Monday, December 13, 2010

Another Conversation with My 3 Year Old

"Hi M! How was your day?!"
"I'm NOT E-"
"Hi Cinderella!
"I'm NOT Cinderella"
"Hi Sleeping Beauty"
"I'm NOT sleeping Beauty"
"But grumpy this evening?"
"NO! I'm NOT Grumpy. Or Sleepy, or Bashful, or Doc, or any of them. I'm NOT a dwarf"
"Hi Arial"
"I'm NOT Arial. Mummy, I'm not talking to Daddy TONIGHT!"
"Hi princess"
"Oh, Daddy! Hello! Today we saw Grandma and Autnie J and we went for lunch and B- was crying and Mummy had to tell her to stop and we went to the shops and it was..."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Initial Thoughts About the IMF

I don't really know much about the IMF, outside of they're coming meaning we're in a whole pile of trouble. But, on reading the comments and papers and watching the news, I do have some reflections I'd like to share, both good and bad. I'll start with the bad in the hope that this ends on a good note.

The Bad

  • The humiliation and shame we feel about the IMF being in the country. Well, it is tough. And I suppose humiliating. But we did bring it on ourselves. We'd like to think Fine Fail brought this on us, but the fact is, their economic policies were being questioned in various corners since Charlie McCreevy's "What I have, I spend" comment. Elections since then appear to have based on the electorate being willingly deluded that money was free, and like trees, would simply grow. Children who convince their parents they can have another chocolate at Christmas. Parents who just want the peace to get on with Trivial Pursuit, say 'Go ahead'; children get sick and think "How could they do this to me"
  • This business of the beggars on Stephen's Green being an iconic image of the trouble we're now in (here it is). Well, this is where you should feel shame. I first started spending a lot of time in Dublin from about 1994/1995. People were begging there then. They have been begging there ever since. If you have only noticed them now, well, shame on you. Perhaps it's a sign of just how blinkered the society was that nobody noticed them before.
  • We should feel humiliated and ashamed of our politicians. The hiding away of the Green party and the Fine Fail back benchers rattling their sabres feels plain wrong to me. Both these groups voted for the bank guarantee (rightly or wrongly - I'm not questioning the guarantee right now, though I think I did over on the Fat Man blog a while ago), which appears to be the primary cause of our current serious troubles. Sure, they're political creatures and they have to survive, but I'd like to see a bit more backbone. Say "We got it wrong", apologise and try to move on. Stop trying to pretend there were always various factions at play after voting along party lines for years.  On the other hand, we have Dick Roche boasting that they're playing poker with the IMF - which seems such a level of hubris that he must be completely unaware of what the rest of us are thinking and feeling.
  • I don't know where I sit with the whole "Is this what they died for?" bit. Frankly, it feels to me like we're feeling so angry and depressed we want to be moreso. But with news not getting much worse for us, we've turned to our history to try and resurrect some of that old misery we used to love so much.
The Good
  • I welcome the return of humour to Irish political discourse. Our dark humour and dampened spirits have exceeded themselves in the delivery of razor sharp wit and observation of the society within which we have found ourselves.
  • Someone had to put on the brakes. This is a good/bad point, but let's look at it as a good point. We have been overspending for years; and we have been running the country on unsustainable taxes raised from one-off projects (construction) and similar deals (business activity). How we thought this could just go on forever is absurd, unless the government brought in 15 year destruction orders or something
  • Following on from that, we appear to have gained some sense in ourselves. And, perhaps of ourselves. Perspective you might call it. Well done us. Hopefully this will lead to a more independent electorate: the end of voting on party lines for family reasons. The beginning of a more rigorous consideration of what it is that political parties stand for; and what their policies might mean. I recall a debate in the UK sometime round the early 2000's where someone snidely cut across a panel member, saying "But you're going to vote Lib Dems - and they want to raise your taxes!" to which the other person replied "Yes, and that's how they'll pay for a better public service. I still don't know how the Tories or Labour intend to do that." Wise thinking indeed.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Conversation With My 3 Year Old Daughter

"Peppa Pig?"
"No, that's boring for girls."
"No, that's boring for girls."
"Daddy! That's only for BABIES"
"Daddy! That's only for BOYS!!"
"No, that's boring for girls."
"Yes! That's PERFECT for girls! How did you know?"

