Magazine road

After a while, the company left the country. Pulled out, reversed its financial boat and went full throttle over the waves of escape from the doomed Irish market. This is how I see them, on a yacht, or a ship, or some kind of super commercial freighter with a scrawny European name and a bright flag and lads in orange jumpsuits shaking their head at the coast of dreams that became their broke nightmare. They must have been thinking about all that promise and hope they had. Like them two lads that started one day and were going to change everything. Take over the Midlands Campaign, promote the region, grow the book, enlarge the territory, expand the reach. This was big, these guys had serious experience and credentials. This was what we’ve been waiting for. Except one lad couldn’t drive and the other had a fucked up Insignia that he couldn’t afford to fix. But this was ok. Let’s work towards solution based goals. Ideas like: Ask Micky to drive them around, sure isn’t that why we gave him the car, and he’s doing shag all anyway.

            I met them outside the designated hotel in Athlone. Expecting suits, sophisticated tablets, expensive ties and serious aftershave. Clean cut lads with a killer instinct and a desire to win. They struggled around the corner and the first fella had a three day stubble and thick glasses and a bag full of cigarette papers and tobacco and bottled tap water. He had habit of looking at the ground when he talked and explaining everything in rapid detail. The market was quiet. The customers were awkward. The product was poor. The company had such an awful wank of a name that half the public couldn’t even pronounce it. And the management were awful. The weather was dodgy. The walking was killing him. And they wouldn’t pay for buses and trains. And he needed a toilet. And herself at home had his head bushted about the price of schoolbooks and fuck this. The other lad was tall, quiet, black jeans, torn shoes, four kids, and no interest in the job. You could tell by the way he sat on the wall and worked hard scrolling through the phone. Half his day’s wages was already gone between the train down and lunch and it was nearly time to go home and there was no hope of commission, and did I know anyone looking to buy a broke down Insignia?

            This was great, the promised team, the life changing salary, the head hunted prize. The sun was laughing as we went over the speed bumps on Magazine road. Went around by Connaught Street and down O’Connell. Waved at the Romanian lad playing accordion at the roundabout. He was probably making more money than me today. The bridge felt uncertain, like it might break half way across and we’d fall in bonnet first and that’d be the end of the great campaign and sure who’d take over then? No Micky to drive anyone around, and the car in the river, and the two lads drenched wet on the way home on the train and still no sales. Ring ring, went the phone, looking for updates, numbers, progress. How’d you get on with the guys, Mick, exciting times ahead….

Halifax or somewhere.

Had this dream that we were on a plane somewhere, Sudan, Yemen, Sahara vibe. Brown boxes across the floor like we were doing some kind of food airdrop. Engines going, a good height up, scorching blue sky. Pilots in army gear, all that craic. The door opens and a fella walks in. Mid-air like, rocks up, opens the door, no wind, this how we were rolling. He had a leather jacket, brown flairs, fuzzy hair. He said how’s things and I said not too bad. He had a voice like caramel over gravel. It went on like that for a while. Nothing explained, everything surreal and yet normal. A smell like seaweed and clay, the engines humming their aeronautic tune. Then he got conspiratorial and said he was after getting a loan from the Credit Union. I asked him how much and he said 300 thousand. We let that settle, then he took a big thick envelope out of his pocket. It was like a sod of turf wrapped in brown paper, and he said: This is it, here.  

            I said: ‘What are you goin to do with that?’ 

            And he shrugged, looked around. He was wearing sunglasses now. Where’d they come from?  Next thing there was turbulence, and the door flew open and there was a big gust of wind, and screaming jet propellers, like on the films,  and he was hanging off the frame, screaming for help.  

            I ran over and he caught my hand, soapy and warm, and screamed at me to pull him in, but the force was too strong and he was gone. Good luck. No parachute, getting airdropped. I turned back to the pilots, but they didn’t seem to notice and after a while we were in a town like Nova Scotia, standing in some road with wooden houses either side, and your man was in bits all over the ground. Looked a bit like a sheep dog I hit with an Avensis one time around the back roads of Claregalway. Made an awful job of my front caliper.

