Black Silver –

It was noon and he sparked a can and said: ‘I’m goin on the piss today.’

‘Why?’

‘I have five kids and not one of them sent me a Father’s day card.’

‘How come?’

‘Four of them don’t give a fuck and the other girl is on heroin.’

‘Heroin?.’

‘She’s only 24.’

‘How’d she fall into it?’

He took out a box of Benson, lit one, said: ‘Aragh, she had a habit of hangin around with the wrong crowd. If you told her not to go somewhere….sure that’s where she’d go.’

He took a long drink, rasped, said: ‘I never offered you a fag.’

‘You’re grand. I quit a good while ago.’

‘Fuckin fair play to you. Did you smoke many, d’ya mind me askin?’

‘25 odd a day.’

He raised his eyebrows, said: ‘That’s not much.’

‘No?’

‘No. I’m a hundred a day man myself.’

‘Hundred cigarettes a day?’

‘At least. I do be up early. Around 6. First thing I do when I wake is light up a fag and work it from there.’

‘Hard on the pocket.’

‘Tis. Sure. But. You have to have somethin. No point livin like a priest.’

He tipped ash, blew smoke, took a drink, then turned up the telly. There was horse racing on. He went: ‘See that horse there, with the red and gold?’

‘Yeah?

‘Keep an eye on that one.’

‘Have you backed it?’

‘I have. I’ve a few of them backed. That one there I pointed out – Black Silver – she’ll do the job.’

‘Do you win much?’

‘I do and I don’t. Friend of mine in England had a tip last week. From the trainer. Started off in the morning at 33-1 and was down to 11/8 by the time the race started. I got him at 12-1, made a nice few pound.’

‘He knew it was goin to win, like it was fixed?’

‘Yeah, but you couldn’t make it too obvious at the bookies. So he had to go around to a good few of them in London and put a few thousand here and a few thousand there….do you want tea?’

‘I will.’

‘Sugar?’

‘One.’

‘I’m more of a coffee man myself, bout fifteen cups a day. Minimum. Need it to keep goin.’

The race started. He lit another cigarette. Finished the can and opened another. We listened to the kettle boil, watched the rain fall light on the windows outside.

‘Fuckin rain.’ He said. ‘Never far away. What day is it, Tuesday? Must run down and do me Euromillions. Did you hear about the farmer’s wife that found the winning ticket under the seat of the car? Hang on that’s the kettle…one sugar you said…’

He came back with a cup of tea, looked at the telly, said: ‘Black Silver, what did I tell ya?Came in second.’

‘Had you backed him each way?’

‘No. Just for the win. Fuck it. I’m still up. Have a good tip for the next one too.’

Beat.

I asked: ‘Do you hear from the daughter now at all, that’s on the heroin?’

‘Nah…not for weeks. She could be anywhere. England I think. Could be Dublin, who knows. Awful shame. And it’s not like we’re from an addictive family, do you know what I mean? Is your tea alright, do you want more sugar in it?’

‘No thanks, you’re grand. Cheers.’

‘Sure you don’t want a fag or a can?’

*  Buy Mick Donnellan’s Novels here.

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