I was there to meet Anne.
Anne wasn’t there.
The place was awful cold, like it had no windows.
There was a smell like turf and burnt cardboard and two scrawny puppies were trying to dislodge some left over pizza from a Dominos box in the fireplace.
Debbie had a cigarette in one hand. Phone in the other. Hadn’t had time to get dressed yet today. Still in her pyjamas, mining the social cryptocurrency of Facebook. .
Meanwhile one of the dogs pissed on the floor.
Debbie asked distractedly: ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’
She seemed relieved, asked: ‘Is this your full time job?’
‘No. I’m also a writer.’
She smiled at something on the phone, said: ‘Sorry, just doing something here.’
‘Mammy will be here in a minute.’
‘Is she gone far?’
‘I don’t know. She left to go to the shop.’
‘Was that long ago?’
‘About an hour.’
‘Where’s the shop?’
‘You can see out the window there – look.’
I looked. It was there alright. Then Debbie asked: ‘Do you like dogs?’
‘I’m doing a parachute jump next week.’
‘Really? For what?’
‘Dogs. Like dogs that are abandoned.’
I looked over and the puppies had taken the pizza from the fireplace but it had fallen into the pool of piss.
Debbie continued: ‘Will you sponsor me?’
The door burst open. Anne fell in. Eyes standing on her head. Debbie looked up concerned. ‘Mammy! What took you so long?’
‘How do you mean?’
‘You’re gone ages!’
‘I just went to the shop. Who’s this?’
‘That’s Michael. Remember you rang him and asked him to come.’
‘Are you drunk?’
‘I had one whisky.’
‘One bucket was it?”
‘Don’t be annoying me. Did you offer him tea?’
‘I did. He said he’s grand.’
Anne looked at me, said: ‘You look like a telly licence man.’
‘Do you want a drop of Poteen?’
‘I won’t, thanks. I don’t drink.’
‘You’re coddin me?’
‘I’m not, but thanks.’
‘You drank wan time, though. I’d know it to look at you.’
Debbie cut in with: ‘He’s going to sponsor me, Mammy.’
‘The parachute jump.’
‘Sure you were supposed to do that last week.’
‘Shut up, will ya. Just find the forms.’
Anne left. Came back with the bottle of Poteen. Clear glass bottle. No label. She filled a dollop, said: ‘I need this.’
‘Did you find the forms?’ Asked Debbie.
‘No. They’re there somewhere.’
Debbie sighed and got up herself. Went to the kitchen. Anne asked: ‘Are you busy?’
‘Busy enough now. ‘
‘Do you like our Christmas tree?’
I hand’t taken any notice until now. It was a fairly big effort. Lots of lights, and decorations. Few presents underneath it.
Debbie came back with a sponsor sheet and a biro. ‘Most people give a fiver.’ She said. ‘But you can give more if you want.’
I rooted for change. Hoping not to pull out too much. One of the dogs was trying to eat my shoelaces.
‘Have you seen the bag of money, mammy?’ Asked Debbie. ‘I couldn’t see out there when I went to get the forms? You know the money that people already gave me…..’
‘I borrowed it.’ Said Anne. ‘I’ll put it back tomorrow.’
‘Fuck ya.’ She said. ‘I needed that to buy fags. Sure we’ve nothin now!’
And they both looked at me.