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BILLY ROCHE. Praise for the writings
BILLY ROCHE’S first novel, Tumbling Down, was
published by Wolfhound Press in 1986. His first stage play, of Billy Roche:
A Handful Of Stars, was staged at The Bush Theatre in 1988.
The Diary Of Maynard Perdu is a richly, layered, dark tale that
This was followed by Poor Beast In the Rain in 1990. Belfry
enthrals from the first beautiful sentence to the final poignant
completed this powerful trilogy at the Bush Theatre. All
paragraph – a moody, spellbinding triumph...
three plays, directed by Robin LeFevre, became known as the
 Eoin Colfer.
Wexford Trilogy and were performed in their entirety at The
Bush, the Peacock and the Theatre Royal, Wexford. Later the ...The subtlest, deftest talent on either side of the Irish Sea...
Wexford Trilogy was filmed for the B.B.C. directed by the  Benedict Nightingale (London Times)
late and great Stuart Burge.
Roche’s writing allows us to see… fleetingly, our fate in the
His fourth play Amphibians was commissioned by the R.S.C. world... Colm Tobin.
and performed at the Barbican. This was followed by The
Cavalcaders at The Peacock and Royal Court, London. He Roche is a peerless chronicler of ordinary lives and hopeless
wrote the screenplay for Trojan Eddie, which was directed aspirations... John Boland (Irish Independent.)
by Gillies MacKinnon and starred Stephen Rea and Richard
The Diary Of Maynard Perdu has all the mythic qualities that
Harris. Trojan Eddie won the Best Film Award at The San
make it truly Rochean – the gothic carnival, the energy of
Sebastian Film Festival in 1996. His sixth play On Such As
illusion/delusion and at its heart a profound compassion and
We was performed at the Peacock in 2001, directed by Wilson
sense of loss... Conor McPherson.
Milam and starring Brendan Gleeson.
Tales From Rainwater Pond, his collection of short stories
was published by Pillar Press in 2006. Lay Me Down Softly,
his 7th play, was originally performed at the Peacock Theatre
in 2008, directed by Wilson Milam. Billy has been Writer-
In-Residence at the Bush and Writer-In-Association at Druid
and the Abbey Theatre. The Eclipse, a film that was co-
written with Conor McPherson won IFTA awards for Best
Screenplay and Best Film, directed by Conor McPherson. The
film is inspired by Billy’s short story Table Manners (from the Author’s Note:
Tales From Rainwater Pond collection). The revised version of Thanks to Barry Ennis and Brian Byrne for publishing this
Tumbling Down was published in 2008 by Tassel Publications book and special thanks to Nick Murphy who christened
– a beautiful hard back edition with illustrations by Fionnuala Maynard.
Billy Roche is a member of Aosdana.

First published by Lantern in 2013 (www.lantern.ie)
This Second Edition was published in 2014
Copyright © Billy Roche 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or
utilised in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying, filming, recording, video or by
any information storage and retrieval system without prior
permission in writing from the publisher.
The Diary of Maynard Perdu is fiction. All characters,
incidents and names have no connection with any persons To my wife, Patti.
living or dead. Any apparent resemblance is purely
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A CIP record for this book is available from the British
Design & Typesetting: Blue Ark Design Ltd.
Illustrations by Fionnuala McMullin
Printed by C&R Print, Enniscorthy (www.crprint.ie)

The din from the street below hurts my wine-drenched eyes as I fret about my true love. coat. My clothes are elsewhere. belt and breeches. It seems the only things I held on to last night were my hat and my heart. lying on a seedy mattress on the floor. slung on the bannisters. 16th Oct. How I got here or why is beyond me but here I am – still wearing my top hat. I rise up and tiptoe slipshod to 1 . THE DIARY OF MAYNARD PERDU by Billy Roche. draped on a chair. I awake in a ramshackle tavern in Amsterdam. strewn on various steps of stairs: shoes and socks. hanging from the door. shirt.

the bawdy acrobats. like the inflatable boy in the story who for. I stand on the gangplank big top closer to terra firma. We river to the main port where a vessel called The Harvester will will all miss her on board as she helps to turn our stomachs ferry us to a place that Ptolemy the mapmaker identified as in the mornings. this Portsmouth where we all clamber ashore like seasick pilgrims morning she pouts like a paramour – my precious Spiegeltent! to hold up for the night in The Bluebeard Inn. all stored like treasure in trunks. cymbals. The word is not good and we are forced to leave curtains and delicate chandeliers and gold-gilded mirrors and him behind like a wounded Philoctetes. all are present and accounted deflates in on itself. Tomorrow I will do my best to inveigle him into show business. He climbs the rigging now like a monkey on a – The Ford Of The Mud-Flats! string. she answers to the name of Wexford sea legs. I cannot help but fear for tumble late last night and broke his leg in a drunken fall. Meanwhile. assures me that there is no need to worry. my beloved. A few hours later we pull into a tiny cove in Cornwall to Ropes too. the flame-throwing jugglers. I can see the quaint harbour with its thought I heard someone praying to the souls of the frosty rooftops squinting in the sun and its church Faithful Departed.’ I say. I detect the makings of a brass band in the vicinity. I am told. Last night she glistened like a jewel. I die a little death as the canopy and call the roll. ‘and never the less Sadie. a tall thin stern man who reeks of rum and committee waiting on the waterfront and. The cabin boy – in a fit of despair – had steeples steadily rising towards a heavenly blue to be bound and gagged in case he would throw himself sky. hand-stitched costumes. Rumour has it she was wooed by A noodle-na for catching winkles! Take it anyhow. but see it.the mansard window and I see her down there in the Market other side darkly frowns. The sailors look worn out with fear and dread. whatever it a salty Cornish fisherman who fed her Ambrosia Creamed is. although I cannot stale nicotine. ‘That goes here and this goes there. There is a welcoming The Captain. They are all down there now – 18th Oct. 17th Oct.’ Within the hour we are on board a barge that takes us up Rice until he won her heart and turned her tattooed head. Here we drink I can still hear the strains of last night’s revelry: the clash of and sing and arm wrestle until dawn. He has to shout over the roar of the Square and yes. and decorated canvas and other unspoken secrets replenish our supplies and although no one is allowed ashore of the trade. the hissing snake lady. There is a small. What is it anyway? the order and jump ship. the sword swallowing clowns. the cabin boy has found his Menapia: now. I the hump-backed Camel Man and the One Eyed Wonder and the powerful Mandini Brothers. my heart begins to flutter with a pang of surge to be heard. and I hastily dress and wander down wept like a new born baby as he was carted off to the nearest amongst them to oversee the stowing-away: heavy velvet bone setter. except for one of our roustabouts who took a well-earned has deliberately let himself down. stony island on our portside where a few overboard. manages to breach that never belonged to us in the first place. I worry anyway – one side of his face is grinning while the 2 3 . We eventually take refuge in the harbour of guilt-ridden pleasure. only this morning they n the morning all is calm again and we board the vessel are in different mode as they pull and yank and lower the with a renewed sense of hope. I t has been a perilous voyage. We have rocked and rolled 19th Oct. He her now. Thankfully. rough and ready fishermen hold sway. W and rose and plunged so hard that more than once I e have arrived.

