The cages have gone back round the doors. As if the mad dog was inside, not out.
A crow lifts off from the wire and calls to its mate, wheeling across clouds the colour of ash.
X-ray vision. Was there a crow watching there, that day Iain got the feel of a British sniper’s bullet in his back, d’you think?
The army man says he knew nothing about it. I believe him.
Pigeons asleep in the eaves, a Romany pony on a scrap of bare ground. Butt ends, chip papers, and the stench of old wagon oil.
I unhook the steel gate and go in. Coloured glass and polished pumps from the old days.
This is what wars are for. You fight wars to come home and drink beer.
“A pint of heavy and a whiskey chaser, if you please!”
They say the English only drink Scotch nowadays. They don’t know what they’re missing.
“You’ll be having some scratchings with that?” asks the maid. “I will not – haven’t you proper food?”
She doesn’t answer, so I find a seat. Unseen in my mahogany booth, I light a fag and blow smoke circles into the air.
Another woman pokes her face round the corner. “Lucky heather – it’ll make you lucky!” When she sees me, she blushes and hides.
“No luck wi’ me…” I call after her. Like she doesn’t know.
There’s a whisper in the bar now, the sort there used to be when the bobbies were in.
Twenty-eight years of struggle, and all you do is make enemies of your friends. They don’t know what to say, none of them do.
There’s talk of peace now. Peace! When you’re inside looking out there’s peace all right.
But what of the dead? The waste? The anger? Where’s all that to go before we have “peace”?
It’s a bloody black market, this trade in peace. Like you can buy it from a jar in the sweet shop. Licorice flavour means the Brits are winning…
I’m thirsty. The glass is too small. I dig in my pocket for some change and wave a hand at the bar.
She comes and goes, and I drench my beard with it. “Nice to see you, Charlie.”
There’s a TV in the air above her head, blaring out news from RTE: 17 provos let loose for Christmas.
I think I hear my name; it makes me shift and stand.
I pull my hat well down and push past the stool pigeons. Don’t want to be a hero, not now, not ever.
My prison shoes squeak as I head for the door.
I’m out. Fresh air. There’s a boy on the corner shouting: “Papist bastard!”
I hear a shot – my executioner.
It’s been a hard life.