Little Piles of Change

Little Piles of Change

Colly was having a pint with Pat in Kavanagh’s after work. Pat had won twenty euro on a scratcher that morning and Colly knew it had been burning a hole in his pocket all day, that he’d be gunning for a pint. Colly was happy not to be going home right away.

“Nicole’s back on the smokes,” Colly said. 

“She’s not.”

“She is. Since losing the job.”

“Bernie said about the job, it’s terrible,” Pat said.

“The smoking or the job?”

“The job. The smoking too.”

“It’s been two weeks now. I had to tell the girls not to say anything to her. They were looking at YouTube videos and saying they were worried about their Ma because she was smoking. They think she’s going to die.”

“Doesn’t help with those warnings on the boxes, scaring people. Smoking Kills. 

“And the pictures of the black lungs in the ads on the telly.”

“Disgusting.”

“It should be illegal.”

Colly downed the end of his pint.

“Do yeh miss them yourself? The smokes?” Pat said.

“I didn’t until I saw that box beside the kettle the other morning.” 

“I’m going out myself. Will yeh have one?”

“No. I won’t. I’m grand.”

Colly looked at his phone. There was a text from Nicole. He’d sent her a few job postings and a video of a granny shooting a ping-pong ball out of her arse earlier that morning that one of the lads at work had sent him. She said the furniture place in Palmerstown had called her back and asked her to come in for an interview. He wouldn’t hold his breath; Nicole had the bad habit of lying on her CV, she said that employers never actually checked. She’d get away with it even if she was caught, Colly thought. Nicole was in the habit of getting away with things, and the interview would be something to get her going again, a reason to put her face on, get her confidence up.

Work at the site had been a nightmare—the concrete lads didn’t show up until after lunch, so Colly and the lads made goalposts out of hard hats and one of the lads had a ball in the back of the van. Pat played in goal. World Cup singles. Colly was Luxembourg.

“Yeh can’t be Luxembourg,” one the younger lads off the site said. “They’ve never been in a World Cup.”

“Neither have you, yeh scrawny prick and look at you out here celebrating like you’re bleedin’ Maradonna,” Colly told him.

After twenty minutes, when they were all bolloxed, and the concrete lads still hadn’t shown up, they left early on the promise to the foreman that they’d come in early on Monday to lay the foundation.

Pat came back from outside. The smoke smelled lovely on his clothes. “Another one?” Pat said, waving a tenner at Sinead behind the bar. She snatched it off him.

“Sinead, put two on there,” Pat roared down the bar.

“I won’t.”

“Go on.”

“Nicole will batter me.”

“Sure, she’s back on the smokes. She can’t say anything.”

Pat was right. Nicole owed him, but Colly hated thinking about their marriage like that—keeping score on each other. “Right, one more.” He got comfortable again on the stool and squinted to see the telly. They were showing a repeat of the boxing from last weekend. Fury knocking the head off the Wilder fella. It was great seeing a traveler on the telly doing well, and his parents were Irish.

A group of nurses came in in their scrubs and ordered a big round. They brushed next to Colly at the bar, Irish youngones, Indian youngones, Filipinos of both genders. Fair play to them—it’s hard not to like the nurses. Colly saw them protesting in town a few months ago on his way to Croke Park with the girls and Nicole. He promised a nurse fella from Nigeria that he’d vote for them when he got the chance, for the wage increase or whatever they were looking for. Colly never ended up voting, but he’d meant to and that counted for something.

Father Paul came in and took the stool at the end of the bar next to Dunny O’Leary whose girlfriend, Colly had heard, was after getting pregnant with some other fella. The rumor was that it was some youngfella that played for Bohs. Dunny looked a wreck, raking his hands through his hair. Father Paul lit a smoke and waved down to Colly; he was the only person that Kavanagh allowed to smoke inside. 