silver chains – is talking through a megaphone as we near the faintly-heard siren’s song. They will deny that I have seen all there is to see in the world. the stained glassed accordion playing on the banks of the Seine. and this is her mysterious smile. and slink like a thief into the backstage shadows. high above the gold- once said or done. I shutting in laughter. I peep slyly through a gap in the torn velvet curtain as I try to ascertain I hear murmurs below. They fake every bad omen as it is not considered the luckiest of melodies for conceivable emotion as in their soul’s secret recesses each those in our trade. that’s right. so that I begin to assemble top hat still lies where it fell and my black-handled cane rests her piece by piece. And And in a twinkle she is gone again. not to mention their hopeless. They sigh. The mayor – a bald roly-poly man with and every last one of them silently vows to follow the far-off. and the whispered. They have come here tonight to embrace the darkness. although I can recall little or adored Isobel. the louche. cost whoever is in charge an extra fifty their incessant optimism and their feigned enthusiasm for silver pieces. there is her face. her 4 5 . unlived lives. and night’s debauchery in the air. I finally complete the coat hang like a drunken scarecrow on the hooks that support bare bones of the collage and lo and behold she is – albeit my dangling hammock. lost in life’s nimble the poetry of course. shore. and it must be loudly proclaimed here and now and festooned with fairy lights and swaying to the carnival sound for once and for all. lost. that I have travelled though centuries of I am already picturing how my beloved will tempt and time. they dream. Her nose too makes an appearance. Somewhere else I discern her tantalising mouth. Now her furrowed show is due to commence and I must make ready. velvet drapes. He is welcoming us to the town and he is saying that we have come all the way from Rotterdam. they moan. I dress hastily and descend the ropey ladder a love poem – in Portuguese. insincere words of love. and my sequined waistcoat and long flowing frock yield to any sense of logic or order. I can see her now. a seedy alleyway in Naples.’ I mutter to anyone who cares to themselves in the mystery. There is the distinct whiff of last chaotically – revealed to me: my fair. This is a dome. unfaithful. And then I see her. now her dimpled chin. like a complicated jigsaw that refuses to beside it. that I have lived a myriad of lives and they will silently caress this place. The doors are open and I sense the where she is sitting. the mirrored some unnamed foreign city. to lose ‘And it’s not even Tuesday. the sky-speckled us: I DREAMT I DWELT IN MARBLE HALLS. nothing save for the wine and the wench (Maisy or Daisy or some such). the cock crows thrice. shadowy corners. reflected and refracted in the silver shards ‘Roll up Roll up. Yes. ‘Roll up and weep. Here are her eyes. a mistake that But alas. They gaze beach beneath a saffron sun. opening and 20th Oct. I recited sleight-of-hand. an walls. before listen. that I WILL NOT BE JUDGED! of the churning calliope. to my delight.They are serenading the small crowd that has gathered to greet tapestries. only to renounce it. mocking me for some innocent thing I am crouched in my lofty crow’s nest. and me. her hair.’ of glass that glisten like a shiny mosaic all around me.’ I hear myself say. judge me. I lose myself in memories: a golden muttering horde stumbling wide-eyed into my lair. The afternoon then one of her tiny ears comes into view. weaving her magic spell. misadventure. I am tired and bored by will. and tinted salon of my much-loved Spiegeltent. I am weary of them all. My forehead. the brocaded. a cathedral bell clanging in in awe at its beauty: the crystal chandeliers. I almost forgot.

I retreat into the wings where I find The Mandini Brothers still awaiting the proverbial go-ahead.’ I begin. 6 7 . ‘Ladies and gentlemen. and all the while I am singing the praises of the sword her own flower shop. purple heather for beauty and admiration. that’s all I ask – and just as I’m about to relinquish all hope I see her. swallowing. I kiss her hand. I playfully pick line up and throw sugar at him. and her mouth is not as full as it was in those distant days of yore. But SHE. one glance. but I detect a glint of recognition in her wavering eyes. he says. gathered from the surrounding fields: daisies for innocent love. there tomorrow. now.’ he laughs and he points at me as if we both belong in a sheer and utter verbosity! But I am thinking only of her cartoon. not to care. her sweet scented breath in the morning. into the limelight. THE ONE. I stroll – with all the flair me: some run-of-the-mill appellation). I will win her heart again or die. Her name is not Isobel. acrobatic Mandini Brothers! The throng coo with awed delight as I take them on board ‘You sent a bunch of wild flowers to a lady who owns a flower my verbal helter-skelter: alliteration. gorse for everlasting devotion and emerge from my self-induced trance. not fully and certainly not willingly. She pretends not to know me. I am certain. her eyes are of a different hue than I recall. their pockets. Faces flash before me – fat ones. I am sure of it. HER. where can The shop is called JASMINE (unconditional love). singing my strange little ditty (which I notice elicits a change in her countenance). sitting between what I take to be her mother and sister: instantly dubbed Dowdy and Dopey! It’s true. I dedicate the show to her and. And the funniest thing of all is that she runs midst.’ All of these memories and images flood in to engulf – with my compliments – a bunch of wild flowers that I have me until I hear a fanfare wafting from on high and I finally. In short. although. fire breathing. tucked at the back of the house – my Isobel. she has changed: her hair is up when it should be down. and that The brooch? What has become of the brooch? brooch in the shape of a butterfly that I pilfered from an Arab in a crowded medina in Istanbul which she. I instruct my dwarf to follow her home and to give her have. shop. Her name is… (it’s slipped my mind what he told grin and snarl and twirl my cane. And she’s married to a of the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo – into their doctor. I stun and mesmerise them. I tease and flatter them. I hasten to add. I will go She be? I scan the hushed pavilion – one glimpse. flushed I am tempted to hang him on the nearest hook so we can all and flustered ones. forget-me-nots for true love. I remove my hat and I bow to her. I shake their hands. ‘simply had to Later. But it’s her alright. enunciation. one last eternal kiss. he I don my hat and step. like Lazarus.voice. eloquence. I tells me. The dwarf returns with a smirk on his elfish face. thin ones.

I am Michael Angelo’s David. In all my finery. deliberately is me. 8 9 . Anyway. I’ll tell you. hang on. No. Why. Clarence I call him although in I hear you ask. or whatever her name is. Fasten that fly. And afterwards I climbed. And why not? It’s perfect. Yes! Try this one. What La La La La La is missing? A hat. it’s safe to say. Today I pay her a call. Perfect for the occasion: Donegal tweed and perched I was stripped down to the altogether and my dwarf… better to one side like a ragamuffin. for ‘Daisy. my skinny made-to measure velvet trousers. I am Adonis. and some of them secretly swore I know what you’re thinking. How about… this? Yes. displaying my manhood for and it’s down I go only to find myself standing cheek-by-jowl anyone who cared to look. Hold it. what it is you need to know. I am Adam before (and indeed after) the fall. and bone. who is lurking – gathered around and drank in the magnificent spectacle that with intent near the sun-drenched entrance.21st Oct. and they swooned. And who could blame them. Cuff Everytime you sigh those cuffs. my long flowing bespoke frock coat. and finally Everytime you laugh my beautiful knee-length boots of Spanish leather. up the ladder to my little hideaway and I How does it go? Right? Alright. I know what it is you’re dying to have my hide someday. sighed. It’s…what’s the phrase? … just so! No. One last look there with my hands on my hips. that’s the I was singing it this morning as I washed myself in the yard. Clarence touch. And my was pouring buckets of warm soapy water over me as I stood cane of course. That one’s too hickey and this one is too… something or other. How La La La La La about that one? Too casual. My little ditty? and dripping wet. naked to ask me. What occasion? give him a name I suppose. ticket. like this. I allowed them to hope. I am studying my upside-down image in the mirrored ceiling and this may sound arrogant but I cannot Everytime you dance help but wholeheartedly applaud and appreciate the incredible Everytime you cry vision before me. Yes. my favourite silver-buckled belt. it goes like allowed them all to watch me from a vantage point of their this: own making.’ I hear myself say. the women – such as they are – with basking in its golden glow. something is missing. The crew – men and women alike with Daisy or Maisy. not Daisy if her facial expression can be trusted. sculpted by God from skin and blood No. Button that collar. Does the trick. That’s it. to dream. I allowed them all to see. They looked at me as one might gaze at an impressive work of art. Undressed without it. Everywhere you go La la la la la… Everyone you see And now I am dressing for battle – my silk shirt bought from Everything you are a gypsy in Marrakech. Isobel of course. to yearn. one last for one so… how shall I put it? : unique. the men enviously. held in the hand. my hand-stitched Everything is me waistcoat. love and admiration. And so they ‘Maisy?’ I risk. reality his name is something else. I am a beautiful man. Gloves – not worn. something not really fitting This very day we shall be reunited again. too formal.

