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Old 29-09-2009, 08:15 PM
doppellanger doppellanger is offline
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Default Wasters (half-finished novel)

Wasters - by doppellanger

“Maybe we shouldn’t hurry into this,” Maria said, her voice sounding a note of caution.
“Do you want me to rub you there some more before taking off your knickers?” Kyle asked, faking innocence.
“No. I mean, no, that’s not what I mean. I…”. Maria’s explanations were suddenly smothered by Kyle’s slippery lips covering hers.
She placed her fingers on his chest and pushed Kyle back on the sofa.
Kyle’s full name was Joseph Kiely.
“I’m sorry, babe,. It’s just … I can feel your pussy pressing against my tool through my boxers and it makes me so horny.” I can’t help it.”
“Well, you’re goin’ to have to help it.”
“Ooh Maria, it’s so hard to help it.”
“Ssh, you don’t want my father walking in, do you?”
Maria’s father taught P.E at Kyle’s school. He was known as ‘Sockie’, short for Socrates, so called for his beard. He was built like the side of a house, was about six foot tall and used to throw shot put in college.
Kyle was just about to say that he definitely didn’t want Maria’s father walking in on them.
Then Maria’s father walked in.

******************** ******************** **********

“This is the life, eh Branch lad?”
Kyle and Branch were lying on their backs in the grass behind the goalposts at Glanhooly GAA grounds. There was an open flagon of Bulmer’s on the ground between them. Kyle was tall slim with a neat tight haircut. Branch was shorter, stocky with long hair that flowed over the collar of his denim jacket like industrial grease..
Branch took a drag of his cigarette and watched the red tip glow in the evening light.
“Aye, that it is.”
He exhaled and watched the smoke dissipate against the purple and orange of the sky.
“Should be a fine day tomorrow,” ventured Branch.
“Yep,” said Kyle, taking a swig from the flagon. “A flagon of Bulmer’s and twenty Major, who could ask for anything more?”
“That’s it,” said Branch. “A flagon of Bulmer’s, twenty Major and a grand fine evening.” He watched the tip of his fag glow red again as he took another pull. He looked quickly at Kyle.
“Pass the Bulmer’s over here, will ya?”
Kyle passed him the cider. A pigeon cooed somewhere in the distance and another one answered.
Branch took a swig from the bottle and put it back on the ground between them. He glanced across at Kyle again. It was darker now and the tip of Kyle’s burning cigarette gave Kyle’s face a reddish glow as he dragged on it.
“Do you ever think about the future?”
“How do you mean?” Kyle asked. “After the Leaving, like?”
“No, I mean - yeah, after the Leaving, do you think about it?” Branch took a last pull on his cigarette and flicked it, spinning, at the night sky.
“Yeah. I mean, I sometimes think of the car I’ll buy when I’ve the money.” It was Kyle’s turn to send his cigarette butt skyward, like the smallest firework.
“Yeah,” said Branch. He could hear the fizz of cider as Kyle took a swig. But do you think of Cork or Dublin or do you want to stay here?”
Kyle sat up and put his head between his knees, all in a sudden single motion as though he was hinged at the waist. He made a face and looked at Branch.
“In this shithole?” he asked.
Branch couldn’t tell if Kyle was choking or laughing.
“Give me the cider if you’re just going to splutter it out on the ground.”

Branch sat up and Kyle passed him the flagon, saying “You bollocks, now I got cider bubbles up my nose.” He reached for the box of Major and lit one up. “What about you, Branch, do you think of the future?”
“Sometimes.” Branch’s voice was suddenly quiet. He was looking away from Kyle, towards the woods past which they had watched the sun go down. “Sometimes I think ……… oh, never mind.” He raised the flagon bottle to his lips, then wiped the top of the bottle with his sleeve and passed it to Kyle.
“Go on, what?” said Kyle.
“Where’s the fags? Cheers.” He sparked up a cigarette. “Alright. It’s like sometimes I think I’d like to leave this craphole of Glanhooly … but then I try to think of where I’d like to go and I think … no matter where … it’s not far enough.” He glanced at Kyle but it was dark. “Do you know what I mean?”
Kyle was beginning to feel light-headed from the cider. “Not really,” he said.
“It’s different for you, you’re smart at school and tall and attractive…”
“Steady on…”
“…you are though, and you’ll have your pick of jobs after the Leaving…” all this Branch said without bitterness, “but it’s not so easy for me. I don’t want to be stuck here forever either but … ah, fuck it, I don’t know what I’m tryin’ to say.”
They reflected for a moment as they dragged on their cigarettes.
“Fuck it, though, it’d be nice to be somewhere there were a few feckin’ babes, if nothin’ else.”

“Too fuckin’ right, instead of just Breda O’Keeffe and that young one of the Daly’s,” Branch said and swigged the last drop out of the Bulmers flagon. He tossed the bottle over his shoulder onto the nettles near the ditch.
“D’you know,” he said, “they won’t be making those anymore.”
“Making what?” asked Kyle. “Young ones of the Daly’s?”
Branch started to laugh and Kyle joined in. They laughed and laughed until they were nearly sick. They rolled on the ground and laughed at the stars. Branch tried to explain but could only keep laughing.. When they stopped they heard their laughter echo back off the clubhouse.
“Bulmers flagons, I meant.” Branch said, getting up to go. Bulmers won’t be making flagons of cider anymore.”
“That’s shockin’,” said Kyle, bushing the grass off the arse of his jeans. “Why would they do a thing like that?”
“I don’t know,” said Branch. “About the one pleasure we have in life and they take it away.”
There was an easy silence between them as they walked out of the GAA grounds. Their feet crunched on the gravel at the side of the road. A flock of midges hung as if suspended beneath one of the street lights.
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Last edited by doppellanger; 29-09-2009 at 08:27 PM..
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Old 29-09-2009, 08:17 PM
doppellanger doppellanger is offline
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“Well, are you going to the disco on Friday?”
“I don’t know,” said Emer. “I don’t know if I’d be let. The Leaving is just four months away.”
Emer’s father’s voice boomed out from the sitting room: “Emer, I’ll need that phone in five minutes.”
Emer rolled her eyes. If Maria had her way she’d be at Rowing Club discos seven nights a week. If her father had his way she’d be allowed two phonecalls a week. And if her mother had her way she’d study harder than any of her sisters, get 7 A’s in the Leaving and then probably become a nun. In a silent order. Well, fuck ‘em.