Colly buried the rest of his pint, he didn’t want to witness Dunny in that state. He had to get home at some point, and Pat was doing a round of shots with the nurses. He couldn’t get into that. Nicole had signed him up to volunteer at the GAA disco tonight. She’d done it weeks ago, saying they needed to be more involved in the GAA club now that the girls were getting into the camogie. The proceeds were in aid of replacing the nets in the goalposts. Really, him and Nicole just didn’t have the fifty euro to pay for the registration fees, a hundred euro for the both of them. They didn’t have to pay if one of them volunteered at the disco. He’d been fine with it at the time, but now that the day was here, he wasn’t arsed—if the girls wanted a spot on the camogie team, they could work for it themselves, washing cars or collecting cans and dropping them off down the recycling. The girls were mad into the recycling anyway, they’d love it.

Nicole had told the girls they could go along with him to the disco. They were too young to be going. Colly had protested. They were only just nine a couple of months ago. They’d had balloons at the party and one of the kids at it pissed himself. A disco was no place for them, even if it was only a fundraiser. It’d be hard enough keeping the peace between the lads who were drunk on a few drops of Linden Village without Niamh and Evelyn flying around asking the DJ to play Oasis—it was Colly’s fault, blaring the Morning Glory album while Nicole was pregnant. When he brought the girls into town, they always joined in if a busker was singing an Oasis song. They knew some of the words to most of the songs.

“Do yeh remember the GAA disco, Pat?”

“I remember Caoimhe going. I used to be up the walls about the gear she’d be wearing. Me and Bernie nearly ended up divorcing over it.” 

“Over the disco?”

“The skirts.”

“What was wrong with the skirts?” 

“They kept getting shorter.”

“Are yeh sure she wasn’t just growing, Pat?” 

“I didn’t want that to be happening either.”

It was all ahead of Colly.

“Are you allowed to kick them out?” Pat said. Colly could smell Pat, the damp and sweat from the football earlier still clinging to him.

“Who?”

“The kids at the disco.”

“Why would I kick any of them out?”

“If they’re drinking or fighting or getting a bit rowdy on the Cotton Eyed Joe.” 

“I don’t think they play that one anymore, Pat.”

“They should. It’s a classic.”

“They only listen to the lads with the tattoos on their faces and the American birds with green and purple hair, singing about stabbing their fellas.”

“Bernie likes a bit of that herself. Caoimhe has her into it. That Billie Eilish one.” 

“Nicole likes her as well. Fair play to the girl, she gives it straight.”

“She does.”

“So, what’ll I do if they start scrapping?”

“Tell the DJ to play a bit of Cotton Eyed Joe.”

When Colly got home, Nicole was standing in the garden, smoking. She was sucking the life out it. Colly could hear the tobacco fizzing away, turning orange. When she whipped the ball of smoke into her throat, down into her lungs, he nearly felt the buzz burn through his own brain. He couldn’t stand the sight of her, in front of all the neighbors, and flaunting the thing in front of him. The drink always reminded him of the taste of the tobacco, the craving in his mouth. The smell brought him back, eight years ago, before Nicole found out she was pregnant with the girls. The both of them gave them up together. It brought them closer, the pure sickness of giving them up, sweating in the bed at night and tearing the head off each other in the morning because the other one had used all the milk in the cereal. They’d promised each other that that was it. She was breaking that now. Colly hated Nicole for making him want to go back to them. He didn’t but he did. He’d started to crave the nicotine again, he loved the smell of it in the house, on her clothes, in her hair, especially in the mornings with his coffee, while he listened to the news about the football, who was injured and who Eamon Dunphy thought was going to win between Liverpool and Athletico Madrid in the Champion’s League.

Colly dragged the two bins up from the curb, the hollow sound of them booming up the driveway.

“Alri, love,” she said. She was pure beaming under the sun, the cheek of her. “Some weather wha? I think I got burnt on my face a bit out the back. I’m getting a good base. For the holidays.”

He wanted to tell her that there’d be no fucking holiday if she didn’t get back working again soon. He didn’t though, she’d lost her job for standing up for one the youngones in the office who’d sent a dirty pic to one of the youngfellas and now it was going around to everyone and their grannies. The lads at work had gotten it on the grapevine. It wasn’t fair and there was no rule in place to punish the youngfella who she’d sent it to originally. That’s how Nicole put it and Colly believed her when she came home in bits crying saying she was sorry. Nicole showed him the photo, but he felt bad looking at it, like he was spying on the poor youngone. It wasn’t meant for him. Colly had heard from a woman Nicole worked with that she’d keyed the youngfella’s car and he’d reported her to HR, who had it on the CCTV. Nicole had that sort of behavior in her. Colly had seen it for himself over the years.