‘I’m on the far side of the Rio Grande.’ I explain. ‘Out of reach? You can’t be out of reach.’ ‘What do you want?’ I ask her. ‘Yes. give it to her straight. for Aphrodite.’ I say. contrary ‘Yes. ‘Why not?’ ‘What do you mean?’ she says and she beams like she is a ‘Because I told my husband about you. It’s the kindest thing to do. Is there a name for that I wonder? An experienced and I signal that I completely understand. She is incensed. pessimists are usually fairly kind people.’ I tell her.’ I beg. ‘Last night was… everything to me… Last to popular belief. in no mood for semantics. ‘Enlighten me. I’ve burnt my bridges to be with you.’ I try to point out. which I’ve already forgotten. So I begin to tell her about Isobel and what she means to me. ‘So I’m just a stand-in.’ 10 11 . What should it be – a Hopetimist! How’s that? I’m thinking all of this as I give poor Daisy – let’s call her that ‘Last night was what it was. but it does not come to me and so she puts us both out of our misery and tells me her name. ‘For Isis. so I pause and let her have her say.’ she barks. that optimistic pessimist? If there isn’t then there should be. knitting her brow in false perplexity.’ she says. Oh dear!!! ‘What do you want. ‘Today and tomorrow and be done with it – as I give it to her right between the eyes. I throw my hands in the air. I’m nothing if not a pessimist – admittedly She struggles to find the words to describe the pleasure she I’m a an optimistic one. help thinking. ‘Everything?’ ‘What are you doing here?’ I wonder. that it strikes you ‘Because of me?’ I say and I chuckle at the inanity. She pretends to be amused and she waits for it to come to me ‘It means I’m out of reach. is that it? For this… Isobel?’ ‘Last night was another country.’ ‘My dear. ‘all women are stand-ins. with both barrels. are another story.’ not: she is a heavy set middle aged matron). She mimes her incomprehension. not now.’ I can see she is already chomping at the bit. I’ve told him young. In fact I read somewhere that. and I know what you’re thinking.’ ‘Somewhere else?’ she mumbles.’ she confesses.No. getting testy now. that kindness is not really a tool in my armoury. ‘I’m living somewhere else now. night was…’ and let’s face it. ‘What’s that supposed to mean.’ I go on. but that’s not necessarily the case. that’s not it either.’ ‘Doing here?’ she says. what are you doing here?’ I repeat. slender maiden in the full flush of youth (which she is everything. Parables and metaphors are lost on the likes of this one I can’t ‘Stand-ins? For what?’ she bellows. I will it’s… understandable! coin one. for Helen… For Eve. but I have another go. everything. I ‘I’m here because of you.

I think you’re an awful gobshite altogether. in another life perhaps.’ he sneers. to that effect). butchers and bread shops. that’s it. and spat on her and threw her out onto the street when he was in another incarnation. They called him Weasel.’ he says.’ I call out to him as I amble out of sight.’ I hear some of them say. The Cornish fisherman was a beast. nipping up a medieval side street to the main drag that snakes its way through the ‘Of course… Now. ‘For I know not what I do (or words chap wonders as I pass a down-at-heel betting shop. regal gobshite.’ and I gesture to her to centre of this strange little Viking town. returns like the with deja vu. and scraping each other like two mad cats in heat. so pregnant to intervene as Sadie. Bars. to be Meanwhile Daisy. done with her. clear my path so I can be on my way. if ever there was one. 12 13 .’ I reply. jagged-toothed ‘Forgive me. ‘I think you’re a right royal. a nickname of some sort. Meow… the butt of a half-smoked cigarette stuck in the side of his mouth.’ and his impudent grin vanishes as I snap the cigarette from his mouth with a slash of I’d put my money on Daisy if I didn’t have better things to do my swishing walking cane. in fact a name And in spite of my protestations (‘No… Don’t… Please… springs to mind. I was someone’s son. ‘Do you now?’ I say to him. ‘Go on the Sadie.’ Sadie cries. she wails. FHWITT FHWUW!!! ‘Give my regards to your mother. I must admit. I have seen these faces and heard these voices pleads with me – in French – to take her back into the fold. She falls to her knees in the doorway and sun and rain.‘What. The crew gather round. Yes. and the poor sod turns pale with – a woman scorned and all that! But I must away and I leave insignificance as he feels the wind from my stick whistling to the brittle sound of bone crunching. and listened to their sad refrains. snooker halls and shoe stores and a As luck would have it. ‘Are you Maynard Perdu?’ this wee mole-like. misconstruing it for a love scene. one eye cocked against the swirl of smoke. His face too seems vaguely familiar to me. fate decides cosy haberdashery. Stop… Ladies…I beg you’) they both go to it. ‘Someone’s going to get hurt here. I wonder why? is now taking bets on the outcome. the hissing snake lady. ‘I do. some lover’s lover. her bald-headed so that Sadie has to rise to defend herself.’ ‘I am.’ he answers emphatically. at that moment in time. past his face on its return journey. goes for recognised so readily on the street. scratching and biting and cursing and swearing and kicking and smacking ‘Well. I have walked these streets before – in the prodigal daughter. What was it? No. if you don’t mind. ‘Two to one it’s true. boutiques. the majority of them on Sadie’s side and urging her on.’ I whisper to Clarence who Weasel. even this… Isobel one?’ I am walking along the Quayfront. He beat her somebody’s brother. and it all feels so… familiar. a smidgeon flattered.

half in marigolds (pain and sorrow) and receiving her money and jest. He is dressed in his gown and bib and strange Bless her! looking bonnet. the yellow tulips mingled with the ‘Get your coat. refined beauty.’ she insists. removing the change from the till and so on and so forth.’ I whisper.’ times ahead.’ I sigh at its plaintive sound. savouring their scent and losing myself in the miracle of Mother Nature’s Isobel is startled to see me there and she puts no hiding on it. or perish trying. bunch to bunch and from plant to plant. She does not know what to make of me ‘Take your time. I can tell she is astonished and of the shop. ‘No. and 14 15 . serving a scarfed. sad eyed lady. JASMINE’S window speaks volumes to me as I stand under ‘No. He demands to know why I am bothering his wife and he tells me to beat it or he’ll send for the police.’ I call after her. stranglehold on ordinary people’s lives.’ she replies. deeply touched by my gesture. I linger in the doorway and take her hand and gently kiss it. just to let her know that ‘Hang on a minute. His doctor’s surgery is above the shop.’ I tell her. and of course its sentiment. and I pledge there and ‘For real?’ I laugh and I shake my head. and I marvel at the everyday – the quotidian – and its monotonous ‘Are you for real?’ she wonders.’ I say. it appears. I bend LA LA LA LA to smell the flowers and greenery instead. ‘We have forever!’ and she rushes away uncertainly to a nearby. then to set her free from all of this.’ ‘Yes.’ I trumpet. its candy-striped canopy: the orchids remind me of Isobel’s I chortle. Isobel. and then there are ‘My coat?’ the irises which softly imply that very soon there will be good ‘Yes.’ she says and she disappears into the back she has not been forsaken. I hold the door open for her and I bow graciously. Love-Lies-Bleeding are a sad reminder of the hopelessness we both felt all the time we’ve been apart. I mean what a question! I pass the scarfed lady on my way in. wrapping up a bunch of what look like ‘To another place and another time. EVERYTHING IS ME/ LA tempted to empty the till while I wait but I don’t. the red and white roses promises that we will soon be together again. The next thing I know Isobel is back with her husband in tow.’ I say. ‘Can I help you there?’ she offers. sacred fecundity. ‘Get your coat and come with me. idling motorcar. the game has begun. ‘Isobel. ‘Why. moving from ‘Ah. where am I going?’ I can see Isobel behind the counter. ‘I am not Isobel. I am heartened that she has not put up too much of a fight In the meantime the bell over the door chimes out a familiar even though I can tell she only half remembers me. rosy- faced. I am tune – my little ditty no less.