“Alright, I’ll go to the stupid disco.”
“Aw Emer, it’ll be deadly. What are you going to wear?”
“Dunno, I’ll probably wear a black low cut strapless backless mini.”
“Cool, where did you get that?”
“I’m just kidding, Maria, I’ll probably just wear jeans.”
“You bitch! You had me going for a second there.”
“Emer giggled down the phone line.
“I need that phone in five minutes,” Emer’s father boomed from the sitting room. She cupped her hand over the receiver.
“You said that five minutes ago.”
“Well, I’ll need it in a minute.”
“Can’t you use your mobile, it’s on the arm of your chair.”
Her father made a noncommital sort of sound.
“Hello? Are you still there?”

“Sorry Maria. So who else is going on Friday? Emer had a sneaking suspicion it was just herself and Maria.
“Well the twins said they’d think about it and Emer Murray said she might go.”
“Yep, just herself and Maria then, unless Emer could persuade Emer Murray to make her mind up to go. Damn it, the Leaving was getting close, she had better things to be doing than watching a bunch of red- necked farmer boys slobbering drool at Maria’s latest miniskirt.
“Ok.” Emer breathed in.
“Oh yeah, wait till I tell you about the skirt I bought in Hickey’s today.”
Knew it.
“EMER!” Her father’s voice came as a welcome interruption. Listening to Maria’s description of a flimsy skirt was exactly what she didn’t need right now.

“Maria, I have to go.”
“Aw, don’t you want to hear about my skirt?”
“Of course … but my father wants to use the phone now. I have to go. See you at school tomorrow.”
Emer hung up, leaving Maria sounding bewildered at the other end of the line. “Phone’s free!” she shouted at the sitting room door, louder than was strictly necessary.
“Ok, thanks Emer,” her father said, sounding suddenly reasonable.
She went to her room and closed the door.
Emer noticed a spider crawling across Brad Pitt’s face on one of the posters on her wall.

******************** ******************** *********

Maria reacted with lightning speed. She jumped from Kyle’s lap onto the cushion beside him. Kyle pulled his t-shirt down to cover his open fly. Maria straightened her skirt noiselessly just before her father switched on the light.
“What do ye think ye’re doing sitting here in the dark?”
“We were watching tv, Dad,” said Maria with a paper thin attempt at indignation.

Her father looked at the tv. The screen was grey static. Kyle hit a button on the channel changer and Beck appeared, in concert.
Maria’s father turned and opened the living room door.
“Keep the noise down now, you hear.”
“Ok,” said Maria.
“And Kyle, don’t you have a home to go to?”
Kyle looked at Maria’s father. His face and beard looked a very bright shade of red in the light. Beck was singing about Sexx Laws.

“Yes, Mr. O’Sullivan. Kyle knew he couldn’t stand up as his belt and flies were undone. “I’ll just say goodbye to Maria.”
“Very well,” Maria’s father said curtly, leaving the room. He didn’t close the door behind him.
Kyle zipped up his fly and buttoned his jeans rapidly. His horniness was definitely gone. He buckled up his belt, being careful not to let it jingle.

“Well,” he said, “I’d better get going.”
“I’ll see you to the door,” said Maria. Kyle couldn’t have been more eager to leave had there been a fire lit under him.
“I’m grand, sure,” he said, then kissed her briefly. His tongue filled her mouth, then as sudden, it was gone. Then he was standing and out the door.
“See you.”
“See ya. Goodnight Mr. O’Sullivan.”

“Goodnight Joseph,” said Maria’s father. Maria rolled her eyes. Kyle never liked being called Joseph. She heard him close the back door and the sound of this car as he revved it up and took it out on the road back to Cariganass.
God, but she loved him.
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Old 29-09-2009, 08:18 PM
doppellanger doppellanger is offline
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Wasters - (c) 2009 doppellanger

Branch chewed the tip of his pencil. Feckin’ Leaving. Feckin’ Chemistry. Poxy feckin’ carbon derivatives. Poxy fecking hydrogen and fecking carbon poxy all-fecking-singing-all-fecking-dancing elements. The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of the poxy feckin’ periodic table.

Two days before the Leaving was hardly the time to be starting in on chemistry. If Branch had known there were so many ways of sticking hydrogen together with carbon and if he knew half of them were going to be on the course he’s have done geography instead. At least you know where you are with geography. But this stuff? Like methane, what the feck do I need to know what methane looks like on the molecular feckin’ level for? Branch thought. The nearest I’ll probably ever get to methane is to a cow’s fart.

“Oh Well,” by Fleetwood Mac was on the radio. Dave “The Rave” Fanning of course. The pencil was beginning to disintegrate between Branch’s teeth. Why the fuck did I leave it so late to begin studying anyway?, he thought. He knew his mother was proud of him, thinking he was up in his room, studying hard every evening. If only she knew that he spent more time studying the lesbians frolicking in Club International magazine and playing guitar to the songs on Dave Fanning. And then there were the text messages.

Who would have thought you could spend hours sending and reading text messages when you should have been studying? It was so much easier to text someone than call them and risk having them hang up in your face, or rather, in one ear. Especially girls. Branch wasn’t what you could call shy or retiring in any sense of the words, yet when he talked to the girls at schools in person he became more animated, as though he had to play the part of the mucker boy from Glanhooly. But texting was different - no-one could take the piss out of his accent in a text.

Branch realized he was staring at the wall blankly. Feckin’ text withdrawal, he thought. Right, feck this for a game of soldiers. He opened the desk and lifted the Leaving Cert papers to pull out a well-thumbed copy of ‘Hustler’.

He pulled down his zip and began the routine. His favourite photo spread in the magazine was the three girls who got it on with dildos and vibrators, near the back of the magazine. He always built up to that spread, which he regarded as the climax of the magazine.
He accelerated with his throttle hand, knowing his mother sometimes brought him up a cup of tea at about this time.
Dave Fanning put on The Pixies’ “Debaser”.
He skimmed quickly past the centrefold girl. Somehow, photos of naked girls didn’t really do it for him any more, unless they were hardcore … aah, this was more like it, two girls and a guy getting it on.
Branch closed his eyes and imagined what it would be like with Maria and Emer simultaneously. Would they kiss each other with tongues? he wondered. He liked the thought and he pumped his hand faster, then slow again.
He felt he was getting near to the point of release. He opened his eyes and paused while he reached for the box of Kleenex on his desk. Then he noticed something - there was a steaming cup of tea on the desk that hadn’t been there a minute earlier. Branch turned to look at the door but it was shut.
“Ah, bollocks!” he said. He guessed his mother wouldn’t be so proud of him now.
Dave Fanning was introducing Joy Division’s “Atmosphere”.

