The White House –

Wind blew sharp, like razor blades you couldn’t see. The Polish mechanic had blue overalls and a worried look. It was just me and him but no one was saying anything.

The bonnet of the car was up and open, like a gaping mouth with an engine inside.

In fear of eternal silence, I said: ”Think it’s the airbag.’

He put his hand on the radiator, thought for a second, and said:  ‘Hmm….I think this engine is about to die.’

‘I wouldn’t go that far now.’

‘Your car is old.’

‘But well kept.’

‘It might be a faulty switch.’ He said.

‘That sounds more promising.’

‘Then again, could be oil pump.’

‘Still better than a dead engine.’

‘Big job all the same.’

‘How big?

‘We’ll have to take down the sump.’

I nodded, like I knew wtf that meant, then said: ‘Can you do it today?’

‘Very busy. Everybody want. Tomorrow.’

‘Bring it in tomorrow?’

‘Yes. Tomorrow. Day after today.’

‘Will it break down before then or can I keep driving it?’

‘Keep driving. No problem. No breakdown.’

‘Will it be expensive?’

‘Probably very.’


Great. Some days you think you’re getting ahead.

Selling a few books.

Teaching a few courses. But God has other plans.

Later, when the car broke down,  I pulled into an estate to see what could be done.

I got out and opened the bonnet and looked inside. It seemed like the right thing to do. Maybe there’d be an obvious pipe unhooked, or a lead disconnected. It might just need water.

After a few seconds, I stood back and looked around. Spring vauguely threatened, birds sang uncertain, daylight lingered.

There was a white house behind me and you could see a big family through the front window, all huddled around an open fire.

Then the front door opened and a girl came out and asked: ‘Are you ok?’

‘Car broke down.’

‘Is it bad?’

‘Not great I think. It might just need water.’

‘I’ll get you some. Come in.’

I went in. Followed her to the kitchen.

Kids books and half eaten dinners left around. A full ashtray and a tremendous smell of weed.

Suddenly there was a shout from the sitting room. Man’s voice. ‘Sheila! What the fuck’re you at?’

‘Helpin this fella?’

‘With wha?’

‘Givin him water for his car.’

‘Fuck him! Tell him to get his own fuckin water!’

‘Shut up you.’ Then to me. ‘That’s Paddy. Never mind him.’

‘You’re grand, I’ll go again. Water probably won’t make any difference.’

She handed me a jug, said: ‘Here. Take this. It’s awful cold out, isn’t it?’


‘I hope you get sorted.’

‘I’ll drop back your jug when I’m finished.’

She went back into the sitting room saying at the same time: ‘Paddy, will you ever shut up when there’s people here.’

‘Who’s people?’ Said Paddy. ‘What are you letting strangers in for…?’

‘He wanted water for his car.’

‘You’re an awful stupid bitch….’

‘Don’t you be calling me a….’

‘And what if he’s from the drug squad?’

‘With a broke down car?’

‘That’s the way they work you clown….’

‘The only clown here is you…..’

‘I’ll fuckin burst his head if he comes back here again.’

‘You wouldn’t burst eggs you lazy lump of shite….’

‘I’ll kill the him stone dead.’

‘Stop fighting!’ Screamed a young girl.

Back at the car, there was a smell of burnt oil and liquorice. The water was already full so it didn’t need any.

I brought back the jug to Sheila and she asked: ‘Would you like a cup of tea or anythin?’




Buy Mick Donnellan’s novels in PAPERBACK here.


Click here for Details on Mick Donnellan’s New Writing Course on January 31st in Athlone Institute of Technology. 





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