the half blind Roman let her go with me now. long steam of oaths that. And as for me: says. ‘I’m sorry. cursing and swearing and with a wicked face of the Saviour’s side splashed down onto his blurred and bleary vengeance on him. and I turn to Isobel and. his voice cracking in frustration. ‘What do you mean?’ the doctor wants to know. thanks to my fencing days – I parry and plunge the mythic adduction and for his inevitable desertion. he says.’ accidentally knocking flower pots and potted plants from their perches. eh?’ use but that’s the general gist of his outburst. well. and and as the doctor hurries to his side I am reminded too of the I very swiftly conclude that this is not going to be a friendly beautiful pieta that followed.’ I say. He backs away from me and gazes in horror at the bloody stigmata as – from sheer ‘Look. ‘What have you done?’ the doctor cries out. for good. going on about his wife coming home black ‘You shouldn’t have come here in the first place. mother – clearly again. in an act of mercy. ‘Chalk it down to experience. no bearing whatsoever on anything going on around me.’ wife everything in life and to lose her to someone like me is an insult he simply cannot and will not endure. once the to the wings where Isobel is standing with her frightened fist dust had settled. ‘At course is conveyed in less flowery language that the words I least he is in the right place. he could see everything – the world and its in her mouth. All of this of ‘Yes. ‘I’m a dentist. let’s look on the bright side. That was your a villain and a dressed-up dandy to boot. After all the Isobel I remember could 16 17 . aren’t you? You can stem the blood. and I intend to gently pave the way for Isobel’s instinct. I find her pale and distressed in the corner and this throws me off kilter. I intend to tip of the blade into his side so that he falls back against the tell him that he should be grateful for the short time he has wall and slides down it like a descending old-fashioned dumb spent with her and that he should just count his blessings and waiter. orders from Daisy a few hours ago. conversation. to my defence. cradling the I take him for the cuckold. ‘If you hadn’t come in here in the first place this poor I am a scoundrel of the highest order. And no. shall we?’ I venture.’ presents itself. the one who got his marching stricken in his arms.’ the doctor and blue and bruised and broken hearted. as far as I can tell. Needless to say this drives him into a frenzy and he charges at me with both hands flailing so that I have to raise my cane in ‘Now he tells me.’ he bawls. I am not saying it was an ‘Maynard Perdu I take it. have absolutely all I’m saying is it reminds me of the Crucifixion.’ I begin. He seizes the tip only to discover that I have a stiletto astonishment.when I passively raise my hands in mock-surrender he gets blade installed there – crafted by a beady-eyed craftsman in braver and threatens to manfully throw me head-first out of Prague who makes his living from this kind of thing – and it the shop.’ I say. He has given his option. The good doctor gets a fright and retreats eyes and washed them and cleansed them so that. I am thinking of Longinus now. plunged his spear into Our clamour of a big burly man bursting through the door like a Lord’s ribcage on the cross and the blood that oozed from Minotaur. But I am interrupted by the centurion who. ‘but I had no other option. slices into his hand like a ripe tomato.’ I advise him when an opening ‘You’re a doctor. He is ranting and raving.’ the man shouts and he lets out a act of mercy on my part and my eyes are as clear as thunder. a rogue and man wouldn’t be bleeding all over my floor now. that’s all.

artistes. that it ‘Call an ambulance. murder and mayhem. ‘Is it about the incident in the flower shop?’ I continued. entered. The very mention of Gendarme sent ripples through the hall ‘Because if it is. The other one – Fat Chops I christened him – was already halfway up the rope ladder to take a cursory peep in at I was having supper at the communal table when I got the my crow’s nest. cane in one hand and gloves in the other.’ the doctor roars and as Isobel toddles to was all in hand. them actually slipped quietly away into the shadows. the hissing snake lady. I sauntered out fading sunlight. I would tell the Clearly. he and I would not see eye-to-eye. because he was off adding another string to his bow. The lady stepped forward and formally introduced herself- for the record it was Detective Inspector Sandra Something or other. I like to share a meal once in a while with my fellow ‘What’s up there?’ Sandra asked. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ‘What other thing?’ Sandra slyly wondered. Gendarme had arrived and that they wished to speak to me. ha… ‘The incident?’ Anyway we were feasting on pig’s feet and spare ribs and chicken’s legs and bowls of couscous and all other manner of ‘In the flower shop?’ Fat Chops butted in. no feet.’ Fat Chops said and there was a sarcastic tone in two. jokers – tattoos and missing limbs and crossed eyes and humps I could tell there was an instant connection between us. There was a joke that I used ‘Your what?’ Fat Chops was saying – mocking me – as he to tell on stage one time – I should resurrect it really – about a descended again. and bumps and lumps and baby faces.take anything in her stride – brawls. no body. I stood up and reassured them all that everything was in order. call. then I have more than a little to say on the and most of those present grew jittery while one or two of matter. no head. ‘It means unconditional love. right. As a matter of fact I had lisped and spluttered to me – in Algerian French – that the a good mind to… No. so that she to his voice that was not to my liking. and I wiped my mouth and my sticky fingers the telephone I step over the wounded man and out into the and. exotic things and swigging it all down with tumblers of wine ‘JASMINE. down the middle like the river Jordan. you know. Her tongue is (speaking of freaks) literally split ‘You don’t say. so called because he has a face like a clock. freak who was nothing but a voice: no face. isn’t it?’ I guessed.’ I said. Wonder (a gentle-hearted woman) and to my right was Camel Man.’ she said.’ I told her.’ and tankards of frothy beer when Sadie. To my left sat the One Eyed ‘My… domain. In fact you could write a book about any one of these ‘Oh. nothing but a mere voice. I won’t go there. Clarence was present and so was Big Ben. audience that unfortunately he would not be appearing tonight ‘This is about that other thing. no arms. He was away in Switzerland – learning to yodel. to the main auditorium where a female inspector and a dumpy detective were waiting for me. freaks and musical turns of every colour and creed.’ 18 19 .

In fact they didn’t even have a car outside to take me there. ‘Right now?’ matter – commented on. no?’ 20 21 . waiting his turn! I mean… I ask afraid. I must tell you about the beginning of the The gentlest gamester. ‘James.’ my garb.’ Fat Chops said and he was about to say more but for what-have-you.’ But they did not shackle me. ‘My name is Maynard Perdu.’ I ‘Embezzlement?’ said as I held my hands out for handcuffing. ‘Yes.’ ‘I’ll have you both know that I was merely defending myself. What do they call you?’ ‘Oblige?’ Fat Chops growled and he gave a little amused. ‘Now… James. one on either side of me. No. but since this was a serious matter then I would oblige. ‘Yes. I was told in no uncertain terms by the desk sergeant that I would just have to sit there like everybody else and wait my ‘We’re going to need you to come to the station with us.’ she said. and when I complained about the long delay Sandra who held up a placating hand to him. Here. my fingerprints and DNA and former record and ‘Look. dear reader. indeed. You married two women at the same time. my details. What a strange expression: rigout. my ‘rigout’ was the phrase she used though. thee! Now and again the sergeant might throw me an odd challenging glance and once some civilian – in on a minor ‘What?’ I said. throaty chuckle. grow Here Fat Chops stepped in. ‘Your name is James O’ Neill and accustomed to over the coming days and nights. putting in his ‘spake’ as they say in this neck of the woods. Sandra and Fat Chops objection and I made a face. Me. I gathered. Eventually. yes. have you got something better to do or something?’ Fat for questioning. eh? end.’ I reminded her. unfortunately. I indicated that. Not remember that. I was a busy man and that this ‘I beg your pardon. isn’t it?’ Sandra began. if you wouldn’t mind.’ I said. ‘It’s about that and a few other things. I’m turn. when I felt it was incumbent upon me to put up some kind of I was good and truly demoralised.‘Is that a fact?’ It was Fat Chops again. my ‘get-up. Chop said.’ meaning ‘Yes. They brought me to the police station and put me sitting on a bench just inside the door while they went off to check ‘What other things?’ I inquired. Or is it Jim. trip to the station was most inconvenient at this point in time.’ Sandra gently piped. a sound I would. that’s right. returned and they brought me down to an interrogation room ‘Why. you’re wanted on a charge of embezzlement. No – and this sounds ignoble I ‘Bigamy?’ know – they walked me to the station. as she put it. Maynard Perdu. and maybe bigamy too.

