Stargate Athlone

 He got out on a Friday, mad for drink, craic, mayhem. First place he found was a closed restaurant and decided to rob it. Kicked in the door, American Roadhouse style, got into the kitchen and raided the presses, cabinets, anywhere that looked like it might have money or a key to a safe or even just a box of change to keep him going. He found nothing but half drank bottles of wine and buckets of margarine. He took the wine, and left the buckets. Broke back out through the window and decided he needed a car.  

Our carpark downstairs was his next port of call. Not sure how he found it. Instinct maybe, fluke, or he followed down some innocent tenant that opened the secure gates like an invitation from car robbing karma world. He was well drunk now, not in a fit state to discriminate car models.  Which was good cos there was a few. Fancy new SUV’s, BMW’s, and one or two electric yokes. After that, it was all downhill. 10 years old and better. There was even a Corolla covered in dust and cobwebs that stirred envy and nostalgia in anyone born before 1995. It was the older cars he went after. No alarms, simpler to hotwire, probably easier to drive too as he’d been in jail when the newer ones were invented. He hit a Fiesta first. Got two euro worth of change. Then went for the Peugeot something. 203, 303, who knows. There wasn’t much in that, maybe a jacket and a pair of shoes and an old bottle of water. He broke the window in disgust and kept going. Eventually he found a Polo and somehow got it started. I suppose it was time to go at that stage. Cameras, nosie, broken glass, curious passers-by. The Polo was small with great power, which was good because he didn’t know how the gates worked. If he chose the exit gate it would open automatically but, if chose the entry gate, he’d have to drive right through it. He chose the latter and smashed into it with a loud clang and clatter that oddly woke nobody. The gate itself looked wounded, knocked, twisted like it was trying to do yoga and got stuck half way into the waiting street. He went again, and again, and again until it gave and landed on the road and he was able to speed off in the front wrecked Polo into the wine drunk night. Guards by now had been notified, made alert, told what was happening. The people at the restaurant had called first, and now this Fast and the Furious effort going on in the nearby carpark. They had an idea of who it was. Had been known for this kinda thing. They knew it would be an eventful weekend. Just didn’t expect it a few hours after he was released. It wasn’t that hard to find him either. Once someone put in the report of the car on fire about five miles up the road it all came together like a Sherlock jigsaw. They arrested him close by. Still with the wine, burnt clothes, and the few euro he stole from the Fiesta.  He woke up the next morning again, back in jail, charged with more of the same as before and sure twas all the one. Great night out altogether. 



The Pole.

There was big talk about this pole. Everyone kept on about the pole. The pole. The pole. I was driving down the road and the phone rang and this foreign lad said: ‘We need to talk about the pole?’

‘The pole?’

‘The pole.’

‘What pole?’

‘You hit the pole.’

‘What pole are you talking about?’

‘Today, when you were leaving in your car, you reversed back and into the pole.’


‘In the estate. I was talking to you – and I said there was a man in a white van trying to leave and you were in his way and I asked you to reverse and then you reversed over the pole and the pole is in very bad shape now.’

‘How bad?’

‘We think this pole is destroyed. It will not work as a pole anymore.’

‘Still, I don’t know what you’re on about.’

‘It’s ok.’

‘It’s ok?’

‘Yes it’s ok. We have you on CCTV.’


‘CCTV. It’s a recording device. And we have you. And your car. And your registration and we can see you reversing and then driving over the pole. You did it twice.’

‘Did what twice?’

‘Drove over the pole. First time your car had some resistance so you went forward, then went back into reverse with more power, and made a mess of concrete and debris and the pole now won’t work.’

‘So what’s the plan, like, I don’t know how to fix poles.’

‘You must come down here.’

‘And what?’

‘Pay me €100.’

I got a flashback then. Dodgy types smoking rollies and cossacks with no teeth and kind Romanians. It was in beside a laundry with the smell of cheap detergent and broken washing machines strewn around the courtyard. I remembered the pole too. It was like backing over a big cardboard box – gave no resistance. Figured it was already broke and just needed a tip from me. But now here’s Paddy cement bags looking for €100.

I said: ‘I’ll be back again one of the days and give you a shout.’

‘Ok, he said. I’ll be waiting.’

So I hung up and blocked his number and forgot about it. Everything was going well. Then I got a voicemail: ‘Hello, Mick, this is the guards here, could you give us a shout when you get a chance?’

What’s this now, hardly the pole? I rang it back and they said: ‘Mick, there was a fella in here talking about a pole….can you explain what happened?’

It went on like that. There was talk of damages. Insurances. Statements. Court. They weren’t letting it go. They took their poles very seriously and they wanted compensation.

I went back down. Met some of the locals and asked them about the pole. They said it was a regular thing. The pole was hardly standing at all. Fellas do it the whole time and the same lad rings them up and asks for money. No badness in him, he’s just weird like that. They brought me over and showed it to me. How it does be left standing up and fellas do come and knock it over.  Like this:


But sure now the guards were involved and what can you do?

So I rang him back asked how much.

‘€100.’ He said.

‘I’ll be there again Friday.’

Rang the guards back. Told them it was sorted. They said thanks. And they never heard so much about a pole.


El Nino Cover-1

El Niño by Mick Donnellan