******************** ******************** ***********

Kyle turned up the volume on the radio as he turned onto the back road that led to Cariganass.
Work tomorrow.
The headlights undipped threw the landscape into a crazy relief, the road he knew so well as a well-lit place in the daytime took on a sinister, scary air in the night.
No wonder people used to believe in banshees and goblins years ago when they had to walk roads like this at night, Kyle thought. He turned the volume up a small bit more, though he wasn’t that pushed about the dance music that seemed to be the only thing on the radio these days. Either that, or plays set in nursing homes on Radio 1, or hits from the god forsaken eighties.
At least the car stereo was grand if the rest of the car left a bit to be desired. It was a tan coloured Ford Fiesta, about ten years old, and looked it. But it was a feckin *car* and got him from A to B and back in the evenings.
Insurance cost was a serious pain in the pain in the bollocks though, it had already cost him more than he had paid for the car. The sooner he got his full licence the better.
And Maria had started dropping hints about how she’d like to learn to drive. Kyle would be damned before he’d pay any more insurance, though. Maybe I’ll ask her to get a few quotes for comprehensive insurance, he smiled to himself, maybe then she’ll ask one of her parents instead.
Kyle just had to smile to himself, just one month since he had done the Leaving and he already had a job, a car and a girlfriend. He still had another month to wait for the results of the exams but they were not really important to him. He had applied for college courses like the other lads in his class but he had no real intention of accepting any offers of a place.
Kyle preferred the thought of a steady paycheck then the deferred promise that college entailed. Anyway he was just seventeen, he could always study sometime in the future.
As the headlights lit up the gates to his parents’ house, Kyle braked and turned the wheel.
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Old 29-09-2009, 08:20 PM
doppellanger doppellanger is offline
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“Maria, you’ve gotta see her.” That song was everywhere that summer. Emer was sitting on the bed in her bedroom. She had a piece of Blu-Tac between her fingers, stretching it and letting it snap. (She had just stuck a new Brad Pitt poster to the wall.)Emer remembered the first time she had heard it, at the rowing club disco on the Friday night just six weeks before the Leaving.

That was the night Maria shifted Joe Kiely for the first time. She knew she’d never heat the end of it. But first she had to endure the company of Branch while his best friend and her best friend were sitting four feet away, getting tangled up in each other. Any time she looked at them all she could see was tongues.

Branch seemed to know everything about every heavy metal band under the sun. And that seemed to be all, whenever Emer tried to change the subject he just turned it back to heavy metal. Axl Rose’s real name, how much vodka Slash drank daily, Lars Ulrich’s first record deal, he seemed determined to prove he was a walking heavy metal encyclopedia.

Then she spotted Ann-Marie Daly and Emer Murray an she excused herself to talk to them. Of course, all they wanted to talk about was Maria’s shift.

“You’d think she might introduce us,” one of them said.
“She’s too busy introducing her tongue to his tonsils,” replied the other.

Emer laughed along but she had felt a bit betrayed and guilty for feeling betrayed. Since that night, about three months ago, she had hardly seen Maria and when they did talk on the phone it was “Kyle, Kyle, Kyle…”.

In some ways she didn’t mind as she had had more time to concentrate on studying for the Leaving while Maria was otherwise distracted. She reckoned she had done quite well too, maybe not the 7 A’s for which her mother had said so many rosaries but maybe not far off it.

So then there was the question of what to do next. She knew she wouldn’t have difficulty getting her first choice from the CAO, which was Philosophy in Maynooth, or her first choice from the CAS, Environmental Studies at Sligo RTC. But she was no longer sure that either was what she really wanted.

Her sisters before her had gone to study Computer Studies and Engineering in Dublin and Cork but Emer had never really liked cities, anytime she had been to Cork she had felt overwhelmed by the speed and noise of the place and that so many people could be in the same place at once. Glanhooly was no problem and Fermoy, where she went to school every day, or Mitchelstown, were about the right size, she thought, any bigger a place would just make her feel uncomfortable.

So she had applied to the provincial colleges rather than the metropolitan ones. Now it wasn’t long until the offers would arrive in the post and she would have to make a decision about her future.

Seventeen years old, she felt young to be making such an important decision. She would have liked to just take a year off, maybe travel a bit, postpone all decisions but her parents wouldn’t have been too happy about it. Which meant making a decision. Which she didn’t want to think about.

The worst thing was, no-one wanted to discuss it with her. Maria would only talk about Kyle, not even the topic of mini-skirts could divert her attention any longer. If she asked her sisters they would say “Do what you want to,” they were too busy getting on in the world to be listening to their teenage sister’s teenage problems.

She watched a spider crawling along the ceiling near the top of her new Brad Pitt poster. ‘What was it with those spiders and Brad Pitt?’ she thought momentarily, snapping the Blu-Tac again.

And it wasn’t as though she was that pushed about the courses she had selected. She could admit to herself that she had chosen the most wishy-washy courses because there wasn’t anything that she really wanted to do. Philosophy sounded interesting and all and Emer liked to think about things like free will and God and right and wrong but it wasn’t really a career, was it?

And environmental studies in Sligo, that was what she told people she was thinking of doing when they asked. Usually their eyes glazed over on hearing this and they’d say something like “Like ducks and stuff?” as though all environmentalists did was clean oil off ducks all day. She thought she might tell the next person who asked that she was going to study duck-cleaning in Sligo, but she doubted it would make a blind bit of difference.

Brad Pitt wouldn’t care anyway.
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Old 29-09-2009, 08:22 PM
doppellanger doppellanger is offline
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Wasters - bolloxing thing is missing the paragraph tabs...

Kyle kept his eyes fixed firmly on the road ahead. Maria was talking about something but he wasn’t totally tuned into it, there was a song by the Spice Girls on the radio that he actually liked, at least a small bit. The video had been on Top Thirty Hits a few nights before and he couldn’t get it out of his head. A boy and a girl were in a wonderfully green forest, wearing brightly coloured raincoats. They stumbled up on a weird bird. The boy ran but the girl followed the bird. Something about the video gave Kyle an intense feeling of déjà vu, as though he had seen the video many years ago.

He cut across Maria’s stream of conscious thought: “Have you seen the video for this song?” She looked at him as though he had two heads.”
“Is it the Spice Girls? I can’t stand the Spice Girls,” she said as though it should have been blatantly obvious. She continued on with a lavish description of what she had been discussing before Kyle’s interruption, the wedding dress her cousin wore when she was married the previous year.

Kyle kept his eyes fixed on the road ahead. The grass strip that grew in the middle of the road was stippled with yellow and white, dandelions and daisies. Queen Anne’s lace and small flowers blossomed in the hedgerows. Kyle wished he could throw some Led Zeppelin on the stereo but he suspected Maria could stand Led Zep even less than she could the Spice Girls, who were still caterwauling along on the radio.