Nicole went in for a kiss and Colly turned his cheek. She was holding the smoke out from the side of her, near Colly’s face. He could grab it in his mouth. He’d eat it if he had to. The filter had a lovely pink rim on it from her lippy. It’d taste fucking lovely.

“What’s up your arse?” she said.

The girls were in the bathroom. Colly could hear the radio blaring from the bottom of the stairs. The state of the place when he walked in, Nicole’s make-up bag scattered on the tiles, Niamh plastering Evelyn’s face in blue and red and yellow.

He needed to piss.

“What are you wearing tonight, Da?” Evelyn said. They’d barely acknowledged him. No hugs or anything. They were getting more and more independent. They didn’t need him as much anymore, only for their bit of walking around money, which they seemed to need more and more of.

“I don’t know, love.” He nudged Evelyn off the toilet and told the two of them to get out so he could go. He’d been dying the whole way home on the bus.

“We left a couple of options out on your bed for yeh,” Niamh said from the other side of the door. He zipped himself up and didn’t bother with the flush. 

Niamh looked like one of those youngones in Boots doing the make-up for the girls going to their debs.

“You’re like Glenda Gilson,” he said.

Evelyn stood on the kitchen chair they’d dragged up the stairs and was clapping her lips in the mirror on the landing, turning her face to see her reflection. Colly couldn’t tell where the red ended, and the yellow began on her eyelids. 

“How do I look?” Evelyn said. She was talking to him through her reflection in the mirror. He couldn’t see her.

“Gorgeous, love.” 

“Amn’t I good, Da?”

“You’re fantastic. Your ma’s going to kill yous for the mess.”

His clothes were in three piles on the bed. Some of it, Colly hadn’t thought about in years, his leather coat and his old football tops.

“Yeh have to wear the black jeans, Da.”

 He held them up to the light. The scissors were still there on the bed, loads of black threads around it. It looked like one of those crime scenes from the telly. 

“Yous cut fuckin holes in them!” He’d bought the jeans years ago for thirty pound. They were good ones, real denim. He’d be paying over a hundred euro if he bought them today.

“It’s rock and roll, Colly,” Evelyn said. She picked up the scissors and started nipping at the ends of her hair with it. The damage was done.

“Rock and fuckin roll, Da.”

Nicole made the three of them dinner. Beans on toast. She gave Colly a slice of cheese too. It was the last one. She was feeling bad about the smokes. Niamh and Evelyn went mad for the beans, horsing spoonfuls into them. When they finished, they stacked their plates in the sink and ran out to the road, Evelyn in her face of make-up and Niamh in her camogie kit, shin guards and all. They were already becoming different—Evelyn was getting into the make-up and taking photos of herself on Nicole’s phone, and Niamh was still trying to take her baby teeth out by eating apples. That was Colly’s worry when he found out Nicole was having twins, that they’d be too much like each other and they’d never have lives of their own. They were good together though. They lived in their own world most of the time, Colly thought. They were playing invisible camogie because they’d lost their last slíothár up the GAA club watching the senior camogie women playing. They were supposed to be learning, but they spent the whole match playing out on the back pitches, while Colly stood in the rain and watched the manager Maeve Doyle roaring at the referee, calling him a culchie bastard. Colly refused to buy them another one. He put his foot down, the price of the yokes. Nicole agreed with him for once that the girls needed to take better care of their things.

“It’s cause we’re poor that we can’t have one,” Evelyn had said. Colly nearly dragged her down to Elvery’s Sports and dropped €12 on the counter for one of the nice O’Neill’s ones, thanks very much, bud. He’d cut the thing in half and make her eat it.

He hated not being able to give them a new one, he wasn’t mad on the camogie or the GAA in general, but he was happy that his girls were happy, taking lumps out each other at training. He had the €12, things weren’t that bad yet, but they would be soon if he kept shelling out money every time one of the girls caught a good whack of a slíothár and sent it into the canal. He was still happy to see them improving.

