The Drunkard Versus Behan

Conor O Grady


A Turner replicated on a Mayo sky line; the evening sun merging into a calming orange. It happens where violence meets violet, where the dying sun meets roof tops. A cotton mouth chews on a sticky spearmint gum an attempt to hide the comfort in the taste of repentance; salt water soothing cold sores. An old man now walking alongside a little dog, I cough out a chest full of regrets and unrequited lovers. That little dog had such a catholic taste in everything, come to think of it now, I must admit I do too. A thousand broken hearts mark a trail that lingers far behind me, beating, all at different stages of decay. One thousand broken hearted people wince at the mere mention of my name, it is spoken quietly in hushed and lusty whispers; orgasmic little murmurs.

Crows loom over head Kaw-Kawing in time to church bells. A murder drawn up from a thousand single units, or is it a parliament made up of tiny coalitions? No direction or particular formation. A purple sky now, busy with a host of aging priests. While bristling cats wait like impatient children underneath. Mayo in the morning, sunrise and rheum eyes in the back of my mind. Day time and night fall fight for their place in a Constable sky. The nocturnal emissions of a mid- summers night dream, my pupils dilate in time to my blinking. Isn’t sleep just another way to die...

And then I grew older and grey, bad Guinness had pickled my penis and produced sweet quivers from the bottom of my liver, the little dog long since passed away. In the mornings if my head allowed, I would make my way to Glasnevin to kneel at the foot of Mr. Behan’s grave, talking to it as though the man himself was standing there. An uneasy pace betrayed my age and my fondness for hard living, yet I carry the height and bulk I had worn in younger days, like a child not yet used to my own gait. Elongated arms swing by my sides with every step, like lifeless pendulum swaying alongside a mountain. Pregnant with poteen and stout I was impregnable by the harsh wind, save for my chubby fingers; like sausage meat wrapped in human skin. I rub them in vain together, passing each finger under broken lip, the warmth of drink stained breath is soothing, and for a moment I’m allowed to forget.

The tattered breast pocket of my suit jacket, bulged with the weight of a smooth glass bottle, hidden beside my heart’ beat; a perfectly formed bottle of the clear stuff. It hissed and spat as I opened it, with an ease peculiar only to the drunkard. ‘Well Behan?’ I slithered through my teeth, eyeing the oval headstone as though half expecting the thing to answer.

And yet when I think of him a dormant feeling rises, a niggling sort of ache right here in the pit of my stomach; a flutter of blood just under the skin like giddy black butterflies eager to escape their fleshy ribbed-cage. I lie in bed watching, the streaming lights of the cars that pass by the window, dancing like strobe lights on my bedroom roof.

Before long I knew each car engine by name, every hum or purr or squeak of tyre was the voice of an old friend. They were calling me now as they passed on the road. He never did speak that much. But when he did, he would look nervously out of the window thumbs spinning around in orbit to one another. My wildest dreams could not transcribe such cast of speech, my eyes defocus as his lips begin to speak. His tired eyes no distraction or deterrent, I focus in to listen. Maybe my dreams were paraphrasing, perhaps some kind of transference on my part. I stumbled to speak, his tired eyes watching over me and waiting in a nervous, patient way, for some indentation of an answer.