What was it about that video? Was it the bird puppet, was it something from a tv show from the early eighties? Damn, it was the sort of thing he could look up on the internet, if he could even get on the internet.
He decided to risk cutting across Maria’s flow of descriptive narrative, as she was now starting in on the bridesmaids’ dresses. “Whereabouts are we going now?”
“It’s just up here on the left,” replied Maria, “and their sleeves were all puffy like, you know, Chinese lanterns and they had all had their make up done by Janine’s sister’s friend who’s a make up artist…”. She paused to take a breath.
“Is it this one here?” Kyle asked as they approached the gates of a bungalow with dormer windows.
“Yeah, this is it.”
Kyle swung into the short driveway, which was probably no more than two car lengths. Emer was at the door almost before Kyle had the engine killed.
“Hiee,” Emer said, smiling and looking glad to see them as they climbed out of the tan Fiesta.
“Howarya,” said Kyle.
“Hi Emer, this is Kyle, Emer.”
“Howarya Emer,” said Kyle.
“Hiya Kyle, I’ve heard a lot about you from Maria.”
“Have you now? All good clean fun, I hope,” said Kyle, smiling his Tom Cruise smile. Emer laughed.
“Kyle!” Maria exclaimed.
“Do ye want to come in?”
Kyle looked at Maria.
“Ok,” Maria said, following Emer to the sitting room, “but we can’t stay long. We have to head into town to buy…,” she glanced quickly at Kyle, “… potatoes.” This was the first that Kyle had heard of it.
Maria pleased with her fabrication, continued “I was just telling Kyle about Susan’s wedding.”
“Oh yeah,” said Emer, noncommittal, “I remember you telling me about it at the time.”
“Yeah, it was fabulous.”
“Did ye have dinner?” asked Emer.
“Oh yes,” Maria gushed, “we had a three course meal with wine and vol-au-vents and…”. She looked at Emer’s and Kyle’s blank looks. “Oh you meant have we eaten? No, we’re grand, aren’t we Kyle?”
“I’m grand anyway,” said Kyle.
“Do ye want to sit down?” Emer indicated the dining room table. “Or do ye want to watch Trainspotting? I was just watching it.
Kyle displayed an interest.
Trainspotting? Excellent film isn’t it?”
I’ve just seen the first half hour. It’s pretty much like the book so far.”
“Oh right,” said Kyle, “What’s the book like?”
“Well it’s written in dialect but once you get used to it it’s very good.”
“Oh right,” said Kyle. He looked to Maria. “Do you want to watch Trainspotting?” He noticed his voice was quieter than usual.
“What’s it about?”
Kyle looked at Emer. “Drug addicts in Scotland, he said. Maria looked nonplussed. “But the music is very good in it,” he added quickly.
“We can’t stay that long,” said Maria.
“Don’t worry about it,” Emer said. “Sit down there at the table and I’ll make tea or coffee.”
Kyle and Maria looked at each other again and then at Emer.
“Ok,” said Kyle, “I’ll just have a cup of tea, thanks.”
“I’ll have tea as well,” said Maria.
“Tea for the troops,” said Emer traipsing into the kitchen.
Kyle and Maria sat at the table.
“Nice house,” said Kyle.
“Yeah,” said Maria begrudgingly. He had never called her family’s house nice.
“That wallpaper is cool isn’t it?” Kyle said, looking at a wall covered with a lifesize photographic image of trees. “Very realistic.”
“Hmm-hm,” Maria mumbled assent.
Emer re-entered the dining room, and put the tray with tea and cups and milk and sugar on the table.
“There ye go, ye can help yearselves.”
“Thanks Emer,” said Kyle.
“So, do you have any plans for the weekend?” asked Maria as she poured tea into a yellow mug.
“No, no plans. How about ye?” Emer asked as she sat at the table.
Kyle was just about to say ‘No plans’ but Maria got in first: “We’ll have a quiet night in this evening and probably go for a drive tomorrow.”

“Ooh, lovely, anywhere in particular?” just before taking a sip of her coffee. Kyle decided he’d better say something quick or his whole life would be planned out for him before he opened his mouth again.
“Well, that depends on the weather, like,” he said, looking at Emer as she sipped her coffee.
Maria concurred: “We might go to Youghal if it’s fine.”
“Or maybe Ardmore,” added Kyle, not wanting to let Maria decide his Sunday for him.
“That sounds nice,” said Emer sipping her coffee again.
Kyle and Maria sipped their tea, The brief silence seemed suddenly awkward.
Maria and Emer both started to say something at once, then both stopped.
“You go ahead,” said Maria.

“I was just going to say,” said Emer, “that the summer seems to be just flying. It seems like only yesterday the Leaving started and now it’s only two weeks until we get the results.”
“Two weeks, is that all it is?” Kyle sounded genuinely surprised.
“Have you decided what you want to do yet?” Emer asked him.
“Well, I had applied for software engineering at the CIT in Cork, but the job I’m in at the minute’s not too bad so I might stick with that. It’s handy to have the few bob in the pocket, like.”
“Yeah, that must be nice,” Emer said. “What is it you do?”
“It’s a car sales place in Cahir, I do some of the selling, some of the accounts and so on. It’s great experience. Do you have a job yourself?”
“Well, there isn’t that much here around Glanhooly but I was thinking of maybe looking in Fermoy for something.” Emer sipped her coffee.
“You’d only have a few weeks though, wouldn’t you, before you started college, like?” asked Maria. Maria had a summer job in a beauty salon in Fermoy, it didn’t pay particularly well but she seemed to like it.
“College doesn’t start until October so I’d still have two months.” She looked at Maria and Kyle and wondered at how they suddenly looked old. They seemed to have finished their tea. “I suppose I should make more of an effort to look for a job,” Emer said, beginning to wonder what she was trying to say, “but it’s nice to have a chance to relax after the stress of the Leaving.”
“You should tell that to Branch,” Kyle snickered, “he’s done nothing but relax since the Leaving but I don’t think he was any way stressed out by it.”

They laughed at this but the laughter seemed to be over all too soon and the silence afterward seemed instantly uncomfortable. Kyle thought of the time he and Branch had laughed and laughed in the Glanhooly GAA grounds.

Maria looked at her watch and then at Kyle. Emer was looking out the window, looking at the familiar landscape of trees and fields.
“It’s probably time we were going,” said Maria if we want to get those spuds.”
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Old 29-09-2009, 08:24 PM
doppellanger doppellanger is offline
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Branch sparked up the joint, leaned back on the hard backed chair and put his feet up on his desk. He glanced briefly at the door verifying that it was locked. No sense in making the same mistake twice. His old lady hadn’t brought him up a cup of tea since that time…

Then he looked out the window and watched a swallow carve a shape out of the sky. “Feckin parabola,” he said. At least I’ve picked something up from those hours spent staring at the worthless maths book, he thought.

