Side jobs –

 

The writing wasn’t paying the bills. Imagine that?

Had to get some of what the experts called “real work.”

We were there to fix her wall. Her landlord had rang and said there was a big hole in it and could we do something.

 When we got there she couldn’t open the front door. Said the kids had lost the keys. I suggested we climb in the window.

‘No.’ She said. ‘Come around the back and I’ll let ye in.’

We walked round the back. Past an old worn battered couch, and a kid’s rusted bike, and muck, and a rotten old window frame with no pane of glass.

The back door was boarded up with thick slabs of timber. It took her a while to get them all down and let us in.

Inside, the kitchen was dark and there was bare tungsten wires where the lightbulbs used to be.

‘I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘Waiting for the landlord to fix that. Come into the sitting room.’

There was light here. And clothes drying on a clothes horse. And the walls were red and sparsely populated with cheap surrealist art.

‘I’m Sarah.’ She said.

She was young, about 22, and beautiful.

‘Sorry about the state of the place,’ she said. ‘I’m not long moved in. I thought you were here to install the internet.’

‘No, not us. Are you waiting for an engineer?’

‘Yeah – the internet and the channels. Getting myself set up – finally.’

‘Were you gone somewhere?”

‘I’m just out of rehab. I was an addict.’

‘You’re young.’

‘Started at 14. Heroin.’

‘Did you get a good deal on the internet?’

‘€25 a month, but it’ll probably go up then after a while. Do you want tea?’

‘You’re grand thanks. Where’s the hole in the wall?’

‘It’s over here. I’ll show you.’

We walked into the hall. Cold. Stone floor – decadent breeze like a dead man’s wheeze. A howl of dead generations. A smell like old wet wood and damp towels.

On the ground was an unwired socket. Screws and screwdrivers left around it like a half built thing.

Above it was a big hole in the shabby plasterboard wall. It had the gaping, terrified look, of a toothless man about to get hit with something huge.

‘He tried to do it himself.’ Said Sarah.

‘Do what?’ I asked her.

‘Wire the plug. But he got a big shock off it and started shouting. And then he kicked the wall and put a big hole in it and left.’

‘This won’t take us long. But there’ll still be a call out charge.’

‘I don’t mind – he’s paying for it anyway.’

‘We’ll throw a few bulbs in the kitchen too.’

‘Thanks. Sorry you had to come around the back. That’s a new door and the kids lost the keys somewhere. The last one was kicked in.’

‘By who?’

‘Said I owed them money – wanted me to prostitute myself to pay it off.’

‘They know where you live and everything?’

‘They live across the road. I grew up around here. We all did. You’d be walkin down the street and one of the girls would be like – “Hey, Sarah, do you want to go halves on a bag?” and I’m like “No, I’m off it.” And it’s all like how come, and why….and all that. You know?’

 

_____

Buy Mick Donnellan’s novels in PAPERBACK here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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