‘I am Maynard Perdu. as Seamus. “Awfully big of you. I had it installed in the cane by sharing with him. would that be considered bigamy?” “Yes.’ Fat Chops sang. ‘Where are for garters.’ he was saying. ‘I’ll have your guts ‘Whoo… back her up there. ‘I took only what belonged to me. At this point Fat Chops lost the plot and threw the cane into the corner. bigamy?’ ‘You dressed-up little creep.’ my wife’s sister.’ I said.” Ha ha ha ha ‘There is no stiletto – in the cane or anywhere else for that ha… But no.’ Sandra suggested. Show it to me…Where is it? Go ahead. “If I marry a craftsman in Prague a number of years ago. Jem.’ Sandra was saying.’ That’s right. raising my voice.’ Chops.’ ‘There’s no stiletto in the cane. ‘Ring Master Extraordinaire!’ ‘Let’s all calm down now. that’s all.’ Fat Chops declared. doing her best to keep things on an even keel. her then.’ you going with this stiletto lark?’ ‘Colm… Colm… Colm.’ I said.’ Fat Chops snarled as he Fat Chops got on his high horse. This bloke says to his friend. ‘There was blood… his hand… his side. matter.’ entranced). and later on the called He tried to give me the cane to hold but I refused to take it me Jem. he called me Jimmy boy.I smiled at this. better not tell him that one. ‘I stabbed him with it – first his hand. he was bleeding profusely.’ Sandra kindly informed me.’ ‘What’s so funny?’ ‘He hit his head off the wall as he fell. show me the blade. Jim. fractured one of his ribs. ‘Take it easy. ‘No. 22 23 . it would. ‘I stabbed a man with a with one hand as he ripped out all the buttons from my stiletto and you’re trying to frame me for embezzlement? And waistcoat with the other. ‘Now. sitting in the second row the night before last.’ ‘You jabbed him in the ribs. ‘Show me the stiletto… leaned into me.” says the friend.’ I stated. you listen here Jimmy boy.’ I said. I was thinking of a joke now which I had no intention of ‘No.’ he said. ‘Nothing. ‘And as for bigamy I ‘What are you two playing at exactly?’ I said and I gave them was never officially married to any of those women. I have a stiletto I tell you. He really knew how to get my goat alright – Fat ‘There… See. upended the table and grabbed me by the lapels ‘Calm down.’ Sandra cried (I remembered ‘In the cane. then his side. Colm.’ it was Fat Chops again and he was irate.’ a sideways glance. and at one stage he had the audacity to refer to me from him.

and 2. I That he’d bury me right where I’d fall suppose. it’s more than Down where the wild flowers grow that. No. nothing happens when I’m not around. I was walking back to my digs when they picked me He’d bury me right where I’d fall. Try it sometime why don’t you? See what happens. Hit me. 24 25 . before the hour was up. 4. Mama their spines alright. yes. the stain of original sin. the one who pulls the trigger. although not without a portion 3. that’s what happens. I am in my cell now but I am freer than you. Guilty by proxy you might say! I can still And answer your Annabelle Lee picture that policeman with his big hat and his boots and his As I whisper. don’t I? I am Call out my name and let Pa do the same the shadow. up and dragged me off to the nearest cop shop where they gave me a good going over. hit me. without the likes of me but I say otherwise. murdered. surely. Oh. A song called Snowfield: went down a storm Or under the old oak tree every night. mate. The mist and the morning dew her boyfriend came in and owned up to the crime and I was released without prejudice. the He lied when he said he’d be true funny thing is I felt I deserved to be roughed up like that. Nothing. I am the one ‘Cause that’s where he lay me low who turns out the light. the night. I didn’t do it Governor. I He laughed when I cried and he watched as I died felt I had it coming. And I know you think you can live That’s where he lay me low. the one That’s where he lay low who wields the golden axe. hit me. I am sure of it. I am freer than all of you. Hit me harder. After all. Without someone like me to whisper in your ear nothing comes to pass. you think sweetness and light will get you there? It won’t. the old hot towel treatment. going I’m not at the back of the trailer home from the show one night in… Copenhagen was it? And I’m not at the end of the hall for some odd reason I was one of those suspected of doing He promised his wife the dirty deed – because of that song. and my rendition of And he swore on his life it. I kept thinking. that and my overall demeanour. And it’s true. Come hear my voice on the wind Ma of blame I suspect. that sent shivers down Don’t go down to the river. Don’t go down to the water of my act. What. strangled they say. I represent the darkness.22nd Oct And so I sing: I am thinking now of a murder ballad I used to sing as part 1. I’ll tell you what happens. Well. it goes without saying. that number. Trust me. I am thinking too of the young woman Not If you want to find me who was killed that time. So go to the place they call Snowfield An act? Is that all it is? An act? Hardly. In the mist and the morning dew go on.’ waiting to happen. Luckily for me. ‘He showed no mercy holstered pistol and the way he held the door open for me For my baby and me on my way out that night as if I was a sinister accident just My little baby and me. He lied when he said that he loved me although.

off and I bailed out on him overnight and he’s been literally dreary days and a particular memory sprang to mind. in a ghetto known as Rat Alley. someone else is wearing my suit now and singing my song. she said. born and bred in this very town. there were so many others to choose on to higher ground I expect. Nobody wants the embarrassment I presume. I broke the bottle. She dug to me. that is! But that’s another story. I don’t think so. confiscated them and sent them back to the Spiegeltent – on Management’s instructions. not that any of us ever accused me of having my hand in his till. I wiped his eye for him. although trying to catch up on me ever since. My father embezzlement charge will be dealt with in full. ‘It wasn’t Lisa. I mean.’ 26 27 . He regularly beat his wife wasn’t embezzlement. a tartan she says. saw too much of that.’ I said. and doesn’t. drinking hot who says she has only a vague memory of me in her past. face it. Dionysius had not taken hold of me yet) and dandy with me. I mean let’s But he didn’t believe me and he beat the two of us anyway. Alright. hiding from him as he thundered about up in a court of law now. Next I know we are in the dark cubby hole I never even set eyes on before or since would hardly stand under the stairs. a ceremony in the woods by a manic street preacher Lisa for breaking the bottle and spilling the milk and me for who made me promise to love. honour and obey two women lying about it. We’d have a dog called Rex and two bell-ringing bicycles of our own. The winters would Meanwhile I’ve been instructed to stay away from Isobel see us all sitting around a blazing log fire. would it? No. which is all fine Apolline tale (no. someone else is turning on and off the lights. a two slip of a thing young enough to be his daughter – and left roomed flat with a small kitchen and an outside toilet. I can still smell my little sister’s hair – redolent of The assault charge in the flower shop has been dropped too. and children and neglected them badly on the financial front. and who am I to argue with that. jealous that I had moved why this one I cannot say. My father was berating my little sister Lisa for breaking a bottle of milk and I stepped forward to take the blame. I the magistrate in ten days’ time. mind you – mercy that is. I must stay here and face the music. come on. I chocolate and telling ghost stories that were not true while mentioned the brooch but it didn’t. apparently. the house. blanket spread out like a magic carpet beneath us. rain – as I tried to comfort her. ring any bells the summers would find us picnicking on the beach. I went me in charge of his carnival while he was gone. and when to the local Christian Brothers School while my little sister he returned – nearly two months later if you don’t mind – he Lisa attended the Convent of Mercy. I expect Sandra – who has taken a bit of a about how somewhere in the near future our Daddy – who shine to me -had something to do with all of that. That’s right.’ The bigamy thing has gone away and rightly so. OK? – with the young woman. I am telling her the beautiful. Daddy.23rd Oct. that I took only what was owed to me. I will go before around and came up with the facts and figures of my life. alright. As Sandra what did he expect – Francis of Assisi? I told him where to get was telling me all of this I was transported back to those sad. A villain called Strobe ran away with another man’s wife – a We lived in a hovel. from. was a very talented man – would mend his ways and we would live in a little cottage by the sea. Sandra has explained it all Sandra thinks I have more than the music to face. I must stop using words like ‘dandy. and the so-called am James O’Neill. ‘It was me. T hey’ve taken my clothes away. I’ve told her it was a drunkard and a blackguard.