He puffed from the joint, breathing the smoke in deeply and enjoying the sensation of instant relaxation. He held the joint in his mouth while he grabbed a glass ashtray off the dresser and balanced it on his stomach. Guns’n’Roses were on the stereo - Welcome to the Jungle.

Great group, he thought, inhaling again, taking the joint from his mouth and tapping it so the ash fell in the ashtray, And they were so huge when they broke up. Axl wanted to sell 35 million copies of Lose Your Illusion and they had sold something like 32 million before ____’s spleen burst and they broke up. Feck it. Branch took another drag. It hit his lungs like a sledgehammer wrapped in cotton wool. “Aah, that’s hash,” he said. His words seemed to hang in the air after he spoke them, like the verbal equivalent of the lingering smell of a fart.
Axl Rose seemed to have disappeared into thin air. There was one supposedly confirmed sighting at a Phoenix Airport where he was apparently arrested for unruly behaviour. Branch leaned further back in his chair and shifted his feet to the windowsill. It was just not possible to get comfortable in a hard chair.

Branch stood up and leaned his arse against the desk. He placed the ashtray on the windowsill and took another toke on the joint. He was beginning to feel properly stoned. His head was spinning just nicely. That was the best part of being stoned, Branch didn’t know quite how to describe it, the feeling of juices in the upper left part of his brain, it was presumably chemicals affected by the hash, but that was the best part of getting stoned.

It depended on the hash, of course. Some hash just made you stupid and forgetful, but good hash made you feel like you were wrapped up in a perfect parcel of stonedness. If only I could meet a woman, Branch thought who likes heavy metal and getting stoned, then my life would be better to the power of ten.

Living at home, no girlfriend, no job, no money, but the dole was enough to keep him in cigarettes for the week, and hash on dole day and a few drinks at the weekend, life wasn’t so bad. Days of wine and roses, Branch thought with irony, or rather, days of joints and heavy metal.
He thought of that night two months previously when he was chatting to that one Emer in the rowing club and he cringed when he thought of how all he talked about was heavy metal, as though she’d be interested. He was probably just trying to prove to her that there was something that he knew about, that he wasn’t just a waster bogman.

He toked on the joint, taking short pulls before inhaling, but the taste was bitter in the back of his throat. He suppressed the gag reflex and kept the smoke in his lungs, though his eyes were watering. Next time I meet Emer, he thought to himself, I’ll talk about poetry, she surely liked poetry what with her being such a brainy chick.

How is it that Yeats poem starts off - ‘This is no country for old men…’? Nowadays, Branch thought, this is no country for young men. Yeah, I’ll say that to her, he thought. It must have been like a different country back in those days. Pearse and Collins were young men, idealists who thought they could change the world and in a way they did, they shaped this country, but three quarters of a century later… Branch noticed the joint was almost gone and he took a final puff. He grimaced as the smoke burned his tongue and the roach his lips as he inhaled.

“Smokin’ feckin’ cardboard,” he said, exhaling and extinguishing the joint with his thumb in the ashtray. What was I thinking of? he thought. He felt a bit queasy.

Emer, and poetry, that was it. Maybe The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock … or would that be too obvious?
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Old 29-09-2009, 08:32 PM
doppellanger doppellanger is offline
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Emer sat on her bed. Her hands were clasped about her legs, which were scrunched up in front of her. She was gazing at her Brad Pitt posters but she wasn’t really focused on the endeavour.

It was the night before the Leaving Cert results were released. There was nothing to do but wait. Emer wondered which was more excruciating, the exams themselves or the waiting for results.

She knew she had done well in all her subjects but there was always the factor of, as one of her teachers put it, ‘the sixty year old nun’. You had to think of her when writing an essay or anything else creative as it could be she who ended up marking your paper.

So, obviously, any clever cultural references to rap music and Brad Pitt would be meaningless to her and so were better avoided.

A subject like maths was much easier to gauge - Emer had gone over the papers since and knew she had scored an A. Likewise physics. And biology … assuming that the hypothetical nun liked her diagrams.
Emer studied the curves of Brad Pitt’s mouth. She wondered what was the point of knowing what lips were made of, was it really more valuable than knowing Axl Rose’s real name? In her darker moods Emer wondered whether all knowledge was ultimately futile. The problematic was probably bigger than that though. If life was futile then surely all knowledge is futile.

Studying biology was interesting in that you find out lots of interesting facts - the gestation period of a hamster, the chemicals involved in photosynthesis, the structure of a cell, the purpose of the spleen and so on and on. But it doesn’t really tell you anything about how, or rather, why it all fits together, Emer thought.

According to biology, Emer thought, there’s nothing to Brad Pitt but - like George Michael sang in ‘Outside’ - ‘there’s nothing here but flesh and bone’. But is there something more? Like, are we all just things in the world like any other thing, like a stone or a guitar.

And what do we really know? I know how the digestive system works, thought Emer, but do I know how to digest an apple? I mean, if someone gave me an apple and told me to digest it, I could do it but do I know how to digest something? My stomach and intestines and gastric juices probably know how, but it doesn’t really make sense to say that, does it? You can’t really say your stomach knows. She imagined a giant Brad Pitt eating her whole.

So, Emer thought, I know how the digestive system works and I can digest something but the part of me that knows things can’t really know how to digest something.

She imagined eating Brad Pitt whole. She would dangle him over her mouth like a cartoon cat would a cartoon mouse and gobble him up, stubble and sideburns and all. Yummy.

Then she imagined having to puke up all the indigestible parts, the cast, as it’s called, like some birds of prey do. Hmm, not so yummy.

So I know how to eat but I don’t know how to digest, thought Emer. Weird bloody world. Emer began to feel a bit hungry.

But what was the point?, she thought. Not so much what was the point of eating, but surely there was more to life than looking for food and eating? It would be nice to be able to believe what the nuns taught in religious instruction- that God was the judge and arbiter of what was right and wrong and we had the free will to make the right choices if we wished.

But ever since she was twelve or thirteen Emer had begun to doubt the existence of a God, at least in the sense that he looked like Heidi’s grandfather and lived in the sky. But the world without God seemed like such a futile place. And if it was futile, what was the point? Emer wondered.

It wasn’t the first time she had thought like this and she knew that it was a circular chain of thought and not worth dwelling on. No God, no point. The what? She didn’t feel that hungry anymore.