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Before a Storm

The air heavy. Heat around your skin; radiated like flesh torn or battered. The sky is metallic, dark, bruised with rolling clouds, ready to bleed. Sun there, far away, mendacious. Pushing, squeezing. Can’t pierce the bruises. Shouldn’t be counted. It’s not a sunny disposition.
The earth pants in exhausted billows of cut grass and leaf. The ground sweats.
The world taut.
Something is going to give.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Mo Leaba: A Derivative Account of Child-Induced Insomnia

I am in my own room. It is where I live now. With my wife and two children. I am sleeping, or trying to. My children, whom I assume to have read Beckett are punishing us. Perhaps for bringing them to this damnable world, but who knows? This has been going on for weeks now.
I don’t know how it started. They say when you dream, your brain processes all your memories - taking your RAM and dumping it to storage for later retrieval. Except we haven’t had any sleep. One or other of these lucky ladies will wake. And when they do, crashing from their dreams into the silent dark of their rooms, they will scream. Scream!
Then, my wife or I will run. Run! To try and settle the unsettled child, who will continue with sobs. We didn’t always wait up all night for one of them to wake. But when we didn’t wait up - the one to wake would surely start the other.
Whichever one it is, if she doesn’t wake the other, we will bring her into our room to settle her there with hugs and bottles and all the other weapons in our young-parent armoury of love.
If it is Sunshine, she will clutch her baby Susie, fall asleep in three minutes. With somnolent shifts, she will move to a horizontal position, kicking one parent in the head, while the other’s hair is pulled and tangled. We get little sleep, sore heads and stiff backs.
If it is Starlight, she will be true to her name, shining on through the night. She will not settle in our bed. She believes it to be playtime. We curse ourselves and the attention we give her.  She gurgles and giggles and climbs on us and stands up there in the middle of the bed. We have a series of minor heart attacks as she rages against the brightening of the light - when - as day breaks and the earth wakes - she will decide to sleep. When I have to go to work. When my wife has to look after Sunshine and her little cousin, Tinysmiles. But these are distractions - work, care. These are things we do when we are not in our room, which is where we live now.
At first we told ourselves we’ve been through this before. The sleeplessness. The cries that wake us in the night. But then, we realise, back then, we only knew half of it. There are two now.
We are insensate. The world is inexorable. We are not in it, nor of it. We do not touch it or move it. We are ideas. Words waiting to be said. Stories waiting to be told. We cannot escape it. Our children have taken our place.
They are in our room. It is where they live now. They turn us and roll us and command us. The progeny discipline the parents. A new order.
“Something must be done” I tell my wife. She looks at me hopefully, like I am going to do something. But I cannot. There is darkness and silence, but no sleep. One child kicking my face, the other dancing in the space between my wife and I. So much in the spaces between light and dark. So much in the space between words and actions. But something must be done. Someone should do something.
“Perhaps it's done already, perhaps they have said me already, perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don't know, I'll never know, in the silence you don't know, you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on.” (Beckett)

Saturday, June 19, 2010


The water ripples were tiny
Hours after the car plunged
Days after the letter was opened
Weeks after the message was written
Months after the patience was lost
A Quarter after the payments became 'irregular'

A Thing of Terrible Beauty

It is such
a thing of terrible
terrible beauty
the way she
shuns me
looking out
the passenger window.

I smile to the sun,
magnified through
the windscreen.

And my eyes hurt
and I tell her
"according to that wall
over there
Kelly loves Sam
Eddie's a

I laugh as
She turns to face me,
Seething with
Mango on her teeth
She calls me a clown 
She calms down.