“It is. Because we’re poor. Your Ma and me,” he told them instead. It hurt like fuck, but they had to learn that money didn’t come out of their mouths. If it did, they’d be millionaires.

He was still craving a smoke. He’d love one out the front with Nicole, watching the girls whack stones against the electrical box at the end of the road while the sun set over the green. It’d be proper romantic, the two of them. He felt bad for her about the job, but he hated her more for picking up the smokes again. If he said anything, if he went mad at her, Nicole would think it was over the job, not the smokes. Colly would have only meant it about the smokes. Mostly.

When Nicole went upstairs, he thought about picking up the box there on the kitchen table. He watched it on top of the Sunday World, some article about a drug dealer getting shot on the north side of Dublin on the front page. The hitman was covering his face with his coat in the photo. Colly started reading the words in the article. They all fancied themselves as Americans these drug dealers, shooting each other. There was no need for that in Ireland. Colly hoped the judge would remind the hitman that he was from Finglas and not New York fuckin’ City.

He shook the box of smokes. There were only a couple left. A few lonely ones. Nicole had a whole sleeve of them upstairs in the drawer with her knickers and socks, he’d seen them the other morning looking for the change for the bus. He heard Nicole barreling down the stairs again, getting ready to say something to him. He took the smokes and left out the back door and told the girls, who had climbed up a tree, to get in the car.

The GAA club car park was rammed when he got there. He walked down the line of youngfellas and youngones waiting to get in. Down by the door, Maeve was slapping her watch with her finger. 

“Yeh have to check the boys’ toilets for drink and drugs now do yeh hear? Every fifteen minutes,” she was saying to one of the other Das.

“They’re only kids, Maeve,” he tried saying.

Every fifteen minutes!” she repeated. She took Colly by the wrist and led him to the main door. The girls charged off out onto the pitch.

Maeve ran the show up the GAA club, hawking around the car park saying hello to the parents. She marched up and down the line of kids, all waiting in the cold to get in while Colly stood there at the door, watching all the kids in their confirmation gear and spikey haircuts clutching their fivers in sweaty little balls inside their fists. Maeve kept looking down the line to him, nodding her head and giving him a big thumbs up. The girls were running around out on the pitch with their hurleys. He could see their runners getting mucked up from here.

His phone buzzed in his pocket, next to the box with the couple of smokes. 

Pat: HOW’S IT GOIN? ANY SCRAPS? HOW’S THE MUSIC?

Colly: SHITE. THE SMELL OF LYNX MAKING ME LOOPY. CAN HEAR THE MUSIC FROM OUTSIDE, SHITE.

Pat: GOOD THAT IT’S LOUD. I’LL BE DOWN SOON. WILL COME SEE YEH

Colly: DON’T COME DOWN. Colly didn’t want Pat seeing him in the jeans. Colly could feel the wind against the skin on his thighs. 

Pat: C U SOON.

Maeve twirled her finger in the air from the back of the line to say to open the door.

Colly let Niamh and Evelyn take the fivers from the kids. They were back and out of breath. Niamh took the money and Evelyn gave out the change if there was any. They were making a dog’s dinner of it. It didn’t matter, the kids would only go and spend it on fizzy drinks and condoms from the machine in the jacks, stretching them over their heads to look like aliens. The GAA would get their money back and the girls would get their little tracksuit tops at the end of the season.

The kids smelled like Lynx and vodka. 

“Thanks, sir.” Colly liked that. Sir. The respect.

“Go on in and enjoy yourselves. No messing.” 

“Thanks, mister.”

The hall was too big for a kids’ disco, so the curtain was drawn to make it more like an actual dancefloor and less like a basketball court. Colly had fought Pat here in the charity boxing on Valentine’s Day, raising money for breast cancer awareness. He could hear the shite music pumping back anytime the door opened. Once all the kids were inside, it was just the parents standing by their cars chatting the hole off each other. Colly let the girls go in after they finished counting out the money from the bag. When he recounted it, there was only €327 and a Mars bar wrapper. He did the maths in his head, there must have been at about eighty kids gone in. He looked in his wallet, he’d given the girls a fiver to split and he had a twenty he planned to use to put petrol in Nicole’s car, so she didn’t have to get the bus to her interview in Palmerstown the next week.

