Rent, Road Rage and setting fire to the rain.

The four horsemen of the rent apocalypse were chasing the Ford Focus up the M50. You could kinda hear the thud and squeal of their wheels between the trucks and motorbikes and morning mayehm traffic. The phone was hanging off the yoke on the dashboard and the maps were on, talking shite about exits and roundabouts. All the signs to small universes whizzing by. Southbound, Dundrum, Sandyford, Stillorgan. I changed lane and some lad went demented. Started the crazy beeping and the gesticulation. Giving the wild advice like I could hear him through his passenger window. And his kid in the back, strapped to a babyseat, looking at him like he’s mad. He took off when he was finished with the news for the traffic deaf and I lost him behind a cement lorry. The maps were getting excited now. Destination not far.

A small pebble hopped off the road and bounced off the windscreen but I wasn’t worried cos the windscreen was already cracked from a bigger stone last week so the pebble was out of luck tryna fuck up my day. I’d asked around and got numerous quotes to fix it. €297 here. €450 there. Add Vat. Offer cash. Cancel your insurance and then renew it, but add cover this time. And how long would that take and when is the NCT and you better get it done. Settled on a place for €200 and getting it done next week, let her crack away til then, might as well get my money’s worth for something rightly fucked instead of fixing a teardrop on the glass.

Switched on the news. Bad idea. Changed the station. Good idea. Adele kicked off with set fire to the rain. A soft massage on the cerebellum, a serenely sonic needle and thread, adding meaning to the colourblind clouds. The maps said to take a left. Take a right. Stop here. You’ll be there soon. Parked up. Let the orb spin and the gravity settle. Quiet dust across the moon, storms in Jupiter, distant diesel engines and road raging school runs. The engine relaxed, licking the fumes off her paws. Spotted a lotto ticket under the handbrake, left quietly there by the mother, said you might be lucky. Scanned it through the app and let the data packets bounce and the satellites sing through the ozone. And sure lookit, isn’t it fuckin mighty.

Five Star Fomo. Black Mirror job.

Your wan had a French name and a place up fairly cheap. Nice pictures, spacious, safe, all that. The site had a big red warning that said: LAST PLACE LEFT for your dates. Nothing like Fomo to get the booking going. Tore open the wallet, fired in the card number, nearly broke the screen trying to get digits in fast, fast, fast, it’ll be gone! Then, sound, said the lively robot, you’re booking is confirmed. Good man yourself, got a good deal, sure thinking like that is how you save big money and no need for them demented hotels at all. Sleep good, pack your suitcase, get ready for the road. But. Somewhere in the ether, a devil began to laugh. At first it was stifled in a vague icy doubt and eventually descended into the falling fog of concern and buyer’s remorse. Had I checked the reviews? Was it refundable? Reliable? Too good to be true? The phone felt heavy and uncertain when I picked it up, like it was biting its lip, saying maybe you don’t want to know? I found the place again, scrolled down, and drank in the truth of the dark premonition.

First lad was straight in with SCAM!

And it got worse from there.  A broken shower, pictures of dirty rotten beds and bare live wires that could jump start an airplane. The nice pictures were of somewhere else, someone else’s house apparently, or maybe this one a long time ago, before it fell into the hole of dire disrepair and was listed for booking on the wild reliable site that caught me with the LAST ONE LEFT trick. I scanned more. No stars, lots of warnings, complaints, warning of danger inside the house due to everything being fucked and outside due to it being a dodgy area. Sure ya wouldn’t know, might be refundable? I checked the site and it was written in big bold thick ignorant letters: Non-Refundable.

But I still had a plan. Time to ring the bank. Lately I told them to stop ringing me every time I buy something, I know what I’m doing, don’t need ye checking my transactions every two minutes. Now here I am, big shtuff himself booking gammy accommodation. Got through after a while, a lovely girl with a soft Munster accent, said: ‘We can’t help you there, it’s gone through.’ She said something about making cases, filling forms, complicated madness. I hung up. Contacted the site, more demonic laughs from the shadows on the wall. It was night, see, and the phone’s screen illuminated the anonymous dark. It was a bit like being on The Matrix, or getting sucked into some virtual video game like something out of Black Mirror. The FAQ put me on to the chat. The chat put me on to the FAQ. It went on like that for a while, the bank card still thrown on the couch, out of breath after such an unprovoked assault, and the money long gone, probably spent on that bitch’s 20 fags in her dodgy bungalow with dirty light bulbs, and her hair frazzled from the last time she got a belt of high voltage trying to turn on the WiFi and see who’s after booking now, who fell for it tonight?

Vandalism

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?’ 

‘Wha…’ 

‘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.