Her German teacher had said that instead of religious instruction, most schools in Germany taught philosophy. So German students learned about Plato and Kant and Wittgenstein instead of the constant dross of Catholic dogma, the lucky bastards, Emer thought.

She had looked at the philosophy books in Waterstone’s when she was in Cork but they were bloody difficult, ad the didn’t really answer the questions she wanted to know the answers to, at least not clearly.

The local library had a copy of Sartre's ‘Being and Nothingness’ but it was virtually impenetrable after page 5. And it was 700 ages long. Most of it seemed concerned with the being-in-itself versus the being-for-itself. Emer guessed the being-in-itself was her body, that knew how to pump blood and digest food whereas the being-for-itself was the aspect of her that knew how to eat and solve quadratic equations, but there was no way to know for sure.

None of her friends at school gave a crap, they preferred East 17 or Robbie Williams to wondering about the purpose of life and Emer could hardly blame them.

She even went and read the Bible, the New Testament at least, and she was surprised by it in parts, it made more sense by itself than the priest made of it in Mass.

Her parents didn’t seem to mind too much when she told them she didn’t want to go to Mass anymore. So that was that. But she spent more time since thinking about God then she ever did when she believed unquestioningly, especially now that she had the Leaving done.

And how do you know what’s right and wrong if there’s no God and there’s no sin? Emer thought. Could it all be arbitrary. Brad Pitt’s eyes were giving nothing away. The poster she was staring was a promo for ‘The Devil’s Own’, her second favourite Brad Pitt film. She didn’t like the story lime or the shootouts much but Brad Pitt’s accent was excellent, he was really believable as an Irishman.

She began to feel a bit hungry again. She would get up in a minute and make some toast. Food for thought, she thought.

Leaving Cert results tomorrow. And after that … well who knew? Emer thought of a story her sister told her, of how she, Emer’s sister, had visited an old college friend who had settled down near Mallow with her fiancé and young baby. She had show Emer’s sister the baby and shown her around the house and then she showed her the garden and at the end of the garden, full of pride, she showed her her compost heap. Emer’s sister didn’t know what she could say about a heap of compost without hurting her friend’s feelings as she was so blatantly proud of it. So they stood there and admired the compost heap at the end of the garden, one of them with a baby in her arms, the other without.

Emer wondered would that be her future - a compost heap and a baby? Then she wondered where, maybe somewhere in Co. Wexford? Or Carlow? Or Sligo? What colour were gas barrels in Co. Sligo she wondered, trying to picture herself there in the back garden. Or maybe she’d have an electric cooker. What else? A washing line? Some tulips? Maybe her husband would be a fisherman and would sail in a red boat with a yellow trim.

There was a sudden knock on her bedroom door and Emer jumped, jolted out of her reverie. “What?!” she yelled.

Her father pushed the door ajar. “Do you want a spin into town tomorrow?”
“Hm? Oh yeah, okay, thanks.”
“About half ten ok?”
“Maybe a bit earlier, I just want to get the results.”
“Ok.” Her father seemed to hesitate, then asked “Are you nervous?”
“Maybe a small bit,” Emer replied.

“Well, I’m sure you’ll do fine,” her father said, sounding full of plamás, quickly withdrawing his face and closing the door quietly. Emer raised her eyes upwards just in time to spot a spider legging it off the Devil’s Own poster.
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Old 29-09-2009, 08:35 PM
doppellanger doppellanger is offline
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WASTERS part whatever

Branch stroked his fingers through his long dark curly greasy hair. It had become a bit itchy since he had stopped washing it but that was just about four weeks ago. According to the Sepultura interview in Kerrang it would be about six weeks without washing before it started to take care of itself.

He pulled the nodge from his nodge pocket, the small square pocket in the right pocket of his jeans, presumably designed for carrying small change. It was dark brown hash, not exactly squidgy, but not too brittle. Kashmiri, Dan the Langer had said it was, but Branch know Langer Dan was full of shit, especially when it came to smoking shit.

Still, it was good shit. Branch was still a bit stoned from the joints he’d had at Dan the Langer’s. Then he’d thumbed out to Glanhooly. It was Kyle who picked him up.

Branch picked up a packet of Rizla and started putting a joint together. It was funny being in Kyle’s car as driving was something he associated with parents, rather than people his own age. He really didn’t know what to say - “How’s work?” or “How’s Maria?”, one was as bad as the other, you’d swear Kyle was pushing forty already, soon he’d have 3.1 kids and a mortgage. Good luck to him, Branch thought.

“What do you make of Cork’s chances in the hurling this year?” was what he’d eventually ventured. Banal or what? Kyle, of course, hadn’t a clue but bluffed away anyhow. Branch didn’t really listen at the time, he was thinking that it was sort of sad that they were playing at being grown up so soon.

“Yeah, Mark Landers is playing well this year,” was about all he said after that. He just sat there half stoned and listened to Kyle’s voice - bright, confident, sparkling and full of shit. He was thinking of how he had believed Kyle when he’d said he wanted to leave this shithole. The lying prick.

Branch said “Yeah, grand,” when Kyle stopped in the village saying “I’ll have to let you off here, I told Maria I’d call to see her before dinner,” and then “See ya,” getting out of the car. Fuck it, a half mile walk home. At least he was half-stoned.

So here he was. He rolled the tobacco in a three skinner, giving it a slightly conical shape, just slightly fatter at the end that would be lit. His mother hadn’t been up to his room in months so he guessed it was safe enough to smoke. She nagged him whenever she saw him about his hair, about a job, a girlfriend, his clothes, there was no end to it. Wash it, cut it, wash it and get a job. You don’t want to be a waster all your life do you? Smarten yourself up a bit and you might get a nice girlfriend. There was no end to it.

She had a point, though, there were jobs there. You couldn’t turn on the tv without seeing Mary Harney talking about the roar of the Celtic tiger. Banging the drum for the Celtic tiger. Mary Harney banging the drums, Branch had to shake his head to clear the image from his mind. Well, better tom-toms than pom-poms, Branch almost smiled to himself, inhaling the smoke off the tip of the burning hash before rolling it between his fingers to crumble it into the joint. Now, Liz O’Donnell in a cheerleader outfit, that would be something worth seeing. He held the smoke in his lungs for as long as possible before exhaling.