The smokers had all come out of the bar and were sending a lovely silver stream Colly’s way. He pictured Nicole, at home out the front, on the phone to her sister ripping the life out of a fresh one.

The almost empty box he’d robbed off the kitchen table hung like a brick in his pocket. He took it out and shook it, popped open the tab and rubbed the gold paper between his fingers. He could smoke both of them at the same time, then never again, again.

“You can’t smoke while you’re working.” Maeve had come out of nowhere.

 “I confiscated them.” She’d love that. 

“From who?”

“Some boy in a red top. It’s grand. Sorted. I took them off him and he was lovely about it. He even said sorry, that he was trying to quit.”

“If he let you find these, think what he’s really hiding! These are only a decoy.”

Colly acted panicked for a second like he was considering the inner working of a fourteen-year-old druggy’s head. He tried to imagine the poor youngfella, overdosed on pills, dead on the dancefloor underneath the basketball hoop with a Twix being squashed in his pocket. He could almost convince himself. The stress boiled in him a bit. Maeve was contagious. It had him wanting a smoke, getting caught like that.

“You can go inside now and keep an eye on the boys’ toilets,” Maeve said. 

“Righ’. Grand.”

“And will you tell Niamh and Evelyn to leave the DJ alone.”

Maeve knew the girls’ names. They’d be over the moon with that when he told them later. He’d lie too and say that Maeve saw them playing the invisible camogie and thought they had real potential, that if they kept practicing and stopped losing €12 slíothárs that they could be playing in Croke Park someday for Dublin.

It was too dark inside the disco. His eyes adjusted. He looked around at all the kids, the girls all bopping away with their arms in the air like they were taking part in some great communal drown. The lads looked worse at the dancing, like they were possessed. One girl was trying to climb tongue-first inside a youngfella’s mouth. Colly knew he was supposed to break it up, hose them down. He waited to see if one of the other volunteers would go and do it, but they were all bunched together by the concession table, eating packets of crisps. He rehearsed what he was going to say on his way over. He didn’t want to sound like a peado. He’d tap the boy on the shoulder and tell him that his ma was outside looking for him.

Colly was ready to go for it when he saw Pat across the dancefloor, the fat prick dancing in a ringa-ringa-rosy circle with Niamh and Evelyn. He let the youngone at the poor boy’s face and bucked it over. Pat and the girls saw him coming and made some space for him in the circle.

“Howya, bud,” Pat said. He had half a pint in his hand from the bar next door and was spilling it on the floor in little ruby splashes. He looked langered, big red face on him.

“What do yeh think you’re up to?”

“Having a little dance with the girls. They’re great dancers, aren’t they?”

Colly tried to mop Pat’s spills with his shoe, which only spread it. The girls were doing the leapfrog over each other and copying the older girls, trying to shake their arses.

“Yeh can’t be in here dancing with the kids, Pat.”

“I’m dancing with your kids. It’s different. It’s only a bit of craic.”

The girls were pulling at Colly. At the holes in his jeans, ripping them into even bigger ones.

“Will yeh dance with us, Da?” 

“Yeh, Da. Give us a shake.”

Colly told Pat to go back into the pub. Pat skulked across the dancefloor. He was a blob of a man. The girls went after him. They’d be embarrassed to be seen with Pat in a few years. They each had a bottle of fizzy orange and Niamh had a bag of crisps hanging in her hand.

Outside the boys’ toilets, Maeve had a line of lads—all in red tops—along the white wall with their pockets turned inside-out. Little piles of change, chewing, and tabs from beer cans in front of their white shoes. He wanted to rescue them from Maeve’s interrogation, the poor bastards, but he decided that they probably deserved the grilling for something else they’d done or were planning on doing. They were keeping Maeve off his back.

Colly stood on the toilet seat, trying to reach the bog roll bombs that had exploded on the ceiling. Maeve would have a fit if she saw them up there, dripping on the tiles and caking into the paint. He was getting a few of them off. The ones he could reach with the toilet brush.

