Mr. Jones: part II
Of course that wasn’t the first time he was arrested, oh God no, he has been arrested several times. And always got away with it. Connections, you see, since his rugby days. If right was right he should have gotten jail a few times. But he didn’t. There’s no justice, is there? It all depends on who you know. One time he was arrested for striking a publican up the town. He broke his jaw because the man refused to serve him. He was drunk, very drunk. I think it was after a funeral or something. He loves funerals. Sometimes I think he only gets up out of bed to go to funerals. The first thing he does in the morning is to read the death notices in the newspapers. That isn’t normal, is it? So he broke that poor man’s jaw and was arrested in another pub down the street. He was singing a song apparently when the Guards came in for him and he wouldn’t leave until the song was finished. They brought him to court and the judge just bound him to the peace for two years. Terrible wasn’t it? After breaking a poor man’s jaw. He said he didn’t mean it, that it was a friendly tap. Friendly tap! I heard the court room was in stitches laughing. He should have got jail, but you see he had the connections.
And when I think of all the times he was pulled for drunken driving. And got away scot free mostly. Except for the time he was caught in the North somewhere. Ballymeana I think. He was up at a rugby match and of course was drinking his way home. The police stopped him and he became very abusive apparently, told them he’d get the IRA after them. Can you imagine? Nobody in their right mind would say a thing like that. Sure they wouldn’t? But he did. So they arrested him, and rightly so. He was locked up for days. The Guards came here to the door at three in the morning to tell me. I thought he was dead when I heard the knock. They let him out on bail, I can’t remember what it was but it was a lot of money at the time, several thousand pounds anyway. And then he had to go to court up there which was a different kettle of fish than going before one of his cronies down here. Oh it was in the papers and all. The judge called him a disrespectful thug who shoudn’t drink. He gave him a big lecture and a huge fine and would have put him in jail were it not for pressure from the Taoiseach. He knew the Taoiseach from the rugby, you see, and the Ard Fheises. Connections again. But of course he hated the publicity the case brought him. It was even on the radio about him. I said nothing to him. What was the point? I’d said it all already and he never listened to me anyway.
“Shut up woman! Shut up woman!” is all he ever said to me.
And when he’s drinking he gets into all sorts of silly business. You’ve seen him drinking? Haven’t you? He does stupid things and gets into terrible messes. Like that time himself and that…oh what’s his name…the fella from Mayo…I can’t think of him now…but anyway, they stole sheep one night over in Offaly. Total madness. They were after bringing over two horses to some trainer there and of course there was drink involved. So they stole sheep from a farm near Birr and brought them home in the lorry. Worse, the fools put them into our fields. He was in court for that too but got away with it. And when you’d see him in the morning after he gets up, and he dressed like Prince Phillip, you’d swear he was a proper gentleman, wouldn’t you. He dresses well, I have to say that for him. That’s the best I can say about him.
He goes to Cheltenham every year, you know. For the races. Once he was away for nearly three weeks. He had a big win, that’s what he told me on the phone. I could hear a party going on in his room, women laughing and somebody singing. I hung up on him. The next day I closed the butcher shop, why should I slave and he having a good time? And I always wanted to have a shoe shop so I got Tommy Hynes the builder to come in and change everything, take out the big cold room and the display cases and all that kind of thing. My brother has a fine shoe shop in Kilkenny and he supplied me with stock to get it started. I should have done it years before, but you don’t think of the obvious sometimes, sure you don’t?
When he came back from Cheltenham he was so drunk that he didn’t even notice the change in the place. It was a week or more before he realised it. One morning he went out to the shop in his striped butchers apron and stood behind the counter. Big man trying to make an impression, you know? He’d do that sometimes, pretend to me he was turning over a new leaf, especially if he’d overdone something. Atoning for his sins. Lot of sighing, like his mother. And standing at the door, smoking and chit-chatting. But he was too sick to go to the door this morning and he just stood behind the counter. I was watching him from the kitchen. He looked around the shop, and all he saw were shoes. I could see the confused look on his face. He must have thought he was hallucinating because he screamed and ran upstair to bed with his hands over his head. We never spoke about it. I don’t give him any money from the shop. Why should I? His father left him a fortune. He’ll never drink it. Maybe that’s the problem. What do you think?
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title inspired by Bob Dylan’s Ballad of a Thin Man
Books by Eddie Stack