Our laughter is such
a thing of terrible beauty.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Crossing Lines in The Dark

It is dark and I steer illumination, drawing
The lines I will cross
In the middle of the road
Where I know
She is sleeping again
In the dark
In her underwear.
It is thrilling to be here:
driving there
to her
in her underwear
At home.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fire Signs #1

A spark, a flame: A fire.
Stolen long ago from the gods by Prometheus, who was forever punished. Tied to a rock, his liver torn out and consumed, by an eagle no less. Over and over again. The liver, you see, being reinstated to aid the punishment. The (same?) eagle hungry and knowing just where to find a quick bit to take away. Maybe feed the chicks. Dress it in a little sauce. This was all in hell you see, so the pun, 'devilled liver', comes clattering along. A cliché formed of too much heat, too much light. Little imagination. Poor Prometheus.
For providing a bit of heat, a bit of light, a bit of imagination. Humans become gods, having fire. Keeping it to themselves or hurling it full force at each other. Too much heat, too much light. Too little imagination.
Really a natural occurrence created by nature, managed now by humans. Oxidation of what have you by means of combustion, which produces heat and light and crap, which can be managed by the imagination.  All quite temporary, once the what have you is used up, that's it: the fire goes out. So it has to be managed.
Project managed, with timelines and deliverables and milestones that are millstones. Ample heat, ample light. Too much imagination. We have so little to do, having heat and light, that the imagination will not be tied to a rock, only to have its liver eaten out. No.
The liver, you see, filters out the excess. Stops you poisoning yourself, or overdosing on a life of too much heat, too much light. This is what imagination has to do. See the similarity there. Taking the overflow, the nasty crap, helping you filter it out. Leaving you with hope, or dreams or whatnot that keeps you going when you throw your arms up in the air and say "I can't go on!"
And, you know, none of it makes sense, because all I'm doing here is lighting a cigarette.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Dances No. 2