It took him fifteen minutes to get them all off. He was trying to get it all flushed before Maeve found him. Then someone burst in the door. Colly looked over the cubicle. It was Pat. Colly could see his sweaty bald head, he could hear Pat unzipping his trousers. Then he heard the girls with their hurleys clanging off the radiator.

“What are yeh doing up there Colly? You’re missing Cotton Eyed Joe.” Colly nearly slipped off the toilet seat.

“I told you to get out!” Colly said. “What are you doing?”

“Pissing.”

“Why are you pissing in here?”

“The one in the pub is too busy. Half the senior hurling team is in there on the Barry White. I couldn’t wait.”

Pat slumped up against the urinal and started groaning when the piss finally came after about a minute of squeezing his bladder. He’d his arm stretched up the wall like he was making love to the thing.

Maeve walked in. She was raging. She might have been raging already. He couldn’t blame her really. It looked bad. Criminal even. 

She whispered to Colly to go home and take Pat with him. Colly hadn’t expected that out of Maeve Doyle: A whisper. There was still an hour left in the disco. Pat led the girls down the hall. Colly wanted to protest, on principal. He’d been doing more than the other parents scratching their holes and robbing out of the concessions. But he stopped when she seemed to be softening in her volition. She looked exhausted.

“Sorry about all that, Maeve. I really am. I’ll make it up at the next one. Promise,” Colly said.

“Just pay the money like the rest of the parents and yeh don’t have to volunteer. I’d rather yeh did that.”

She was pushing him out the side door. Evelyn and Niamh had gone ahead with Pat, out to the car. Pat was sitting on the bonnet, showing the girls something on his phone, their faces all lit up in the dark.

Colly stopped at the table where he and the girls had been collecting the money. “Will yeh do us a favor?” he said.

“No.”

“Ah please, Maeve. It’s for the girls. They look up to you and didn’t you only say the other week how important it was for youngones to be out playing sports, in your speech to the committee?”

“What?” She’d some frame on her. She could pick him up if she wanted to.

“That’s what you said. About youngones playing sports. That it was important to invest in them because for too long, the GAA—”

“What’s the favor I mean?”

“Will yeh tell the girls bye? They’ll love yeh for it.”

One of the volunteer mothers was running down the hall, roaring that some youngfella had climbed up the basketball hoop and got his arse stuck in the rim. Colly couldn’t believe it. Maeve’s face was pure panic.

“Go on, Maeve. They’ll be delighted. And I’ll pay my fifty euro and fuck off.”

“Promise?”

“Yeah. Yeah. An’ anyway, I hate this volunteering shite. Sorry.”

Maeve squinted over at the girls. They’d climbed on top of the car and were smacking their hurley’s against each other. “Bye, girls!”

Niamh nearly fell off the car, only Evelyn caught her. They flapped their hands back at Maeve.

“Bye, Maeve.” 

“See ya, Doyler.”

Pat joined in with the waving. “See yeh soon, Maeve, yeah?” 

“No.”

“Three chips and a battered sausage,” Colly told Ivan, the Romanian fella behind the counter at Macaries. Ivan supported Man City, but other than that he was sound enough and always gave the girls a can of Coke to share with their chips. Pat was in the toilet again.

Colly couldn’t go home yet. Nicole would be asking questions and the girls would grass him up. They wouldn’t mean to, but they would. Anyway, the girls would be delighted with the few chips and hearing what Maeve Doyle had to say about all the potential they had.

“Eleven euro,” Ivan said. Colly gave him the twenty out of his wallet and Ivan handed back the change and a can of Coke for the girls. Nicole could get the bus, she deserved to.

Colly stuffed the change in his pocket, in with the two lonely smokes rattling around in their box. The holes had gotten bigger over the course of the evening. The pockets were now on the outside of his jeans. His good black jeans. Like dog’s ears. Ivan had a tip jar with a Man City crest on it on top of the glass counter that displayed the menu. He’d told Colly weeks ago that he was saving up to go over to the Etihad for a match. He said he wanted to bring his new fella with him too as a surprise. His new fella was from Roscommon, Colly had only met him the once in the pub and he seemed sound enough. Colly would never have guessed it on his own.