Lisa loved this story.’ Mister Dunne said and he gallantly gestured towards continued to go rapidly downhill with father drinking and the back door as if he was asking my father to dance. that she had misheard what was said. over and over again. She was fifteen and her real name was Joan. for once and for all. Lisa first and then of implicating a young boy. mouth agape. They come out again. the same story. I’d whisper it to her. instead place where we both fell asleep beside her. to set us free. a red crested blazer and a that freedom is what either of us wanted or needed. that father was gone to the pub. in the shop. Hats and Lingerie – when both jumped for joy – although come to think of it ‘joy’ is a the time was right. We both sighed with relief when the cubbyhole door opened and my They were good to me there – Mister Dunne the shop mother appeared in the portal. He was my hero-the elegant looked. In fact even when my father came into looked divine. although and I never saw her again. lit up by the bare bulb behind her in the hall the shop to annoy me – practically on a weekly basis – one or with scattered ribbons of light all around her. helping the street) and she became very upset about it and she hurried out around the shop in the afternoons when my studies through the store and down to the basement where I found were done. And I would have protected them too except things ‘Please. and her pale. Shoes. She was Mister our mother had died for us. respectable shop clerk. She told us that it was safe to manager and Mister Doyle who owned the store. and I was she was mistaken. at that tender age. And who knows. And I suppose that Doyle’s daughter and she would sometimes sail through the is what happened – she set us free – although I’m not so sure premises in her school uniform. shirt and tie was Isobel. Mister Dunne! Why I never chose to emulate him I’ll never Poor Lisa was standing at the foot of the stairs with her know. I learned to call her Isobel. And even then. I told her that quarters with my own hot water and everything. mother sinking as low as she could possibly go. who was standing on the upper on the landing cast a sacred streak of light on her so that she deck. willing it to come true. Women’s. not Jezebel (which of course in anyone’s language to wear. on in a local haberdashery. I was already in love with her 28 29 . rectangular window little heart. The sunlight from the long. as if she was ascending into heaven. and in time it was hoped that I might grow up to become a countless times. Shortly grey pleated skirt that swished or swirled when she walked afterwards Lisa – my sweet little sister – was taken from me or ran. it might all be sorted out man to a reluctant me who always longed to protect them both from man. that it given three square meals a day and a new suit. me. And on the day I’m talking about we altogether: Men’s. I slept in a bunk bed in the so-called servants’ her weeping into a dainty lace handkerchief. Until I came home from school one day and found her dangling from a But my father didn’t bite and when he was gone Mister Dunne rope on the first return of the stairs. long-forgotten saga. harm. I still went to school by day. My Isobel! Why? She overheard The following week I was sent to work as a messenger boy someone calling her a Jezebel one time (not in the shop. I knew that That’s where I first met Isobel. silently agreed with him. Mister Dunne actually asked my father to step out into She swept us up into her loving arms and took us to a safe the yard with him one day so that. bit strong under the circumstances. other of them would usually come to my aid and stand up for blue eyes were filled with hope and potential – my potential. and her face watched out for me. I’ll start again. for all the world. her legs swinging like a turned to me and said that my father was a big man with a pendulum. maybe I’d even get and my words would fall and land like snowflakes in some to manage one of the various departments – there were five old. and Mister Doyle. Seventh heaven for me! I would learn my trade there means the devil’s daughter).

pain and pleasure. my shoe. followed. to be able to capture the essence deed was done he threw her to the ground. On one of those nights I spied him copulating with likeness if she set her mind to it. and the ability. No. Yes. in his wake. I opened it and shut it and folded it and fastened it so often that in the end it grew decrepit with age and badly 30 31 . and when the the knack. I’d shift it from one hiding place to another: my wallet. doubt about it. the sweat band of my old top hat. waiting for the right opportunity to hit it over the hit with a big brick that I carried We tucked ourselves into a quiet corner and looked at the around in my pocket. it was our mother alright. And she drew a wonderful portrait of our mother standing beside a tree in I decided not to kill him in the end. She’d dab in a little snub nose – even if they and sloped off without her. Oh yes. to buy it for of the last days I ever spent with my little sister Lisa. She drew a sketch of me idea who I was. the secret pocket of my waist coat. In the end I brought her into the local library just to get her in out of the It was around that time that I decided to kill my father. She was good and he treated her just as badly as he had mistreated us in at it too. when I left it. She thanked me and brushed herself down and that is. but more than that she had her in an alleyway at the back of the dancehall. or a sneer maybe. She wore it too – for a little while – and I and dread of the future. I didn’t murder my father. taverns and bars. I weather. hopelessly and helplessly. I put a deposit on a week or so after our mother died and we went around the it and paid it off by degrees. Everyone who saw it said so. It was a freezing cold afternoon and convinced myself that she was my girl. in times of trouble. open eyes and the smile with its slightly that: lust and cruelty. months actually. week after endless week until it place holding hands and clinging to each other in obvious fear was fully paid for. and while I was at could tell it was our mother nonetheless – the bushy hair it I took on his most salient traits and may God forgive me for and the big sad. It was her. She had no if she didn’t like the cut of your jib. Don’t get me could see he was already dead. wherever I was. He was going out with another woman art books. And then Strobe’s carnival came to town and when it left I That picture was the only thing I took with me from the house went with it. but you I subsumed him into my very being instead. fastened up his fly of her subject. from a jewellery shop down the street. no – the gentle mask of Apollo – and I replaced it with another. Lisa loved drawing and painting.) We trudged from her blouse when she started going out with someone from one place to another. But of course she was we were walking the streets like two lost souls (I very nearly not my girl and shortly afterwards the brooch disappeared said ‘orphans’ but the word wouldn’t… form. mainly because as far as I Redmond Park with a big red sun behind her. matchstick stuff. followed him around for a few nights. I went into the laneway and helped didn’t have one – if she wanted to make somebody lovable. I mean it was childish. I had saved up for weeks. from town to town and job to job. I shed one mask downturned inflection.by then and soon after that I gave her the butterfly brooch to At this point in the proceedings I need to tell you about one wear. wrong now. Hotels and hostels. one time and I looked like I was on stilts. Or she’d add in a snarl to the mouth. I’d take it out and drink it in. for a five year old. her to her feet. I took it with me wherever I went. sheltering in doorways – anything but go home. looking in shop windows and more suitable. She could really catch someone’s the past.

Now and then I’d misplace it wrong… I hope so anyway.’ I said. He is calling out and waving a Redmond Street. ‘That would never happen now. They are emaciated and parched and dying. Or. it still haunts my days and nights. death and madness are evident so that you fear as much for their souls as anything else. and did. it’s about the old painting that Lisa latched on to in the book in the library that day. I a sailing ship on the distant horizon. The truth of the matter is I nearly was saying a little prayer to her guardian angel. and doctors and dentists and what-have-you. are they hoping to be saved?’ could be found drinking in quaint taverns and bars where ‘I’d say so. depicting the aftermath of a terrible shipwreck. it was.) By this time Isobel had more or less broken away from the likes of me. The boys they preferred to hang around with these days were the rugby lads.’ I said.’ I agreed. I left it behind me in hotel rooms and mission halls and I’d have Lisa closed her eyes and her lips moved and I knew that she to double back to look for it. These stout young fellows ‘And these other people. the bottom with that lovely back-to-front L. We were playing a childish.’ from the Tennis Club – stuck up.’ only to rediscover it in the first place I should have looked. kissing game white shirt. and the sea and the sky called spin-the-bottle. most part. Oh yes. that is. ‘But I might be up and their hair tossed in a sleepy. she kissed me. Someone would spin a bottle and when are the colour of despair. forgot it in more places that I care to remember. They liked to keep their shirt collars ‘I’d say it’s going the other way.’ they’d belt out bawdy songs as if their lives depended on it and they’d hold their frothy pints of porter aloft like outcasts ‘Is that ship coming towards them or sailing the other way?’ from The Student Prince. some of them are already dead in fact. for one last glance at ‘Yes.’ I lied. And now I’d give all that I have and all that I am and all that I ever was. a luminous speck. the future solicitors and accountants ‘Maybe. would it?’ she invades my dreams-mother beside the tree and Lisa’s initials at said. She was now knocking around with the crowd ‘I don’t know. Anguish. I just lost track of it altogether. it still ‘Something like that would never happen now. it finally stopped turning the spinner would get to kiss the person it pointed to (provided they were of the opposite sex. as much a plea as anything else. shouldn’t wonder. devil-may-care manner. 32 33 . Finally. It was at an all- one of the survivors – a black man – is sitting on the shoulders night party in some big crumbling Georgian house just off of one of his fellow castaways. or will be. to my ‘That was a long time ago though. more to the point. wasn’t it?’ she eventually shame.’ that picture.’ I reassured her. spoilt little rich girls for the ‘Maybe they‘re just sleeping. You can see Have I mentioned that I once kissed Isobel? No? Well.’ But look. A woebegone gaggle of survivors are clinging on desperately to a badly-constructed wooden raft.soiled from all the handling. or it lost track of me I said. ‘Are some of those people dead?’ Lisa wondered. ‘Looks like it. ‘No. the so-called movers and shakers of the town. No. trying to attract attention.’ she hoped. that’s not what I wanted to tell you. ‘It was a long time ago alright.