    The summer is coming and so are the exams. Six youths: three lads, three girls, walk across a flat, marshy field to the cover of a ring of bushes. In the centre, the ground is always scorched – so hot is this place with youths. They carry cans and naggins and smokes and sometimes, but not often, hash. They always have their MP3 players. Someone once brought a portable DVD player, but it got puked on and that was the end of anything that costs money but doesn’t fit snugly into your pocket.
    Three lads, three girls. Something might happen, but nothing is planned, save in the relentless minds of young men. They are a loose affiliation, with only a school, and only really an Irish class in common. But they live close enough to this spot to make them all connected enough to come drinking together. They don’t have any other plans for the night.
    They don’t wear the same clothes, like the fashionable ones, or those that wouldn’t be seen dead in anything other than funereal black. They wear whatever. They don’t drink the neon, easy drinks. They’re harder than that with ciders and shorts of various flavours and hues. They don’t go in for the whole ‘group’ thing. They each think: whatever.
    Madeleine - a real character - pulls a plastic cup from her bag, and mixes vodka from a naggin with an energy drink from a long, thin can. Everyone wants some, but she says no, get your own, scabby fuckers. She holds up the cup, little finger out: the epitome of civilised drinking in a dark, mucky field, surrounded by hedges, sheep, shit and the eager faces of the others who want to get pissed as quickly as possible. She puts on a face and takes a sip. They all laugh. She knocks back two cups, then says “How about a fire”? She produces two firelighters from the same bag, throws them on the scorched earth. The rest of them look on. After a few moments, Gary takes the firelighters, some twigs that surround them, takes out his lighter and gets a fire going.
    “I love a fire” says Anna. The lads glance toward each other. What kind of granny is she? I love a fire. What does it mean? Tobsly and James still would. Gary thinks that’s way off, and probably a sign of something worse.
    “Music. I need music.” Madeleine pulls an MP3 player from her bag. Gary says “Jaysis, just like Mary Poppins”. They laugh a little, not drunk enough yet to find it hysterical. “Here, give me one of them,” Anna says. Madeleine hands her one of the buds, and she puts it in her ear.
    Anna and Madeleine listen to whatever on the MP3 player; Mary, silent, stares into space, thinking, like, whatever.
    Tobsly, Gary and James abuse each other tirelessly. They call each other fags, pussies, dopes, gobshites, fuckers, cunts and the rest. They laugh, sip, curse. The curses get compounded, objects are added, bizarre poses and sinful actions until finally Tobsly, the one they all think is a bit odd, but OK – he always hands over a smoke, and brings his own booze – says “You fuck goats while licking sheep arses half way over a fence so the barbed wire rips your balls open so your mother can suck them.” Silence. Someone says “Shit. That wouldn’t be much fun. I think that was Mungo.” They all laugh at that one. Mungo, their large, clumsy looking but careful biology teacher, who wanted so much for them to be mature enough to discuss sexual reproduction that he made a laughing stock out of it. And himself.
    They talk about the exams, each declaring themselves less prepared than the last. All of them knowing they are lying. They have been preparing, they are hoping for a good result and for something to happen. Except for Gary, college is expected of all of them. Gary wishes it was expected of him. The others bear it like a chore, a slight on their very existence – the expectation of success. James tries to ask what success means, really. They look at him blankly. He’s thinking too much.
    The subject is suspended there. They sit in silence for some time. Some turn and lift their heads, only to drop them again. Madeleine and Anna hum along to whatever on the MP3 player. A decent distraction.
    Music. There is music, but not from any of the MP3 players round the fire. Gary pokes his head up above the bushes to see Tim walking toward them with what their parents called a ‘ghetto blaster’ in the tone of one uncomfortable with a foreign language. They don’t say that. They each have a different word for it. It gives them music to share without headphones. And, if you wanted, you could talk over it, while listening to music in both ears. “Jesus”, says Gary, “It’s the man of the eighties!”
    Tim pushes through the bushes, music playing on the speakers at his ear. Hip hop going, he put on the shape of a guy from a Spike Lee film. Not a hard guy or a good guy, but one of the eccentric ones. Loud, solid colours, a squeaky voice and a way of talking that sounded like a machine gun going off out of control. That was exactly how he speaks.
    “Well, fuckers! How goes it! Brought some tunes! But I’ve no drink! Help me out!” Rat-tat tat. Rat-tat tat. Tim was stoned and ready for some fun. That much was obvious. Tobsly took a half bottle from his pocket and threw it up to him. It landed on the ground behind him. Tim put the player down, picked up the whisky, took a swig, and coughed three times. Khe-khe khe.
    The seven of them sit around, like all the sins collected. They listen to the music for a while, not talking. They’re bored now, but no one wants to admit it. Where are all the wild antics from those films? Girls taking off their tops, boys jumping round the place, drinking wildly, shouting. Where is all that?
    Sporadic conversations strike up, like small fires, and die down again. The mad, the bad and the dangerous antics of friends, family and weirdos from the town and the school. Sometimes they laugh, sometimes they gasp. Like a tide, their conversation drowns out, then uncovers the subdued sounds of hip hop from Tim’s CD player.
