Mr. Jones: part 1
(This is fiction + I’ve split it into 2 parts for ease of reading online. I’ll post the 2nd. part later)
He’ll never stop drinking now. Do you think he will? I don’t, he’s too old to stop, he’s 72. I’m 69. I probably should have left him years ago, when I was younger. But women didn’t do that then, now they’re gone at the drop of a hat. It’s true for me. You read about them every day in the papers. Would you like a cigarette? You don’t smoke? Sorry. I like the odd one myself. He smokes all the time, smoking and drinking.
Of course he tried to give it up…the drinking, not the fags. He was away, you know. St. John of Gods. And St. Pats too. And of course the local place as well. He was there several times. Other institutions too, but they couldn’t cure him. He didn’t want to be cured, you see. My brother brought him to a special hospital in England once, very posh place. All the hobnobs went there, famous people too, but he only stayed three days. He went out a window. They called here in a panic and told me. There was nothing I could do. Eventually the police found him drinking with winos in Nottingham.
He’s a disgrace. I shouldn’t have married him but I knew no better then. My father thought he was a great match for me. It was my father who introduced us, you know. At the Listowel Races. I’ll never forget it. You see, my father knew him from the rugby. He was a very good rugby player when he was young and they expected great things of him. Thought he’d play for Ireland. Of course he didn’t. Couldn’t even make the Connaught team. The drink.
After we married he said we’d build a house outside the town. I was looking forward to that. We were going to have a family then. But none of that ever happened. We were living here with his mother, you see. She adored him and she didn’t like me. She was always sighing around me. Terrible. She was a right old battle-axe. He couldn’t stand her either. And of course that was a great excuse to be away drinking. Instead of building our own house up in the land. You know? I was looking after the business and looking after her. It wasn’t easy, for God sake, who ever saw a woman butcher? I was a nurse one minute and the next I was selling sausages.
But I had to do it. He wasn’t here. That time he had a contract to supply meat to the girls’ boarding school, St Ita’s up the road. Many’s the time the nuns had to come down here and ask where was their meat. He’d have forgotten to deliver it. Might not even have prepared their order. I used be mortified. I used go to all the pubs around town looking for him. If I found him, he often wouldn’t leave and even told me to eff off a few times. Terrible. I should have left him then. But instead I tried to keep the show on the road. The nuns went elsewhere for their meat for a finish. You couldn’t blame them. Can you imagine, two hundred students waiting for their dinner and the butcher refusing to give them meat? It was terrible.
Of course it got worse when his mother died. An excuse, that’s all it was. He didn’t love her. I knew that, he told me often. He never loved anybody, but the drink, and the fags. And he was a fine looking fellow, you know. Rugged and handsome. A lot of rugby players are, aren’t they? And he was very strong, only for that, the drink would have killed him. I don’t know how he isn’t dead. You know he has a plate in his skull? A steel plate. The result of a car crash. He went over the wall one night coming home from Galway and the car tumbled into a quarry. They found him in the morning. He was brought to Dublin. He was anointed that time. They thought he was going to die, but he surprised them. I thought that would stop the drinking but it didn’t. He was back on it a few months afterwards. He’s incurable.
Another time he drove into a lorry in broad daylight up the street. The fire brigade had to cut him out and he broke a leg and an arm. But he still didn’t learn. I don’t know why because he’s an intelligent man, isn’t he? Do you think so? I do. And he had a great education, Rockwell College. He was a few years at university studying medicine, but he didn’t mind the books and spent his time playing rugby. That’s how my father new him, the rugby. My father was chairman of St. Finbar’s rugby club. My father could see no wrong in him, but my mother could, and was wary of him. She was right. I didn’t see it her way, you don’t when you’re young, sure you don’t?
He’ll outlive me. I know that. He’s strong. One night he came back and I was in bed. I didn’t hear him coming in. He went to the bathroom and fell into the bath, on his back. And I had clothes steeping in the bath in bleach. And he fell asleep with water up to his ears. Never woke up until I found him in the morning. I screamed when I saw him. I though he was dead. You would, wouldn’t you, when you’d see someone like that lying in the bath of water like a corpse. He effed me out of it. That’s what he did. And the bleach had whitened the hair at the back of his head. But out of spite, I didn’t tell him. And he was going around like a fool for days…like a Frisian bull, black and white. It was good enough for him.
He’s proud, you know. That’s the breeding. The father’s side. Big shots in a small town. Often he’d look at the name over the shop and walk around the front of the place like it was a castle. That was when he did a bit of butchering. But I think he felt it was beneath him somehow and he spent less and less time here. Always had other things to do, and there was always drinking to be done. You know, racing and rugby and the Spring Show in Dublin. And of course the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis, that was a big one. Lots of big talk and loads of brandy, slipping and slobbering in hotels until daylight. Fairs, he couldn’t miss any sort of a fair either, Spancil Hill, Ballinasloe, the Puck Fair, horse fairs, antique fairs. Anything. All dressed up like a lord. He was always gone. Wherever there was a racket, he was there.
For a finish he didn’t butcher any meat. Didn’t cut anything, just ordered it in from some place in Galway. It came in brown cardboard boxes, you know — chickens and sausages, chops, puddings, bacon and that sort of thing. He’d just put it out on trays and leave me to sell it. Of course I was more of the fool to do it. You can be a fool in marriage, can’t you? It took me years to find that out. Are you married? No? And have you a girlfriend. You do? That’s good. I’d say you’re good to her, you’ve that look about you.
Part 2 of this story will be posted later
Books by Eddie Stack