto pannini in times of great terror. Of course, it wasn't terror I was in. More shock. Over the rat. Nasty thing. I wish I'd killed it. But there was just no way to. It was too fast. Thinking of its jerky movement makes me shudder even now. Just no way to defeat these rats.

The woman beside me, she asks if I'm going to have my coffee. I've been staring into space. On account of the shock, no less. But still she asks me, with her cutting words, whether I'll be moving on. I don't know what to say. I pull out my wallet, and send a bunch of receipts flying from it onto the counter. No money. Whoever thought you could actually have no money? In this day and age. I suppose that's what credit is all about. I pull out a card and say "Do you..."?

"Only Laser" she says, in an accent. I could fall in love with her and live in Buck Rogers land. But instead, I must live out the almighty shame of excusing myself from the coffee shop. Without money, there's no refuge here. Back out with the rats, who coincidentally also have no money. The woman says something as I leave. Am I not humiliated enough? I wonder.

I try to find a bank machine. Wouldn't you know it the easiest (no queue, does have receipts, quiet location) is in a Bar. Bars, I just don't know about them. Whatever happened to pubs? I mean, I'm very happy for the convenience of the bank machine here, but Bars in general just seem so clinical, so clean. Makes me feel a little low, walking in there. No one else would realise the state of my house, but I know. And walking into a Bar, with its chrome, its 'interior' really makes me long for the long lost pub, which was always at least as shitty as my place, and often worse. In my grandfathers' time and my father's time (and, I suppose my mother's time), pubs were even better, with the spit on the floor and a fog bank of smoke from all over the planet, as well as the fireplace. No one could have lived in such circumstances, and as a result we were all kind of equal, being better than the shit hole that the pub was. I order a pint while I tap in numbers. It's cool and clean in here. Well lighted. What a smell - polish and beer. Cash in hand, I head out for a smoke.

"Oi! C'mere! Whataboutyerpoint?"

"Just goin for a smoke..." I assure him. I think about legging it. After all, I only ordered out of guilt. Imagine walking into a place and saying nothing to the only other person in there? It can't be done. And how do you say hello to a barman without ordering a pint or short or something? That's even more impossible. I smoke away as the pedestrians come barrelling toward me, like meteors in some science fiction film. I think of my Buck Rogers girl again. I think of dropping my smoke in mid air, just to teach these people some manners, and to not be so sure of their walking habits. They go straight for you, you see. They want you to move out of their way. It's obvious why; what without pubs and Cafes to hand it's the only simple Irish manner of bolstering a sense of worth. Which is what we need if we're thinking about having a sense of self. I step back in for my pint. Thinking: That's a good one now - the whole sense of self/sense of worth thing. Interesting. I could think about that over a pint. But no. No I can't.

"Up to much today?"

"Ah no, day off"

"Hence the early drinkin', eh?"

I smile. "Busy?"

"No, not on a Tuesday. Not on a Tuesday til lunchtime. Then about eight o'clock..." I could tell you what he's saying, but I'm not going to because here he is cleaning. I don't mind him cleaning, I don't mind him talking. But which does he want to do right now? He's only pretending to take an interest in me, I'm sure of it. Why else would he keep going with that damned cloth? I need a paper, I think. That way I can think away to myself, but pretend I'm remaining entirely wrapped up in this world. Skull the pint, head out, get the paper, come back: that's the plan. No point asking him for a paper, he'd only want to talk about the news. You send a much more definite message if you walk in with a paper. Open it, read it, order pints. Mumble assent. No commitment to conversation. Excellent.

Excellent, except that on the road, there it is again. My first instinct is to run again. I know I can't kill it. I shudder at the thought. Of it, and of its death. I keep my eye on it this time, see where it goes. Filthy thing. Attracted by the waste of humans. Even more disgusting. But maybe it has something there. Maybe. I cross over the road, lie chest down and stare into the gutter railings. If I stay very very still, they may come and get me - mistaking me for one of their own.