    During one such silence, Tobsly gets up, jerks his arms, contorts his body, seeing in front of him exotic characters whose skin he wants to be in. He turns to see them all looking at him, saying nothing. He stops, sits down. He hates dancing in front of people. He tries to think of something smart to say, recover the situation. Nothing comes. So in silence, he sips his whisky, passes some to Tim, offers some around. Their faces are hot from hard liquor and the fire. They notice the light flickering on their faces, knowing it must now be dark, although they didn’t notice it getting dark.
    Tim pulls out some cigarette papers, evenly distributes tobacco in a thin tube along the centre. Then he pulls a small cube of dark resin, holds it over a flame and crumbles it along the top. He rolls the whole thing together and smiles. He has only recently conquered the technique, and he knows he’s at least a month or so ahead of others in this respect. He lights it, takes a long draw, and passes it to Tobsly, on his right. Tobsly says “I thought you were meant to pass that on the left-hand-side,” singing the last three words. He smokes, but not this. He doesn’t want this, but he doesn’t want to look dry. It turns out no one wants it. Tim tokes on, delighted that it’s all for him, but disappointed that no one recognises the talent he has displayed in rolling such a neat joint.   
    Madeleine, Anna and Maria get up and start dancing around the fire. The flames touch off their clothes, but never catch. The boys watch and look at each other, wondering who will get up first. They know they have to. If they want anything to happen, they will have to.
    The girls laugh, and they pull up the boys, who join in willingly once invited. Tobsly, odd man out, starts trying to dance with Maria, who is dancing with Tim. Tobsly tries to get near, treads on her toes, and knocks her by accident. She gives him a look, and he moves away. “Sorry”.
    He likes dancing alone. It feels good. He throws his hands in the air, pictures the video for the song, and does the moves he can remember. It takes over him like some kind of voodoo. He is drunk, and only feels embarrassed when he thinks of himself going crazy in the sitting room as a child, when he had been jumping in front of his father’s great big fuck off stereo, as they all call it now. His mother walked in with the neighbour; the neighbour burst herself laughing, his mother burst herself crying. Ever since, she gives him this look every so often, like something isn’t right. He wants to make it right, but he can’t. And as the chorus comes back, he forgets about it, and carries himself, drunk, smoking, throwing shapes that mean something to someone somewhere, but here just provide a feeling and a motion.
    Meanwhile, the rest of them laugh. They think he’s doing a great take on the dances of pop stars. He’s a gas, they think, a real nutter. Contorting his body, bending his arms, forming angles that straighten at the end of a bar, or on the beat of a drum or the jangle of a guitar chord. The rest sit down, talk about what they think the song means. “I heard he wrote this about his wife…”; “I heard it was about wanking…”; “I heard he tried to commit suicide, and it didn’t work, but as he was close to death, this was the tune in his head, and he could hear those words, as if someone was saying them to him, but no one was there…” The theories became more and more contrived and slurred, backed up by arguments based on the lyrics and whether some of them deliberately didn’t rhyme, so that you’d understand those were the words you had to read into more.
    Heads spinning from deep conversation, alcohol and dancing, they all lie back. Gary starts in on Maria, tickling her some, while she eggs him on by saying “Stop, don’t” through short laughs, and not moving away. James talks to Anna about fire, what it means to them, why it’s so attractive. They kiss. The others laugh a little, and Gary looks at Maria. Maria looks at Gary. They kiss too.
    Tobsly moves over to Madeleine, who sits with her head down, looking drunk and bored. He nudges her with his elbow and says “Alright?” She thinks, well, whatever. I’m here. Why not. And she waits. He talks about fire too, then about books, about music: a torrent of procrastination. She thinks there’s only one way to shut him up and get this over with and that’s to just do it. She kisses him. He kisses her, thinking, what a night. What a night!   
    Suddenly Madeleine spins fast, turns her head down and gets sick in her bag.  When she looks up, they are all looking at her. Except Tobsly, who is looking at the others. “Jaysis… Just.. like Mary Poppins” says Gary. There is hysterical laughter this time.
    “You there! You there!” a voice calls from somewhere. Gary looks through a gap at the bottom of the bushes
    “Bollocks. Maddy’s Da, and a copper. Two coppers. Ah fuck! There’s two cars… Four coppers!” They all try to find an escape route. They, whoever they were out there, had found the place. They knew what went on here from the glass naggins and scorched earth, and they were coming back to restore order. Reclaim this place for the decent people.
    The light from a torch pokes through the bushes around them. Tobsly can see a high-viz jacket and knows there’s only two things to do – get the fuck away, or get fucked.
    He throws his cigarette away and dives into a bush. The butt hits one of the others, who yelps. The torch goes straight for them. Tobsly, finding a gap in the hedge dives through. Fuck them all, he thinks as he crawls across the grass to the next hedge. He wants to be somewhere no one will see him. He hears the confusion behind him, and he seems to have got away, once he just keeps going.

