What was I supposed to do? It could’ve been a whole lot worse, if I hadn’t been there while Molly was playing in the sitting room on her own and had no idea what was going on. . . Imagine that. Amy was at work. Imagine if I’d been in the bathroom or was on the phone in the kitchen or something. Imagine. Fuck that, not in my house. If this was America, I would’ve blown his brains out, cause I’d have a gun, wouldn’t I?
I would’ve killed him.
I was on the laptop looking up jobs, because I’d been let go because there was no work, because of how things are, because the government is blah blah blah. Doesn’t seem to make a difference when I complain or when I get out and join a march, so I won’t bother complaining now.
So I was on the laptop, searching for security jobs, cause that’s what I usually do—security. I worked for a cafe chain for a few years and I do some nightclubs every now and then, but that’s always messy so I try to avoid it as much as possible unless I’m really stuck—don’t want to end up getting glassed by some scumbag just because he’s had more than he can handle. I was hoping to find something in a shopping centre. Shopping centres mostly attract decent folk—people who’ve worked hard all week and want to buy something nice for themselves, or who want to have a nice day out with the family, or go to the cinema. Not like some of those knackers you get in nightclubs or junkies leaving syringes in cafe bathrooms. Shopping centres seem to have a good balance. If I need to nab some little fucker for trying to rob a jumper, fine. No booze, no drugs, for the most part. Good balance. Depends on the shopping centre, of course.
As I was browsing the net and Molly was playing on the tablet, he walked in. Now, I didn’t know his first name, only his surname: Blake. The Blakes lived in number seventeen and I’d never really talked to them. They were quiet, like. They weren’t ones to stop and have a chat. Me ma said people don’t chat like they used to, but I’d always say, ‘when people are talking shite sure why would you want to stop and chat?’ Anyway, he walked into my house, my house—just waltzed in. No knock, no greeting, just walked in and stood there; his hair all over the place, his hands raised like he was about to attack, y’know—looking like he was ready to choke someone. Molly. So I jumped up—it was all instinct—the laptop fell to the floor, smashed (another few hundred quid I don’t have) and I charged at him. If someone was in the cafe threatening a customer, I’d jump on them, if I had to. So that’s what I did instinctively. Molly was there playing. Imagine what could’ve happened to her.
I knocked him onto the settee, sat on top of him and held him by the wrists. He was much stronger than I’d expected for an aulfella.
“What the fuck are ye doing?” I said.
“Get off me,” he said, his words slurring a bit, like he’d been drinking. Fucking drunks—have dealt with enough of them at two in the morning in town.
He wriggled and pushed against me, hit his head against me chest, which actually hurt. So I did what I’d do if I was working; I used force to restrain him. I pushed my forearm onto his face after trapping one of his arms under my knee.
“Relax” I shouted. Molly started crying. She didn’t know what was going on. Sure she’s only two, but she knew something was wrong. I looked at her as she held the tablet and looked at me wrestling with this intruder and her eyes were teary and wide.
Mr. Blake managed to free his arm and he thumped me hard on the temple a couple of times. I responded with a head-butt—it seemed like the best option, and a cut formed on his forehead. He squirmed a little and then said, “I’ll fight you, I will,” as his breathing got faster.
It was a struggle to keep him on the settee, and with the front door wide open some of the neighbours might have heard the scuffle.
“What are ye doing?” I said to him, me voice raised like a girls; the lads would rip it out of me.
He didn’t respond. He seemed to relax. The gash on his head was about an inch wide. Blood didn’t seep from it; it was like his forehead was a canvas that a painter had flicked his brush against.
I was about to get off of him when Mrs. Blake walked in. She saw me mounted on her husband whose head was offering a crack of red. She put her hand over her mouth.
“Oh, Jesus. Liam!”
She rushed into the room.
“Get off him!” She shouted.
“Me? He walked into me house!”
She slapped me on the back a few times.
“Get off him!” she wailed. “Off!”
Molly was still crying. I stood up, and Mrs. Blake picked up her husband, Liam. She took his head in her hands and examined the damage I’d inflicted.
I picked up Molly and made sure she was okay.
Mrs. Blake placed a cup of tea in front of me on her kitchen table. The house was nice. Really nice, like. Compared to our gaff. In fairness, though, they had a good few years on me and Amy. They’d had time to invest in the property, even if they couldn’t invest in the area. Me ma had told me about how it was when her and me da had moved in. The houses went for twenty grand. Twenty grand! Imagine that. A gaff for twenty grand! Even if the place is a bit of a shithole… But me ma said it wasn’t always rough. She said when they first moved in it was quiet enough. Most of the families were young. She said there were trees lining the road. Nowadays if you tried to plant a tree outside your house it’d be torn down by the next morning.
I’ve never understood why dogs piss on their own kennel.
