In my childhood bedroom, the detritus of my youth lies all around: Tintin books. Football medals. Handwritten cassette tapes of The Smiths. But I’m not here to reminisce. My mother is hovering at my shoulder. She has an agenda. She always has an agenda.
Last time I was here, there was a skip waiting outside the front door when I arrived. When I asked about it, she just shrugged. “Come in”, she said. “The dinner is on. The tea is wet. We can talk about it later.” This time, I’ve gotten off a little easier. First things first though. All the clothes I’ve brought home with have to go in the washing basket. Even the stuff I collected from the laundrette this morning.
There´s not point arguing. This is just a ritual we go through. It’s about breaking my spirit as much as anything else.
Next she tells me to clear those bloody coins out of that bloody drawer. A mass of copper coins have been gathering dust in my room since about the last time anyone fantasised about sex with one of the Spice Girls.
They’ve been gathering dust. Harbouring germs. Releasing toxic vapours into the atmosphere. (The coins, the coins…) As luck would have it, there’s a brand new machine in SuperValu will rid me of it.
It isn’t a suggestion. Chop-chop! Off I go.
The machine is called the CoinMaster 8000. I’m still struggling with the instructions when an old school friend taps me on the shoulder. Odd to recall now, but I was secretly in love with this girl for pretty much the duration of secondary school. She’s married now. But I like to think she still ponders what might have been.
“Howya Butler”, she says, punching me on the arm.
Yeah, I like to think she still ponders what might have been. There’s no evidence whatsoever to suggest she does.
I’m doing fine, I tell her, flashing her my patented “handsome” face. (A lot of people have respectfully disagreed.)
I inquire after her family. She just laughs. Same old, same old. “How’s the writing going?” Tipping away, I tell her, as a river of 5c coins gushes from the jam jar into the bowels of the CoinMaster 8000. Tipping away.
“I still haven’t seen your byline anywhere,” she says. “Who do you write for again?” The Irish Times. The Dubliner. A blog. Some magazines. She shakes her head. “We only get the Western,” she says.
Her eye linger on my paint-splattered trousers. I try to change the subject, but she’s not quite finished yet. She’s got a cousin an agricultural correspondent in Dublin, she says. She tells me his name. “Do you know him at all?” she asks. I can’t say that I do.
She’s not entirely surprised.
A miraculous medal has become lodged in the inner workings of the CoinMaster 8000. The machine coughs. It splutters. Finally, it spits the thing out into the reject drawer.
She looks at me. Looks at the miraculous medal. Looks at the paint-splattered tracksuit trousers again.
“You know,” she says in a strange tone of voice. “Tommy would probably have a few days for you in the warehouse if you were interested.” I grit my teeth and smile. “Only if you’re interested,” she adds.
After she makes her excuses, I hit the print button. I’ve made €26.53 from this humiliation.
The next morning is the annual U-10 football blitz. There are eight teams. Over a hundred kids. And a tremendous amount of yelling. For years my father was one of the main organisers of this event. When he died, they named it after him.
He wasn’t an ostentatious man, my father. So I usually keep the presentation short and sweet. This year I confine myself to some remarks about NAMA, social partnership and the prospects for peace in the Middle East. I emphasise the importance of education and warn against the temptations of drink, drugs and pre-marital sex.
Then I dole out a few medals and it’s back to the clubhouse for tea and ham sandwiches.
My time is almost up now. A long drive back to Dublin beckons, about which I have mixed feelings. A man in a raincoat collars me in the car park. They need another photo of me and the winning captain. I grumble something about being in a hurry, but he insists. “It’s for the Western People,” he says, and I shut the fuck up.
Someone finds the kid and we reenact the presentation of the trophy for the camera. This is it: the money shot. Chest out. Stomach in. Check this out, you bastards. This is my goddamn handsome face. Cheese!