*** *** ***

    The summer is over, and so is, their parents tell them, their ‘youth’. They aren’t old enough to know what this means. For a while now, they have been preparing for college, applying for places, securing accommodation and trying to find out where to get jobs to keep them going. They have been drinking in fields, and friends’ houses, waiting. Tonight, they dress up to let down their hair.
    Tobsly met up in Tim’s house with Edel and Jessica. The girls looked like models. If the lads weren’t such wankers, they’d think of trying something on. Instead they think of getting some drink inside them. After thirty minutes of Tim’s dad’s scotch and discussions on manhood, the stretched, white limo appears. The girls bolt out, quick as they can. Edel spills a little champagne on the way out. It was the weirdest thirty minutes of her life. At least Jessica knew Tim’s parents. At least Jessica knew Tim. She was left with Tobsly. What kind of name is that? He seemed OK, until he spoke or did anything. She could have gone to this debs with anyone, but she promised Edel (who promised Tim) that she’d go if Tobsly asked her.
    It took him some time, too. Months, weeks, days, hours and minutes of procrastination, all boiled down to about thirty seven seconds in which he said
    “Errr, Edel…”
    “Would you… Or, actually, you know… You know the Debs?”
    “Well, I was err” turns round to look at Tim, egging him on, while she looks at     Jess, who raises her eyes and rolls her wrist, go on, tell him yes!
    “Well, I mean, would you like to go with me?”
    “Oh, that’s great! Thank you so much” She had already turned, headed out, probably for a smoke with Jessica, when the hallway erupts in cheer for Tobsly. Here and there a few say things like “Virgin” and “Gobshite”, but they can’t be heard for the overwhelming support for what had just happened. One of the hottest girls in the school said yes to the biggest freak this side of the elephant man. What-Ever!
    Now they are in the limo, on the way to the Debs. Tobsly reaches into his inside pocket, pulls out a fag and a naggin of whisky. “Anyone?”
    “Classy” says Edel, looking at Jessica.
    “Aw, c’mon. It’s only a bit of whisky!” Tim tries to keep spirits high, while Tobsly downs some of his personal supply.
    Edel gives Jessica a look.
    They get there, at last. A red carpet has been rolled out to make the whole thing more special for the young ladies and gentlemen who believe this to be the rite of passage to adulthood. Or, indeed, the pissup of a lifetime. Bouncers with humourless faces pat down the gentlemen, relieving them of drugs and alcohol that might make them that much less gentle. In the limo, Tobsly puts the naggin between his boot and his ankle. They head up.
    “What’s wrong with you?” asks the bouncer
    “Hurt my leg. Playing, ah, rugby”
    “Yeah? Looks like you’re walking on pebbles. Why don’t you take your shoe off?”
    “Shoe has nothing to do with it. Hurt my leg playing footie, I told you.”
    “You said rugby”
    “Bollocks I did. I don’t play rugby. I play football.”
    “State of you, you don’t play anything tubby.”
    “How do you know my name?” The bouncers, mistaking this for cheek, usher the others in, grab Tobsly and bring him round the side of the building
    “Listen here you little shit. I know that Edel, I know her dad. I’m letting you in, but it’s so her night isn’t ruined. It wouldn’t be fair on her. She’s a lovely girl. But I’ll have my fucking eye on you. Do you hear me? My fucking eye!” Tobsly thinks about his fucking eye, but decides not to say anything. Edel’s night is ruined when she discovers Tobsly Dath has not, in fact been barred from the Debs. He staggers in, the drink affecting him both from the inside and out. She looks at Jessica, who is laughing at yet another of Tim’s clever little jokes.
    From the bar, they are ushered to the function room by staff. Tables laid out not so much like the pictures from the brochure, but like an army mess hall with fancy glasses and cutlery. The napkins are tissue, the table cloths disposable.
    The bar is lined with boys in ill-fitting suits, while girls in fancy dresses chat in the toilets and around tables. Powder is applied to faces, powder is applied to noses. These kids are grown up and know it, and act it, aping their parents’ bad behaviour, and then some. The guys talk about exams, jobs, colleges, bitches, assholes, pussies who wouldn’t do this, and cunts who wouldn’t do that. They give their cursing a real workout. The girls talk about exams, jobs, colleges, assholes, guys, some slut who did this guy, and some real whore who did some other guy. They drink, they chat, they judge. Just like the grown ups they are growing into.