He wanted to know opposite in fact. and you know for a minute What did she see in me that night I wonder. Time stood still for me as we sporting the makings of a little goatee beard and Isobel’s name embraced. called her Isobel. but she didn’t. tender kisses – here. in the very nearness of what was going on and what was keeping her and so on – the me. that promptly took my face in both her hands and. to his attention. As we kissed I ran my fingers through her hair ‘You’re gone to the dogs altogether. standing on the reputation of the shop was at stake. I thought sure that Isobel was going to make a joke Around that time too I took to smoking cigarettes and I grew of it and refuse to kiss me. and something told me that this would be a once. so that I was by then. We both turned to look at him as if he as she mumbled something I didn’t catch or can’t recall. she rose from sideburns and I bought a big ring from one of the roustabouts her knees and strolled nonchalantly out to the hall and I stood which I paraded around wearing like it was lapis-lazuli. astonished hands to their faces. and more than once he tried to mark my card for me. But I think I know now what it might have been. collecting when she spun the bottle and it pointed directly at me. and they knew it too. like a blind man making a map of a strange landscape that would one day guide me safely home again. quite the supposed to be going out with at the time. I would always was flung open and out stepped the sandy-haired boy she was love her. widely regarded as a real must to avoid. and then an icy silence fell over the room. 34 35 . and I must admit I felt like a fish-out. disbelief. why did Isobel invite me – a little messenger boy-cum. I’d ride around of-water amongst them. up around there in the evenings to help out. And when I showed her tippy toes and with her eyes closed in ecstasy. boy’ he said. No. rope-tied Tannoys that were cheering until the bottle slowed down and came to a standstill strung haphazardly about the place. me whenever she’d pass through the store. and all to a cool soundtrack boys were all whistling and stomping and clapping and that blared from the mounted. I think I do: it was my So. and completely ignoring with. was some kind of vague apparition. And things got even more awkward like a hoodlum on the back of the dodgem cars. The the fares and running errands. she basked. dentist. tattooed on my wrist he could barely contain his emotions. the boys wincing in unbeknownst to me. I And when the kiss ended I continued to peck her face and was already Orpheus descending. and shone. deliberately turning for the taking. no doubt. Anyway I was still kissing Isobel in the hall when the door just to let her know that. shop clerk in her father’s store – along to this royal gathering Strobe’s Carnival had come to town and I had taken to going then? I had no idea. only affair and I made up my mind there and then to make the most of it. forehead – tiny. No. the guys to be away when we’d meet in the street. All up and. I think I may have said her name aloud. what was the there I couldn’t help thinking that at that moment in time her attraction exactly? I couldn’t figure it out at the time – lately heart and soul – and everything else besides – were all mine she had shown me nothing but disdain. saying that he didn’t know what I was playing at Once outside the room she closed over the door and she exactly and that this behaviour would not be tolerated. By then I was already a lost cause. no matter what. She didn’t draw away from me either. new-found rebelliousness and notoriety that appealed to her. tingling with anticipation and with my hands held by of this irked Mister Dunne in the haberdashery when it came my sides. the girls with their exaggerated. she kissed up one morning for work wearing a French style beret and me fairly fervently on the lips. I’m sure of it. there and everywhere. I followed sheepishly behind. ‘Yes… the and I touched her cheeks and her ears and her slender little dogs!’ neck and chin. But I didn’t care anymore.and they were.

Ah! No. ‘Yes. but I think that was the wasn’t.. I have not written in my diary for such a long time… one rainy afternoon. Travelling Roadshow written on its side. he we all know where that got me. he was my best man that day. and I’m because I was sorry to see the back of him because. Or did he give the brides away? boss. He didn’t come in. spilled the beans on my so-called wedding in the woods – which was only meant to be a bit of a lark. He knew that Strobe was no better than me. ‘but…’ Strobe and I shook hands on the steps of the courthouse. matters have all day long as the rest of us – puzzled and at times concerned come to a head. much to everyone’s me that I was like a son to him. ‘and relief – she with a wayward. At least! I don’t know the date. Anyway. over-the-shoulder glance. Yes. I let myself out into the foggy dawn. Now get command when he gaily informed the gaffer that Big Ben had out of my sight the pair of you before I have someone look a face like a clock. slung from a van that had Redgrave’s Is it a month? Must be. but I’ve lost track of the days and nights Big Ben was deposited unceremoniously on our front doorstep now. in the pelting rain I have been otherwise engaged. dear reader.’ I pointed out. December the 2nd. threshold.’ the Judge said in his summing up. mute and wringing wet. I stood there for a long time. by this rogue guffawed and washed his hands of it all. And that’s the way it went all morning. Thankfully. I fairly sure. is it? Let me see. I’ve been before the judge on this trumped about him – came and went inside the Spiegeltent. as placid as snow. No. It’s December. It is. ‘Yeah. frankly. he just stood there. not a soul in the world to take me there. not Meanwhile. disappearing into the sunset. although I can’t be certain. he raised his arms towards the ornate Swiss whispered in my ear on her way out the door that day. you see. further into…into…into…into your affairs. cuckoo clock that was nesting nicely over the front door. ‘And it’s not even Tuesday.’ Clarence said by way of an apology. He ‘But what?’ the gaffer wondered and he outstretched his hands apologised for all the trouble he caused me.’ ‘A clock?’ the gaffer said and. I’m sorry. deep wound that I’m sure would never fully heal.’ I said to myself. on the rain-soaked ‘There’s a pair of you in it.’ ‘Yeah I know. the afternoon too – us coming and going and Big Ben just standing there. Yes. and well into and he said so. It was he who in a have-a-heart fashion. It was Clarence who eventually broke the chain of ‘And I’m going to leave it as I found it – unresolved. as if he was about to sing an ‘That turned out alright for you after.’ I stood and watched Strobe with a deep.’ I called after her. with his old craggy face and his big gargoyle on his plate without taking another ‘orphan of the storm’ into head on him.She eventually went back inside with him. trumped up. The gaffer up embezzlement charge. the judge saw right through him the fold. I’d forgotten that ‘You could make money out of someone like that though. didn’t it?’ Sandra operatic aria. saying he had enough called Strobe. I stood there because I had nowhere else to go and morning that I ran away with the carnival. as I say. whatever… I must say I was surprised when he told 36 37 .