Langerball Dan had said that was a sign that he’d been on the dole too long, trying to scrape the arse out of the hash. Just because he had a piece of shit job, what did he know. Kyle had asked him as well, when he was getting into the car, “Any luck on the job front?”. And his father had said to him that one of his buddies who was a roofing contractor was looking for an apprentice . Well, fuck ‘em. Fuck ‘em all.
He tightened the paper around the tobacco and tucked in the ungummed end and rolled it so it was a long thin cylinder, slightly fatter at one end. Branch licked the gum and flattened down the adhesive. Then he twisted the paper at the fatter end and put the nearly complete joint on the desk. He tore a strip of cardboard off the Rizla+ packet and rolled it into a cylinder. He used a pen to push it into the open end of the joint. Then he tamped the paper at the roach end into the roach so it held the cardboard in place. He held the joint in his hand and admired his handiwork.

“Out of chaos, order,” he said, looking at the mess of papers, cigarettes, tobacco, matches and bits of tinfoil on his desk. The hash was safely back in his pocket, a good habit to keep, he had come to realize, particularly amongst hash-heads.

He sparked up the doobie and inhaled. Instant hit. The chair felt suddenly uncomfortable. He stood up and felt dizzy so he grabbed the lighter and ashtray and sat on his bed, leaning on the elbow of one arm and holding the joint between finger and thumb of the other.

He looked at the beech trees that he could see through the window of his room, trying to trace his train of thought back, he knew he had been thinking of something. Shagging short-term memory, shot to shit, what was it? Oh yeah … fuck ‘em, that was it.

So what if everyone else had a job and so what if they all pressured him. He could hold out. The last of the heavy metal wasters, he thought to himself, and anyway I’ll be working the rest of my shagging life, what’s the fecking rush? The hash made his tongue feel sweet and sticky after he took a drag. Most people who work are just looking forward to evenings, weekends, holidays and then retirement. Suckers’ game, thought Branch.

He pulled on the joint but it was gone out. He scrabbled for the lighter and relit the joint, wincing at the smoke. A wood pigeon broke its cover from one of the beeches, was a brief lilac streak across Branch’s vision and was gone. Fuck it, undubitably shit faced, Branch thought. The thought just seemed to bubble up in his head and then hang there, even after it seemed to have lost its meaning.

Branch took another short drag, he knew he was probably too stoned already but, what the fuck else was there to do? Leaving Cert results tomorrow, better to be too stoned to think than to be worrying about the permutations and combinations of points he’d get.

At least it was a good excuse for a piss-up and the last chance to see all the guys before they set out to make their fortunes. Yeah right, maybe it was like that a few years ago, no longer. They’d all go out and get pissed and be working with the auld fella in the morning. Then repeat step 1.

Branch dreamed briefly of being Axl, standing in front of 80,000 people, arms outstretched. Paradise City.

But real life was different. You could see the guys in the Mart Bar, they wore the leather and denim and grew their hair long. But the songs they picked from the jukebox were always the same: November Rain and Nothing Else Matters and Running to Stand Still. Always the slow songs and ballads. Branch knew that in a few years they’d all be listening to country and western and Joe Dolan instead. They just didn’t get it.

Branch took another toke and thought about what he was thinking about. Well, he reflected, maybe they did get it. But why did the world have to be like that? - it was either global mega stardom or the Mart bar and Branch suspected he wasn’t going to be a global mega star.

Then again, as consolation, Branch thought, what if Axl Rose wanted to go for a drink with the good ol’ boys down home. He tried to imagine Axl Rose sitting in the redneck Southern version of the Mart Bar with Confederate flags behind the bar and pickup trucks parked outside. Would he be just one of the guys at the bar? Or would he be like a god descended from the heavens? What would it be like?

Branch looked at the joint in the ashtray. It had gone out again. Well, I suppose there’s always that, thought Branch, there’s probably a million bars like the Mart. He was too stoned to move, but he made the effort, to reach for the joint and the lighter.

He placed the unlit joint between his lips and wrinkled his nose at the smell. He tilted his head back before re-lighting the joint so as not to burn his nose or hair. Branch took 3 or four short pulls on the joint. It was stronger than he had expected as it was nearer the end of the joint and the smoke was hotter. He inhaled, gagging on his rising gorge. Kyle would surely go out tomorrow. It would be good to see him again. He couldn’t blame him for spending time with his girlfriend but he could for his choice. But, as they say, you can choose your friends and you can choose your girlfriends but you can’t choose your friend’s girlfriends. Branch exhaled and stroked his hair back from his forehead.
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Old 29-09-2009, 08:38 PM
doppellanger doppellanger is offline
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Kyle was sitting at his desk for the first time since before the Leaving. The Rules of the Road was open in front of him, but though he turned the pages back and forth his mind wasn’t really on it. Tomorrow was a big day - Kyle had his driving test and Leaving results were out.
He had booked the day off from work so he could drive to Fermoy in the morning to pick up his results, then drive to Mallow to get in some practice before his test, which was scheduled for 2 p.m. Big day.

Kyle turned a page and pored over the rules.

Who would have thought there were so many occasions on which to dip your headlights? At dawn or dusk, in built up areas, when meeting other traffic, in dense fog or snow or continuously lit roads outside built up areas, when following close behind other traffic, and the vague ‘generally to avoid inconveniencing other traffic’.

It was really quite difficult to get back into the swing of studying again, Kyle thought, flicking through the pages to the roadsigns. There were three types of roadsigns, regulatory, warning and information and most of them were straightforward enough. The tricky ones were pedestrianised area ahead, clearway and end of speed limit. Also Kyle had had to learn the proper names for some of the signs: what he had thought of as ‘windy road’ was in fact ‘dangerous curves ahead’ and the ‘Don’t drive your car into the river’ sign was properly called ‘Unprotected quay, canal or river ahead’. ‘Be careful or you might skid’ was ‘Slippery stretch of road ahead’.

He felt like he could do with some cofee but he decided to hold off until he had the ‘where not to park rules’ off. Kyle really enjoyed driving, there was nothing better in the mornings than having the open road in front of him on the way to Cahir. There was always traffic but there was almost always some stretch of the road that was quiet at that time of the morning.

It just wasn’t worth giving up for four years of living in student accommodation, scraping to make ends meet, depending on his parents or a part-time job to pay the rent. He guessed he had probably scored enough points to do Commerce at UCC or Information Systems at CIT, but it would mean selling his car to pay back the motor loan and now he had a car and he wanted to keep it.

At least there were no fees for college these days, so his parents wouldn’t have to find an extra three or four thousand pounds, and they probably wouldn’t mind helping him out with rent and so on but, well, it just wasn’t what Kyle wanted.

And there was Maria to think of. She hadn’t said that she’d prefer if he kept working but that was the impression he got. She liked the fact that Kyle had a car, she seemed to think of it as a status thing much more than Kyle himself did.

Of course, she was getting her results tomorrow also, though she had hardly mentioned it. He had asked her whether she had applied for any courses and she said something about the College of Commerce in Cork and then changed the subject. Kyle suspected she would cotinue on at the hairdresser’s or beautician’s or whatever the place she worked at was.