    The barmen, meanwhile, ask each and every one of the gentlemen for ID. In their turn, the gentlemen produce their faked IDs. Many don’t even need fake IDs, but it just happens to be the only ID they have, and you can’t get a drink without an ID. The barmen, unconvinced but unconcerned, dole out drinks to these seemingly older-than-average Leaving Certificate graduates.
    Teachers mill around, reminding the young ladies and gentlemen how they are mature now, and how they should act it. After a while, a tap on a microphone urges them all to sit down, in their various school groups, whispering and hissing about the other groups.
    The Head speaks glowingly of the year, of their achievements over their time in the school. He jokes about various transgressions. They laugh. Then they all bow their heads for grace. Soup arrives with Amen.
    Dinner is consumed with tempered savagery, which becomes less tempered as wine is poured and repoured. By the main course, small groups have formed at most of the tables to order more wine, as their allocation has been consumed. Some go for the cheapest, some for the most expensive. Most go for the highest alcohol content, and order some shots ‘on the side’. The teachers look warily on at the mature ladies and gentlemen, whom it has been their pleasure to teach all these years. They see them now, outside the classroom, responsible for their own behaviour. The teachers shake their heads. 
    By desert, food has been pushed aside to make more room for pints, shots and shorts. The ladies toddle on high heels to the bathroom, where they clean themselves up and puke. The gentlemen look on glassy eyed, comparing notes on who’s going to ride who, and what it’ll be like. During which time, they stagger into the toilet to puke and clean themselves up. The band starts up, welcoming them to the dinner they’ve already eaten and the night they’re in the middle of. The first night of the rest of their lives. The lives they feel in the middle of, even as everyone assures them it’s only just beginning.
    As showband tunes play, the floor fills with staggered, mocking dances. The gentlemen roll up their sleeves and do the “Dad at a wedding” dance, while the ladies laugh and dance in circles, passing comments and glances on those around them.
    Tobsly’s at the bar, showing his fake ID, pursuant to the purchase of a round of drinks. Back at the table, Edel says “He’s full of shit.”
“Yeah, but he bought the wine.” Tim replies, swirling the last of it in his glass. “And he’s buying the first round!”
“So? That just shows he’s always thinking of drink”
“C’mon, Edel, he’s not that bad. He’s kind of cute.” Jessica tries to soothe the situation, looking at Tim, then Edel, trying to gauge the opinions travelling from one to the other.
“He’s tubby.” Says Edel. “But he can be funny. He’s just so full of shit! Half of his ‘stories’ are patent bullshit.” Her fingers do air quotes on ‘stories’.
“Oh, c’mon, take them with a pinch of salt, and forget about it. He’s only trying to impress you, you know” Tim winks at Edel. She feels lightly flattered, but heavily depressed at the thought of fighting Tobsly Dath off all night.
“He’s not… expecting… anything, is he?” Edel, horrified at the thought that just landed on her.  “I only agreed to come to the Debs. Nothing else. Oh Jesus. Tim, is he, you know, like… expecting anything?”
“I don’t think so. Go easy on him. You know he’s a nice guy once you get to know him.”
“They said that about Hitler” Jessica puts in, full of confidence. She has no idea whether this is true, but it sounds good to put in.
“What about college?” Tim asks, changing the subject.
“I guess it’ll depend on my points. Hoping for Trinity, but who knows?”
“I know. I’ll be in Leeson Street, repeating.”
“I’ll be in Leeson Street…” Jessica says, meaning with Tim, but they all laugh at the implication of Jessica as street walker or stripper.
“What’s so funny?” Tobsly lands the drinks, droplets flying over his hands, which he then licks clean. He places them in front of their respective consumers.
“Ah, nothing. What are you doing for college, Tobsly?”
“I dunno. Depends on points. Probably business or something. UCD.”
“What do you want to do?”
“Oh, I dunno. Go into business. Maybe an accountant. That’d be good. High pay for a-counting…” they laugh a little. Lame joke, lame laugh.
“How about you, Edel?”
“I was just saying I don’t know. It depends on points. Trinity for Arts I think.”
“Oh, Orts” Tobsly says. Edel gives him a look. “Sorry” he says. “What subjects?”
“I applied for English and Psychology” She looks away, already thinking of all those books.
Tobsly convinces himself he’s interested. Why not? English, Psychology. A degree in reading books. The psyche of the mind. What makes us all tick. All that. Yes, lively characters, stories to grip you. At the end of that, you’d really know what life was all about, he thinks. But it’d be a bitch to get a job.