            Here now.  People gathered in stupefied awe, looked, gasped, talked and gawked. They all had that odd numb gum accent of the East coast Canadian Irish. A priest landed, pompous authority, fat as a fool, reckoned we ought to have some kind of service so he organized a big band with lads in kilts playing bagpipes and we all stood around, surrounded by trees and grass and the out of tune noise. Then. There was a fella standing beside me with glasses and a long trench coat and he said how sad it all was and did I know him well? I said no, I only met on the plane before he got fucked out the door, and did you know him well yourself? He raised his eyebrows, yellow gapped teeth, bloodshot eyes, hairy ears, and said he works for the Credit Union and was only after giving him a loan for 300 thousand the day before and how about that for irony?

And what happens with it now, I asked him. Doesn’t matter, he said. Life insurance will cover it. He blew his nose, black fingernails, tobacco stained fingers, blotched red nose, a distang dog whistle wheeze from his tar tuned lungs. Now the service was over and we all walked into town. Fairly sure we were in St. John’s at this stage, or Halifax or somewhere. Definitely not Montreal, or Quebec or even Toronto. It was the place where the rescue boats went out to try and save the Titanic that time. Big shtuff.

Vandalism

She was taking the company van. I was going working somewhere else. Ireland’s best sales team was getting disbanded after a record breaking spell of hitting no targets whatsoever.

She hadn’t much experience driving. As far as I could tell she didn’t even have a right license. There was some version of a government issued Romanian document from back long ago but it was hard to know if it was something to do with being on the road or a gammy dole card from Eastern Europe. Didn’t matter a fuck to the crowd in Dublin. They were too tight to pay for the petrol to have it drove back and they wanted her out selling so it made perfect sense that way. The other minor stuff like insurance, experience, ability or general safety never came into the equation. I gave her the keys and she said: ‘Where is spare tyre?’ 

‘Wha…’ 

‘Tyre. For Spare. Where does this be?’ 

‘I dunno. Why?’ 

‘In case. Flat. Whoosh. Puncture. It’s ok for boy. What about me? Woman. Alone. Dark and no tyre…’ 

‘I had a transit one time and the spare was under the floor at the back. Probably the same with that…’ 

‘Under the floor? Oh my God. How will I take out?’ 

‘You can ring the breakdown….’ 

She laughed, said: ‘These fuckers don’t pay for breakdown. They don’t even pay wages….’ 

She had a point, but I was already gone and finding it hard to get excited. Then she said: ‘I can’t drive manual. I need automatic.’ 

‘You’ll figure it out.’ 

‘And I never drive left side of road. Right only. Romania is right.’ 

‘Oh right.’ 

‘Yes. I will call Tom.’ 

‘Who’s Tom?’ 

‘He is my friend. He will help me with everything.’ 

‘Sound, I’ll go.’ 

I called back a week later. Tom was there. A saintly type with a van full of tools and a desire to help at all costs. They’d had a few driving lessons during the week that didn’t go well. There was talk of a gate getting a smack in Ballymahon and a pillar getting knocked in Moate. There’d been plenty of road range and a few parking confrontations around estates in Tullamore. And still no sign of the spare tyre. But Tom had a plan. The back doors of the van were open like a horrified mouth and Tom was climbing inside with a black and decker drill and tufts of grey hair under his cap and over his ears. ‘Tis down under here, I’d say….’ 

And he started on the screws around the base. Pulling up the timber, tearing it where necessary, announcing progress as he went along. ‘No sign of it yet, anyway…we’ll try another one…’ 

Soon there was hammers, drills, screws and broken bits of timber and stuff like sawdust strewn around everywhere inside and outside. Meanwhile she was up in the cab, tearing up the front seat in case it was under there and she might save Tom the trouble of destroying the van entirely. The screws had an angry growl as the drill caught grip, bit like a big dog when you try to pull a bone from its clenched teeth.  

‘You find?!’ She shouted from the front. 

No… said Tom, but sounding determined. ‘Not yet….’ 

I had a feeling this wouldn’t go down well in Dublin. Maintenance, repairs, destruction, generally having to pay for anything always caused a wide eyed look of wonder and mystery at the audacity of being required to spend money. They might even blame me if they heard I was there looking at them. Shtop.

I’ll keep going, I said. I’ll leave ye at it.