So Mrs. Blake gave me a cuppa. Amy had gotten home and after telling her what happened I told her I needed to figure out what it was all about. We talked about whether or not we should get the guards involved. What kind of lunatic walks into someone’s house, just like that? What would he have done to Molly if I was on the shitter? Was he a peado? Need to have all of them lined up against a wall and shot.
I looked out their back garden as I picked up the tea. It was nice. She kept it well, like me ma had kept our garden when I was a nipper. If you couldn’t live in paradise, you could make your home come as close as possible, she’d said. I looked at me tea; Mrs. Blake had made it all wrong. Much too weak, too much milk. It just looked like hot milk.
“I’m sorry about Liam,” she said.
“Well, so am I. Like, I’m not sorry for using force, because he just walked into me house, y’know? But I’m sorry I busted him open. But I’d do it again.”
“Amy—me wife—she said we should call the guards.”
She sighed and sat at the table. She wrapped her hands around the steaming cup. I looked at the walls and saw photos of grandkids, and sons, and Liam and Mary—Mary her name was—Liam hugging her from behind, both all smiles.
She looked miserable now. Fucking life, I thought. What a wanker.
“You have to understand. Liam’s not well.”
“Course he’s not, he just walked into me house where me two-year-old was playing. Imagine if I wasn’t in the sitting room.”
“I know. I’m sorry. But he wouldn’t have done anything to her.”
“So he’s not. . .”
She looked at me, confused.
“He’s not what?”
“He’s not into kiddies,” I said.
She rolled her eyes, shook her head.
“Liam’s suffering from psychotic episodes, Barry. He’s been in and out of the hospital. They’re running tests.”
“Oh,” I said. I pretended to take a sip of my tea so I wouldn’t appear to be rude.
Then I looked up at Mrs. Blake—Mary—and I could see that she was trying not to cry.
“You work with what you’re given, don’t you?” she said, which had me lost at first. “You’re dealt a hand, and then you try to make the best of that hand. You try to swap cards, maybe one, maybe three. You look for the best, because you want to make the best of your situation.”
It got a little bit awkward then, because she was definitely crying. She wasn’t sobbing or anything, but tears were greeting her cheeks. I’m no poet, but I read someone describing a person crying before. It was something like, A trickle of life escaped her. It was pieces of her soul that she was losing. With every tear that was shed, a piece of her life was lost. Something like that. I think I know what the author meant.
Anyway. . .
“I’ve just tried to have a few nice things in my life,” Mary Blake said. Her face, which didn’t look old—she didn’t have many wrinkles—was flushed and wet. Me ma looked much older when she died and I think Mrs. Blake was around the same age. “I tried to have a few nice, little things, something to look forward to every now and then. And now, even that’s been taken away from me.”
I looked into my cup of tea. I didn’t know the woman, so I didn’t feel comfortable at all.
“Sorry,” I said, because I didn’t know what else to say. After a minute I added, “He’ll get better, I’m sure. He’ll be grand.”
She scoffed then, I think. She didn’t mean to be rude, and she smiled, as if there’d been some big joke played on her.
“How old did you say your daughter is?” she asked me.
“Two,” I smiled.
“I remember my boys at that age. They’re always great at that age,” she said.
The kitchen door opened and Liam Blake walked in, a plaster on his forehead.
“Heya,” he said innocently. He shuffled across the kitchen and passed me by and opened the door of the fridge. He didn’t say anything; didn’t acknowledge that I was in his home after he’d sauntered into mine a few hours earlier. He took a chocolate bar from the fridge and stuffed it into his mouth, chewing as he left the kitchen, and pulled the door so that it closed behind him.
Mary raised her eyebrows and smiled.
“He’s not getting better,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” I said, and I felt like a bit of a retard, because that’s all I could manage.
But I was sorry.
That night I was sitting up in bed with Amy. Her hair was doing my head in; it was everywhere: on the carpet, in the sink in the jacks, on the bed. She was shedding like a dog. But I ignored that.
“I would’ve killed him,” I said as Amy looked at Facebook. The room was dark apart from the glow of her phone.
“No, you wouldn’t have,” she said, half listening.
“Amy, if we were in America, I’d have a gun, and I would’ve blown his brains out. Seriously, I thought he was going to hurt Molly.”
She put the phone down, face up so the glow illuminated the ceiling. She placed a hand on my arm.
“We’re not in America.”
“I know, but I didn’t know anything about him. I just attacked him straight away.”
“What else were you supposed to do?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“There’s nutcases out there. You were right.”
“But imagine,” I said.
“If I’d had a gun. I’d have shot him dead.”
“But you don’t have a gun,” she said.
She looked at me, dead serious, as if annoyed with me.
“There’s no point in imagining.”
She kissed me on the cheek and turned away from me. She set the alarm on her phone and the glow disappeared. I sat in the darkness. I needed to find some nice things for us to do. I needed money so we could go on some nice trips, see some nice places.
I needed to find a job so I could get these things.
I needed to do nice things.