“Tobsly!” Edel shouts him from his fugue. He awakes to realise his eyes are resting on her breasts, well presented in her dress. Tim and Jessica laugh.
“Let’s dance!” Tim shouts, jumping from his chair.
“Ah, no” says Tobsly, “I think I’ll drink!” he raises his glass, thinks of some character from a movie or a book, takes a swig. They look at him. Tim leans down
“C’mawn… think of it. You’re here with Edel. You’d get a great chance if you geve her a little dance…”
“Seriously, Tim. I… I… I don’t know how. I never know what to do up there…” He’s shamed.
“Do what everyone else is doing!” Tim cheers him on, grabbing his arm “No one knows what to do, you just do your thing. Eventually, we all get along, doing something similar. There’s no rules, it’s just what we’re all doing”
    Tobsly downs his drink, stands, offers Edel his hand in what he believes is a courtly manner. She turns and walks to the dance floor. Tim grabs Jessica’s waist, shaking her lightly to the rhythm of the music, shimmying to the floor. Tobsly follows behind, his stride jerks as he takes on the rhythm.
    On the floor, some gentlemen still play the fool, while some ladies dance absent-midedly as they talk. Edel joins the ladies, as Jessica is turned round the floor by Tim. Tobsly dances in a shrug and a stagger on the corner of the floor, nodding hello to others as they pass him. He waits two songs.
    He’s about to go back to his drink when the tempo rises - the band finishing with a bang - and Edel, Jessica and Tim start dancing as part of a group. Tobsly goes over, beside Edel. In the group he feels a little more anonymous, a little more comforted. The ladies and gentlemen are kids again. The band urges them on, as the teachers shake their heads, and start sneaking out to the hotel bar.
    More join the group, some crying, some laughing. They shout whispers to each other about never forgetting, and how it’s the end of an era. Most of them mean it. Tobsly, looking at his strangely moving feet starts to stamp them. Edel shrieks as he lands on her toe. The whole group looks on, gentlemen laughing as the ladies scowl. Tobsly keeps going, looking up every so often to see if they’ve looked away. The song ends, and he heads for the bar.
    He orders another round to make it up. He looks around, but can’t see them. They aren’t at the table. They are milling around, talking to others. Mingling. Tobsly looks for them, listening to the conversations going on along the bar. College places, jobs, and jokes. Is there anything else?
“Is there anything else?” The barman was asking. Tobsly, waking from his reverie says no, and hands over the note. He looks around again, but still can’t see them, Tim, Jessica and Edel. He downs the girls’ gin and tonics. Picks up the pints, puts down the lager, sips the Guinness and decides to walk about a bit.
    He steps outside for a smoke, dizzy. The bouncers look at him, but nobody says anything. Some teachers look over, but turn their head, hoping not to get into a conversation. He sips his beer and lights the smoke, watching it rise in ribbons from the end of the cigarette, puff in clouds from his mouth. For a while, this is all he does, all he thinks of.
    Smoke done, he heads back in. The DJ has started, thumping beats and electronic noises. Eyes have gone from blurred to dilated. Movements from sluggish to jerky. The night, for the ladies and gentlemen, has turned around. Tobsly hits the bar, orders another round.
“Where have you been?” It’s Edel behind him.
“Went for a smoke. I’m sorry about your toe. Let me buy you a…”
“No, it’s fine. I’m… um, I’m over with Shay now. We’re… um. We’re together now.”
    He stared, wide eyed and stupid looking as she turned and walked toward Shay O’Toole. Fucking tool, Tobsly thought, raising his pint to his mouth. He’ll do well in his leaving cert, well in college, well in his career. Worst of all, he’ll do well with Edel now, tonight. Fucking tool. 
    Tobsly seethes, surveying the room. He considers pissing on the dance floor. As he straightens himself up, he thinks again, seeing the bouncers watching his halting movements. He shrinks again, orders a whiskey.
“Are you sure?” asks the barman, eyeing him.
“Yep” he says, trying for chirpy, but managing somehow to slur it. The barman pours it, places it in front of him. Tobsly offers the note, but he says “No, you’re having a bad night. Just don’t go mad.” Tobsly downs the whiskey, grabs his pint and goes out for another smoke. He feels eyes on him, and needs to get away from them. He goes out the doors and somebody says something; but somebody is always saying something, he thinks.