#8 The Conundrum

There was a decent drop of rain falling. Hailstones making up their mind. The day was going, clouds passing, mothers and pram wheels, barking dogs. A smell like smoke from open fires, and grass, and wet cement.

         She said: ‘It makes freezing.’

         ‘It does. I better go back to the car and do a bit of paperwork.’

         Later, there was no sign of her. I had all the paperwork done on Facebook and administrative shite talk on What’s App. Great job entirely. She was a good hour gone. Maybe she had a haype of sales got. Might hit target for the first time in history.

         Then she came back and said she was sorry, she was in the house over there.

         Where, says I, wondering was it ten sales or twenty.

         She pointed. ‘There. We were readin the tarot.’

         ‘Tarot?’

         ‘Yes.’

         ‘What?’

         ‘Tarot.’

         ‘Tarot cards like?’

         ‘Yes, she read my future, and I read hers.’

         ‘How’d ye get on?’

         ‘Mine is lucky. Hers, I didn’t say anything.’

         ‘Why not?’

         ‘Hmm…I saw…darkness in the future.’

‘I know the feelin. Where to now, so?’

          ‘I need to go to 34.’

We drove over to 34. There was a woman there with thick glasses and a fag in her mouth and oxygen tubes up her nose. Lino on the floor, picture of the Sacred Heart on the wall, carpet stairs, smell like a stale chemist shop. She was smoking 60 a day since she was 14 years old. Isn’t goin to stop now, and where were we from, and c’mere and I tell ya, will you read this bill and tell me what’s wrong. It seems awful high. But it turned out she was in €600 credit cos she used so little, except for the oxygen tank and the radio. And she was getting the free allowance and it was all adding up and sure she was delighted and offered us tea and cigarettes but we said no and left.

          And later, Martin was out of work because he was sick.

         I asked him what was wrong and he said he had a conundrum.

         I said: ‘They don’t know what’s wrong?’

         ‘No. They do.’

         ‘And what is it?’

         ‘It’s a conundrum.’

         ‘So they haven’t figured it out?’

         ‘They have. I told ya, it’s a conundrum. They said they never seen the likes of it before.’

         ‘No?’

         ‘No. I even looked it up on that fuckin internet and they had never heard of it either.’

         ‘You googled it?’

         ‘Herself did. Said it was hard to explain but that’s what I had. A conundrum disease.’

         ‘Is there any treatment for that then, or…?’

         ‘No, just have to live with it. They have no conundrum tablets yet but they’ll let me know when they come….’

         Sound, Martin, good luck with that. Back at the car, the hailstone party had started on the windscreen, like Gulliverian gunfire off the glass. We let that settle then decided to drive back to Athlone and call it off for the day in case a right storm started. You wouldn’t know, could be a hurricane, or a cyclone, Code Red could be coming. Anything is possible when it’s getting dark and you’re on zero. The phone lit up around Kilbeggan. They were ringing from Dublin, looking for updates on sales. I wasn’t sure where to start between the tarot cards and the oxygen tanks and the conundrum so I let it ring out and put the car in fifth and drove on.

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