‘Will you have a glass of something? Jameson?’ me Ma asked.
‘Naw. Can’t’ he said ‘whiskey don’t agree with me.’
‘Oh’ she said, considering her next move ‘a bottle of stout then?’
Looking relieved, Ma took a half pint glass down from the dresser and opened the press, rooting around for the bottle of stout. Finding it, she placed glass and it on the kitchen table in front of him along with an opener.
Lucky for us – this old Guinness takeout had been in our press like the ghost of Christmas past for what seemed like eternity. We thought we’d never be rid of it.
Now, Christmas present, and he was home for a holiday. Back from Birmingham where he had been settled since the 1970s. Working on the buildings all his life, his hands had the worn leathery look you’d see on the skin of the ancient bog bodies preserved in and dug out of bogs.
His yellow-stained stubby fingers proceeded to roll a cigarette from a tobacco pouch he found in his inside coat pocket.
Me Ma occupied herself with kitchen duties while doing most of the talking. My sister and me staying quiet, tongue-tied, watching, we had never met him before even though he had been a friend of dad.
He nursed his half of stout, taking the odd drag on his roll-up and answered my mother:
‘Yep, that’s right’
‘Yeh, the world’s not right’, in between burps of trapped wind.
Sometimes his tongue would expel a speck of tobacco from the inside of his mouth – ‘Finest Virginia Blend’.
‘And what became of Doris?’ me Ma asked.
‘No idea’ he said, his accent half Irish, half Brummie, a melodic gargle to it.
This tactic of me Ma worked. He went on for a bit about Doris, how he’d been fond of her and all, what might have happened if she’d stayed with him, all that.
‘You never know’ he said, and then
‘I wonder where she is now?’
My sister stopped for once staring at her phone and asked:
‘Did you ever Google her?’
‘Ah no’ he said, nodding his head at Pope John Paul on the far wall:
‘Naw, naw…there was none of that carry on’.
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