As Time Goes By - June 1982
I Paid off the taxi, didn't wait for change, and gave the hinges on the pub door some rough exercise. Inside, it wasn't difficult to spot Fingers Kav~ anagh. He was the one in the corner with the five rugby types ranged arround him in a horseshoe formation and they weren't wishing him good luck. Lazy Pete Maguire was off to one side making placatory noises.
Fingers was calmly arranging three lOp pieces between the digits of his right fist, testing the improvised knuckle duster by punching his left palm and murmuring, "Okay, suckers - you want trouble, you got trouble."
The pub owner was coming out from behind the bar, hefting a sawnnoff pool cue. Just what the rugby types needed - reinforcements. Finngers glowered at the owner like he was a stain on the carpet and snarled, "You I'll remember, sunshine. Next time, I' come on ice skates to tapdance on your nice mahogany counter."
Lazy Pete was still hopping around on his toes, doing his Perez de Cuellar bit. It was his breathless phone call that had caught me just as I was knockking off late from the office. Out to Mount Merrion, pronto, said Pete, looks like we've got trouble.
The rest of the customers in the rather twee Mount Merrion pub, about two dozen of them, were standding up to get a good view of the action. One of their number was scribbling bets on a beermat, giving odds on the number of Fingers' limbs that would be non-functional when the dust setttled.
At times like this I seriously quesstion the view of life espoused by John Denver.
More than once I've warned Pete about the dangers of going too far south of the river. There are some nice people over there. So I'm told. But there's also lots of the kind of people who think that having two cars in the garage gives them the right to double-park on your life.
Pete and Fingers found out the hard way. Fingers was doing a favour for Quids Whelan, a more than slightly bent owner of a contract cleaning busiiness who needed some violin work done on his books. Fingers has been on the up and up for some years but owed a favour to Quids, and Pete went along for the ride. After delivering the paperwork to the gate lodge at Whelan's Mount Merrion manor, Pete and Fingers retired to the nearest pub. Which is where the rugby types came in.
Their leader, hereinafter referred to as Mouth Almighty, promptly invited all present to toast to Fine Gael's victory in the Dublin West by-election. Pete and Fingers put their drinks down.
It's not that Pete and Fingers had any sympathy for Charlie when he tried to pee on Fine Gael and found the wind blowing in the wrong direcction. Those are the breaks. In fact, it was highly upsetting to see the symppathy strings being pulled for Eileen Lemass - she'll be on the dole, and all that crack. (For a while it seemed like Charlie had stumbled on a solution to unemployment - but 150,166 TDs would be stretching it, even for Charrlie.)
Anyway, Mouth Almighty took exxception to this derogation from the general expressions of celebration. Pete could have pointed out that as founding members of the Spontaneous Aggravation Party he and Fingers were the ones with the celebrating to do. After two weeks of peppering Dublin West with posters (Don't vote, it only encourages them! Whoever you vote for the politicians win! If voting could
change the system they'd make it illegal!) we had got a result. Voting was down 6.1 % on the general election and a massive 38.3% joined us in giving two fingers to the hucksters. Over 5000 more people supported us than supported the Fine Gaeler. And he won. This is democracy.
But Pete kept the head. It was happening on their turf. Let it be. It was then he took the precaution of phoning me.
But Mouth Almighty got more obbstreperous with every drink. The crunch came when he proposed a toast to their local TD, John Kelly, who had left the Fine Gael front bench to have the freedom to lecture the piglets of the nation on the difference between right and wrong.
Before Pete could intervene, Finngers was on his feet and shouting, "Crap! Even the dogs in the street know that Kelly's taking the time off to write another pornographic novel." This reference to Professor Kelly's pseudonymous dirty book was not the most diplomatic response possible in the circumstances.
Pete said later that at that point he took a pin out of his lapel and dropped it and he distinctly heard it bounce on the carpet.
Straighten your shoulders, suck in your gut and put a touch of Lee Marvin in your stride. Arrange your face so that you look like you made a resolu tion just yesterday to stop thummping people and already you're regrettting it. It's not too difficult to look like a cop.
I walked the length of the bar toowards the group in the corner. Took out my wallet and flicked it open and shut, giving the Fine Gaelers just a glimpse of the gold detective shield from the Kojack set I bought in Hecctor Grey's last summer. (I gave the plastic handcuffs and the cap gun and the lollipop to a kid down the street, but the shield - if properly flashed àcan get you after hours drink in just about any pub in town.)
Curl your tongue, keep your lower jaw rigid and anything you say comes out pure Corofin. "Okee, lyads, hwhat's goan awn heer?"
Mouth Almighty began to splutter about this bowsie insulting the finest TD since Paddy Donegan, so I told him to shut up or he'd get his head handed to him.
"Do you want to take our names and. addresses, Garda?", asked Finngers. I knew what he was up to. Finngers has a Stray Bullet List. Come the revolution there'll be a lot of stray bullets flying around and Fingers reckons some of them should have homes to go to.
But there wasn't much I could do except take out the notebook and pen and start taking names. That's what cops do. I got to number three when the ink ran out. So I did what comes naturally and when Lspoke it was pure north of the Liffey , without a trace of Corofin. "Pete, gimme a lend of yer biro, willya?"
We made it as far as-the door. After that things got a bit technicolour for a while. Politics is a tough game. •