Mike’s Transit Van

We got there around three. Dark clouds. Country rain. Narrow road. The van was on the top of the hill. The oul fella said: “He was right about the power wash anyway!” Mike stood above‚ waving down in a way that said – “I’m here. Can ye not see me?!” It was too late to turn around so we tore on up. Mike was in a demented red rain jacket and glasses. Had the look of the man amazed by everything. Like he’d never seen people before‚ only heard they were a fantastic species and now here they were. His mouth was always open‚ his jaw dropped expectantly like he was waiting for us to do something spectacular. Sean had given me his number. Said Mike had a van for sale fairly cheap‚ might need a bit of a power wash‚ but probably be sound besides.
     It was supposed to be a white Ford Transit but it was brown with rust.  Mike pulled open the back door and it nearly fell off. There was a loud screech as the hinges gave way.  Mike looked unconcerned. “That might need a bit of oil alright.” He said.
      Inside. The walls were once white. But now they were green. It smelled like the public toilet in a bus station. “Yeah…” continued Mike. “Mightn’t look great inside here now. There was an infestation of flies there last year. Millions of them. I think they’re nearly all gone now but it was dirty at the time…” The oul fella took out a Major‚ tapped one off the box‚ lit it and said: “Is that right‚ Mike?”
    “Tis.” He said. “But I’ll tell ya the besht thing about this van‚ and I’m not tellin ya a word of a lie‚ if ya bring it into Galway on a Saturday night you can pull a woman and bring her back here. Ride her in the back like. Save on the B&B!” He looked at me bug eyed like I might agree and I went: “Sure we might take it for a spin and see how we get on?”
    We were somewhere in Adrahan. Eight or nine miles from Gort. It had been a long journey of missed turns and small roads and asking strange country folk for directions. All the way thinking – “sure we might get a good van out of it.”
     Here now. The wind whistled. The clouds shook their heads. The cows looking over the walls at us like we were mad. Mike said he’d back it out on to the road and we’d drive it to the bog. (Cos that’s what he uses the van for mostly nowadays. When he’s not in Galway “pulling women”‚ he uses it to bring home the turf.) So we stood and watched him reverse it out. There was a big gust of chill wind and a slap of icy cold rain as Mike completely missed his own gate and backed into a big pile of stones in the garden. There was an agonising crunch of bending metal and ruptured shocks  and the van heaved and spluttered and then there was the screech of grinding gears and a smell of burning rubber. You could see Mike inside looking around kinda confused like he had no idea of what just happened‚ or maybe kinda wondering if we’d put the wall in his way when he wasn’t looking.  It was hard to know what to say. Or think. And as the wheels spun round‚ I asked the oul fella: What do ya reckon? And he didn’t even look at me when he said: “I think it’s a haypea shite.”
Then the rain came properly and we pulled out the biggest wet stones from under the wheels and somehow got the van on to the road. We sat in with mucky hands and dying patience. The road was small. Tricycle small. The rain fell hard and the wipers were bored and apathetic – sometimes working and others not bothering to go the whole way up the windshield before falling back exhausted. Mike squinted on and asked what I wanted a van for anyway.  Told him I’m in theatre and need it to move sets around and all that. He said it would be perfect for that kinda thing. We rocked back and over like an unsure boat on an angry ocean. The engine grumbling and muttering.  Had visions of toppling over into the nearby field. I asked if there was a DOE on it and he said: No. But it should pass no problem. How do ya make that out I asked him. “I know fella down there.” He said. “He’ll sort you out.” Oh. Have you brought it down to him before? Mike changed an awkward gear and thought and looked into the boggy distance and said: “Yeah. But he wasn’t in a good mood that day I think….”
The oul fella rolled down the window. The handle nearly came off in his hand. He threw his Major out in to the windy Adrahan nowhere and said:  “Probably as well to turn around I’d say Mike. It’s gettin kinda late.”
Mike boxed around for a while til he got it turned. The mirrors were cracked. The lights didn’t really work. It was low on petrol. He talked all the while. “It’s worth about €400….I won’t let it go for any less. And it’s a steal at that. It’s a mighty van. Never let me down. Great for the bog and the sets too if that’s what you want it for. And if ya drive mostly during the day ya won’t see many guards. Great engine too and don’t forget about what you’ll save on accommodation!! I’d almost be sad to let it go…and there’s a fella that promised me four new tyres too about six months but I haven’t heard from him since….not answerin his phone…but I’ll get on to him again now…’
Back at his house. On the hill. I said: Sure we’ll think about it and give you a call. He said not to think too hard or it might be gone. We all said goodbye and we could see him in the rearview mirror as we pulled away. Standing alone‚ all red and happy and waving with his big smile. And the van behind him in all it’s glory.

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