Then there was Branch. Kyle thought of how he was when he gave him a spin earlier that evening. He was just withdrawn into himself and sullen, not like the Branch of old who was always full of life and vigour. Maybe he was worried about his results, Kyle mused.

Kyle wondered what Branch was going to do with himself, anytime he had asked Branch would just say “Rock’n’Roll, draw the dole.” Kyle couldn’t understand his lack of ambition. Though that night they were bushing in the GAA ground had said something to the effect that he wanted to leave Glanhooly, at least that’s what Kyle thought he meant.

Maria seemed to think was a dreadful waster, she didn’t like it when Kyle mentioned him at all. Kyle had tried to argue that, just becarse he hadn’t a car or a job that didn’t make him a waster, but Maria wouldn’t listen. He had reconciled himself to the fact that Maria and Branch were oil and water and had decided to try to keep those parts of his life separate.

Kyle realized he wasn’t paying attention to the book open in front of him so he closed it and opened an A4 pad to a blank page and began to write:
Where not to park:
On a single yellow line during business hours
On double yellow line any time
On a footway, including a grass margin or median strip

Kyle thought of the grass that grew in the centre of the road outside and tried to imagine parking on it. They must mean a central reservation, he thought, like on a dual carriageway. And how were you supposed to not park on a grass margin if you were out in the country?
Kyle continued:
On the zig-zag lines near a zebra crossing
Within 5m of a junction
On a curve, bend or brow of a hill

******************** ******************** ***********

Maria couldn’t sit still. She would sit on her bed for a few minutes, then stand up and walk to the dresser. Kyle was studying for his driving test so he wasn’t going to phone and had asked her not to phone him. Maria thought that this what being in love must be like.
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Old 29-09-2009, 08:40 PM
doppellanger doppellanger is offline
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Wasters by doppellanger

Kyle had had a big day. Leaving Cert results in the morning, driving test in the afternoon. He had arranged to meet Branch in the Mart Bar after driving back from Mallow.

Kyle could hear ‘November Rain’ belting out of the jukebox as he approached the door of the Mart. He pushed the door and walked in just as Axl was singing in the ‘in the cold November rain.’ Branch was sitting at the bar with a small whiskey in front of him.

“Branch man, how’s the form?” Kyle tried to sound businesslike.
Branch looked at him with bleary eyes.
“Kyle.” He sounded sullen. “How goeth the test?”
Kyle pulled his Certificate of Competency from his pocket and put it on the bar in front of Branch, being careful not to put it in a pool of drink, and banged his fist on it with more force than he’d intended.

“I passed the feckin’ thing.”
“Hey, well done, man,” said Branch in a half-cut pseudo-enthusiastic sort of way.
“So, how did you get on?”
Branch smiled: “I passed the feckin’ thing. You?”
“Just because you’re half-cut is no reason to act the fuckin’ maggot,” Kyle thought to himself. “420 points,” he said out loud.
“Hey, well done.” Branch sounded genuinely pleased for him. “You’ll be off to college next month then?”

Kyle picked his Certificate of Competency up off the bar and put it back in his jacket pocket. “Nah, I don’t know, man.” He sat up on a barstool beside Branch. “What’re you drinking?”
“Whiskey and cider. Oh, you mean … a pint of Bulmers then, cheers.”
“Two pints of Bulmers,” said Kyle to the barmaid. “Is that Mariah Carey?”
“I’m not sure,” said Branch, “I just punched any numbers at all into the feckin’ jukebox. You were saying, about college, like.”
“Yeah, well, maybe I got enough points but, look, I have a job, I have me licence now. If I went to college, I’d probably have to sell the car and I’d be further away from Maria, like. Thanks, love.” This last he said to the barmaid, and produced a fifty pound note from his pocket and gave it to her.

They both took a draft of their cider.
“What about Maria?” asked Branch, “How did she get on?”
“I’m not sure. I told her not to text me until after 5 p.m. in case my test was delayed.” It was just twenty past four, by the clock behind the bar.

“So what’s the plan for this evening?” Branch asked, not looking directly at Kyle.
“Jeez, I dunno,” said Kyle. “Sure, Slappers isn’t open, is it?” The local nightclub was Caspars, hence ‘Slappers’. “I’d probably wait ‘til tomorrow or Saturday and make a night of it.”

“You’re probably right.” He had been hoping Kyle would be out, Maria seemed to have exclusive rights on him these days. Pause.
They listened to Mariah Carey and the sound of a pool ball dropping.
“Did you see ‘Father Ted’ on Monday? ventured Branch.
“I did,” said Kyle, “but sure it was only a repeat, wasn’t it?”
“’Twas, I’d say - they’ll have new ones now next month.”
Another pause.
“What’s the difference between Mariah Carey and a dolphin?” asked Branch.
“I don’t know, what?”
“I don’t know either,” said Branch and then he pursed his lips and made a high pitched noise “ee ee ee”.
Kyle laughed “Fuck it, she does sound like a dolphin, doesn’t she?”
The track on the jukebox changed to Nirvana’s ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’.

“That’s more like it,” said Kyle, glancing at the clock above the bar. Twenty five past four. “Tell me, have you seen the Spice Girls’ new video?”
“The Spice Girls?” Branch asked as doubtfully as if his mouth had never formed the works before and he had to get used to the sound of them.
“Yeah, don’t try taking the piss ‘cause you were listening to Mariah Carey just now,” Kyle smiled accusingly.
“I told you, I just press any buttons at all when …”
“Yeah, yeah, I know, yeah, well it’s a good video anyway.”
“Do they get their kit off?”
“No, they’re not in it really.”

I wouldn’t mind seeing the brunette, what’s her name - Veronica? - getting her kit off.” Branch seemed to be warming to the theme of the Spice Girls. “Did you see in the video for Wannabe you could see her knickers? And in the same video the Jungle Spice had no bra on. Her tits were bopping like two fried eggs with nipples under her top.” Branch raised his pint and took a swig. “What’s their new video like anyway?”
“Ah, you’d have to see it, I wouldn’t know how to describe it. You probably wouldn’t like it.”

Kyle swigged his cider, regretting ever having mentioned the Spice Girls at all. Kurt Cobain was singing “Hello Hello Hello Hello”. “Over four years now since Kurt Cobain died,” Kyle said, to change the conversation.
“Is it that long ago?” asked Branch, casually. He took a swig of his cider. “I suppose it is - I was thirteen when I got into them and fourteen when he killed himself.”
Another pool ball dropped.
“Great song, though.”
“Yeah, great song.”
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