On the day of the referendum, while he was picking up the dinner, Colly told Ivan that he’d voted YES and so had Nicole. He wanted Ivan to know where he stood. They liked supporting all the new shite coming into Ireland, the gay marriage, the immigrants coming in and making the Irish better looking, saying fuck off to the Catholic church. Colly remembered one journalist, the McWilliams fella, saying that Colly’s generation were the Pope’s Children. It’s good for the country to be changing, moving forward, as long as they didn’t lose the bouncy castles at the Communions, that’s sacred stuff. 

But Colly couldn’t support Ivan’s trip to the Etihad, that would be criminal. He liked leaving the odd tip for Ivan, even if it wasn’t much, he’d see Ivan outside the pub smoking. Ivan had bought him a pint once and Colly had never bought him one back, he still thought about that when he saw him sometimes. He dropped the two smokes into the jar instead of the change. Man City had just gotten banned from the Champion’s League that week and fined some mad amount of money. Surely tickets would be the bit cheaper now there was no European football on the club’s horizon.

“Salt an’ vinegar?” 

“Loads of it.”

Ivan handed Colly the bags of food. 

“Thanks, Ivan. Sound.”

“Cheers, boss.” Colly loved when Ivan called him boss in his big Romanian accent.

The girls passed the can of Coke between them, then to Pat, while they milled into their chips, coughing into the bag when the bang of vinegar hit their throats.

“Did I tell yous, girls? What Maeve said about yous?” 

“What?”

“Wha?”

“Yeah, wha?” Pat had his hand in the girls’ chips. Colly was saving the last bag for Nicole. She’d be out the front when they got home. He’d give her a kiss, a nice long one, bit of tongue if she was having it, just to taste the nicotine. That would be enough for him to get him through the night. Until the next morning and the craving was back in his bones.

“She said yous have real potential. In the camogie. Saw yous swinging at each other on top of the car. She knows talent when she sees it.”

The girls went on scoffing the chips, ignoring him. 

“What do yous think of that? Exciting, isn’t it?”

The two from the disco walked into the chipper, who’d been eating the face of each other. He was glad he let them at it now. Young love. 

“Well?” he said to the girls.

“The thing is, Da,” Evelyn started. She looked at Niamh, who was shaking her head at her sister. “We don’t like camogie anymore.” Niamh buried her head in the chips.

All the make-up had run down Evelyn’s face. She looked like a gone-off banana, all yellow and purple.

“Yous only started a few weeks ago. I just bought yous new hurleys and the helmets and all.”

“There’s too much running, Da,” Evelyn said. “Isn’t there, Niamh?”

“You never get the ball,” Niamh said. Colly could tell that this was Evelyn’s doing. She’d convinced Niamh to agree with her.

“I can’t believe this,” Colly said. “The money me and your ma spent. Yous aren’t quitting.”

“We can sell the gear at the book fair at school,” Evelyn said.

“Yeh can’t sell hurley helmets at the book fair. Yeh can only sell books.”

“Not true, Da,” Niamh said. “They sell maps of Ireland, pencils, 3D glasses, an’ DVDs.”

“Yous aren’t quitters. I won’t have it. Yous can’t just be hanging around the house in the evenings watching the telly and annoying me and your Ma.” He was raging inside. He’d spent over a hundred euro on helmets and hurleys and a few slíothárs for them. He’d had to save up. Colly took a big breath and relaxed his shoulders. He let all the tension out of his face. It was something he’d started doing, for his anger. Breathing. 

“See it out until the end of the season and if yous still don’t want to play then I won’t make yous.”

“What’s wrong with quitting?” Pat said.

“Don’t get involved, you,” Colly said.

“They’ll find something else to do, wont yous, girls?”

“We want to dance instead,” Evelyn said. Niamh was nodding her head again, in agreement this time.

“Dance classes? Like ballet?” That sounded expensive to Colly. 

“There you go. Yous are great little dancers,” Pat said.

“Not classes, Da. We’ll go into town and dance while the people are singing and put out our own guitar case to get our own money. Won’t we Niamh?”

“The guitar case has to be red on the inside!” Pat said. 

“Where will you get a guitar case from?” Colly said. 

“The book fair!”

“Yous will make more money if it’s red,” Pat said. He was emptying the dregs of the chip bag into his mouth.

Colly regretted throwing the smokes into Ivan’s jar now. He felt suddenly sorry for Man City (and Ivan), losing all that money and the Champion’s League ban. Poor Maeve back at the GAA club giving up her Friday night. The youngone from Nicole’s work, her face and them some plastered on phone screens everywhere.

He’d think more on it in bed later. He didn’t like the idea of them quitting anything. It was a bad habit to get into young. Colly’s parents had never let him quit anything, even after he came home from the boxing with a broken nose two days before his confirmation. His Da looked upon it as a badge of honor for the family, and his Ma waited until the swelling and the bruising went down a few weeks later to do the photographs.

Nicole was watching telly in the kitchen when they got home. She’d the backdoor open and was having a smoke. It was always cold in their kitchen, especially on the tiles. They’d no underfloor heating like some of the kitchens Colly installed. The breeze brushed in against his face. He glared at Nicole, sitting there with her legs tucked under her arse. He didn’t know how she could still be so flexible at her age, but she was. He felt the muscles in his jaw grab onto the bones. The girls were straight up on her. He gave her the chips. She tore open the bag on the table and started picking at them with her spare hand.

“How was it?” she said. No thanks from her. 

“It was grand,” Colly said. 

“They played Oasis.”

“Maeve Doyle kicked us out!” 

“She what?”

“Shut up, Evelyn!” Niamh said.

“Listen to your sister,” Colly said. “It was grand, it was good craic actually.” He was looking at Nicole now, trying to convince her. He took a handful of chips and told the girls to up and wash their faces before bed. Nicole had just lit the cigarette. There was loads left on it. She offered it out to Colly, then took it back, and hid it under the chair.

“I don’t want to tempt yeh, I’m sorry.” 

“I know, love. It’s grand.”

“Here.” She stubbed the smoke in the ashtray, then shook the tray over the sink and rinsed it out. The telly was playing one of the shows where people buy themselves a second house in Lanzarote. It showed a long, sweeping shot of the sea view from villa’s master bedroom.

“That’d be nice, wouldn’t it?” Colly said.

“One day,” Nicole said. She sounded so sure saying it. 

He went into the sitting room to watch something else. He waited for Nicole. He wanted her to come sit with him. He wanted to talk to her about the interview, about giving up the smokes. He promised himself he wouldn’t go mad at her. A while later, he saw the lights go off in the kitchen and the sitting room door pop open. He pretended to be asleep so Nicole would wake him up. She was so gentle rocking his chest with her hand.

“Will we go up? I’m knackered,” she said. 

“I’ll be up after you.” Colly turned off the telly—he hadn’t really been watching it. He folded the girls’ blanket and fixed the pillows on the sofa. One of the girls’ shoes was on the ground, he didn’t know whose it was, so he kicked it under the sofa where they could find it when they needed it.

Nicole was peeping into the girls’ room when he made it up the stairs. He stood behind her and put his hand around her, under her top. He made a little circle around her belly button without going into it. He didn’t want to tell Nicole about the girls quitting the camogie. He could convince them to keep it up. He’d find a way to do it. He didn’t care about the money, but he cared about the quitting, the giving up. Their little bodies bobbed on the beds. He felt Nicole’s breathing go a bit shallow. He swallowed the air in his mouth, he was preparing to say something. He didn’t know what yet, but Nicole stopped him by putting her hand over his mouth. He let his lips fall open and stay on her palm. It was enough. He was glad she hadn’t let him say anything to ruin the moment, watching the girls sleep, his breath warming against her skin. ■

Originally from Country Kildare in Ireland, Gavin Colton lives and works in Lexington, Kentucky. He holds an MFA from The University of Kentucky. His words have appeared in Hippocampus, The Wax Paper, La Picoletta Barca, Loch Norse Magazine, MHK Magazine, The Manifest-Station, and The Kentucky Kernel.

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