and his rubbery lips are practically every other mechanism ‘Why did you leave him here in the first place?’ the gaffer in between.’ he barked as if it was all his or a reaction out of the statue-like. like something from the Frances Bacon school of thought. ‘I mean. minty where we dried him off and gave him a gallon and a half of hot ingredient that worked wonders on my sore throat which was tea to drink. Even the gaffer – who get it at all (but. off. So. and then again some people never Spiegeltent. those sort of people are no use to is not prone to dishing out compliments. some people see it immediately And he proved to be a good worker too. ‘Look at the time it is.‘You think so?’ the gaffer said. He once – of his own accord – made me a mixture the poor wretched soul into the comfort and safety of the salon of honey and warm water and some other secret. The gaffer intelligently. collecting and clipping the ticket stubs. we all did. surreal. And God knows he Avant-garde than that. keeps himself to himself mostly. It’s more right as rain. I said. all Took a great shine to the One Eyed Wonder right from the lopsided and peculiar and out of whack with the rest of him. stroking his chin And I was right. In fairness.admitted as much. almost Picasso-esque in fact. although I suspect it was – and still is – purely platonic. while his chin serves as half past something or wanted to know when they confronted him on the outside other. Yes. except for the odd grunt and growl. ‘I do’. I must say I took to him straight away. I was just a mere John-Joe at the How could you not? He is a gentle. a kind old soul is he. it’s more… it’s hard nights in a row he presented it to me until in the end I felt as to find the words to describe the phenomenon really.’ the gaffer murmured then. in time he did make us money. he has a face like a clock. In short.’ they’d say. And it’s true. let’s face it. and there is a mole on his forehead that could pass for step. the likes of you and me and not worth mentioning). and the big hand at the same time. the way his features are aligned around his face that does it. I was not yet Maynard Perdu. Ben in out of the rain. his nose is both the little they insisted rightfully belonged to them. ‘Mmn. Not everybody gets it either. thoughtful creature in his time (our word for a go-for) and so I did as I was bid and I led own way. trying their best to get a rise ‘Bring the man in out of the rain. come on. and when the word got out about him people came for Clarence was nodding in the background and after due miles just to catch a glimpse of him and to stand next to him consideration the gaffer instructed me to go out and escort Big and to try and make his acquaintance. It’s speaks to no one either. Big Ben earns his keep. and his eyes are 11 and 1. I don’t mean a regular time piece. his mouth like a mechanical bird. We were somewhere outside Swansea when the Redgraves I saw it at once and I must confessed I laughed out loud at the came to reclaim him – a father on crutches and three big time – one of his cauliflower ears looks like quarter to while strapping brothers who were dead set on getting back what the other ear represents twenty past. ever-silent Big Ben. the man has a face like a clock!’ It was Clarence who nicknamed him Big Ben. Three clock. stationed him on the door. up close he does have a face like a giving me gyp in my early days as Maynard Perdu. idea in the first place. while it takes others time to adjust to it (like that picture of Our invaluable really when it comes to taking down and raising the Lord in the snow that time). strong as an ox. twelve o clock and all the while his tongue lolls in and out of 38 39 . or never gets in anyone’s way.

‘Your they hightailed it out of there – to the air of The Merry Widow favourite. it’s not. flour-stained. I can and a few sturdy roustabouts were waiting in the wings to still conjure up that image of her as she stood there with her greet them. they went inside but they did not wreck the stopping to taste it with the tip of her finger whenever she felt place. mainly because the Mandini Brothers and Camel Man the need.’ from a nearby carousel – I thought I detected the trace of a ‘Pancakes.’ ‘One each. Even to this day.’ ‘Lovely. eh?’ I said. delighted to find her in such good smile appearing on the face of Big Ben. the front where her cigarettes and matches were usually kept. And it’s not even Tuesday became a sort of a catch-phrase in ‘Yes. couldn’t help but laugh at me – anyway and bruises that we discovered on Big Ben’s body when he I came home to find mother and Lisa in the kitchen and as stripped to wash in the yard one day.’ 40 41 . going to the range. grinning with glee and her red hair all barely able to crawl and limp and heck their way back out aflame. after all I’ve been through.’ mother said.’ I said. and I could feel world lifting from my shoulders. ‘He’s ours and that’s all you need to know. a little mat made of sunshine at her feet. ‘Two each. I’m afraid he’s on our payroll now and so that’s not secretly acknowledge this at the time) I felt the weight of the what’s going to happen. the father had his crutches snapped across his back as he struggled and stumbled into the van. pancakes if you don’t mind.’ she beamed. relieved to find them both my heart swelling with pride that the gaffer was standing up still relatively safe and well. ‘Goodbye. Little did I know then that before the month was out she would be no longer with us.’ he said under his breath. Meanwhile.’ the crippled father said in a broad Welsh from school with my famous red satchel on my back – famous accent. and when it was over the three brothers were back to the window. was broken teeth.’ the gaffer declared.’ Lisa piped without even our house.‘Never you mind. She was whisking a mix of something or other in a big bowl. Mother. ‘And it’s not even with it of her own volition one rainy afternoon. eh?’ the father snarled through a mouthful of drew in her big colouring book. the one with the long pouch of a pocket at and wreck the place. And they did. to them. even And I was reminded of the nasty welts and cuts and marks the mildest of people. kneeling on a chair as she coloured and ‘Oh. or two each?’ I teased. ‘I like the sound of that. again. and he gave his sons his blessing to go inside wearing her apron.’ because it was big and cumbersome and old fashioned and everyone who saw me trying to lug it down the street. usual (although I would not have openly admitted or even ‘Yeah well. ‘Iach-Y-Da. ‘And one between you.’ ‘I thought you would. bequeathed to us by little Lisa who just came out looking up from her colouring book. I came home Tuesday.’ she promised. infinitesimal wave of his hand I heard him mutter his first few spoken words. Lisa was at the table. and with an almost spirits. and as ‘I’m making you pancakes for tea.

engaged. I saw ploughed and tilled the very heart of nature itself. And afterwards I’d wait in the car while Strobe indulged Strobe’s Carnival was a fairly run-down. if he was a deep-seated. 42 43 . plain – and most of them. and soon he trusted me enough to take me with would soon learn to drink from his cup. They’d wake up in took it out into the world with me when I went. He’d sit in beside me like a sated centaur and he’d proceed to in the early hours of the dewy morning. or indeed unasked-for. I a few times. and all sorts of strokes were pulled and mooted in between times. I still can’t put my finger on what it was – it seemed to fulfil rich.’ and it moving carousel. poor. and I take no great comfort from this. Promises were made and broken. sing all the way home. and no. seductive ‘his relief man’. He asked me ‘give’. allowed me to keep tabs on the takings and twiddling my thumbs like a little John-o-dreams while he to report back to Strobe practically on an hourly basis. Strobe saw that to be believed. a job that sent me from ride to ride and from charm. of some country town. along with of a man as he had the power and the wherewithal to attract a tacky rifle range or two. information I brought back to him. he began to rely on me. single. handsome. once I old motorcar night after night. ‘The opposition has eyes and ears everywhere. their way. greasy dodgems and chair-o-planes and never failed to amuse and astound me that such an ugly brute swing boats and a rickety old helter-skelter of sorts. stall to stall. heads were cracked and knees were nobbled and I learned very quickly that the world is a very dark and dirty place indeed.Mother and I laughed and I gave Lisa a hug and called her a We’d find a location somewhere – a green field on the edge clever clogs. I would soon learn to him when he went out on his heretofore secret field trips. I manoeuvre when no one else was around. relieving the regular attendants and operators I would sit there and wait for him to return to the banged up for lunch breaks and tea breaks and whatever. coming back for more every time he passed in me too I think and he put me to work as what he called. I had no qualms that one annuls the other. for hours on end most times. but for some peculiar reason – and women aplenty to his side like that – married. dark need in me at the time. substantial whining and throbbing. change my ways. In fact lately the morning and there we’d be in their midst – generators I’m beginning to think that it is the only real. bend my head and gobble from his trough. or a patch of waste ground at its centre maybe – and we’d agree a price with whoever was in charge And so this phrase became part of our family lore. murky affair: a slow himself in a little bit of what he called ‘hoochie-coochie. to ‘do’ rather than ‘think’. because of this. slipped under the legs of tables and dodgy people were wined and dined in bars. as we’d quietly drive away – to the sound of the dawn chorus. and some inner voice told me to about it either. to ‘take’ rather than In time. got the hang of it.’ he’d often say It would be nearly morning before he’d come back to the car. that it was far better to ‘become’ rather than ‘to yearn to take care of the wages and he allowed me to hire and fire and long for’. It also. joy. thing I have left to remind me of them now – if ‘substantial’ is And we did whatever it took to get us there: backhanders were even the right word. as an and then we’d strategically plan the middle-of-the-night expression of any unexpected. lights blinking and music blaring. and all of them enchanted by his strange. And I more than one grease monkey come and go because of the began to think that knowledge and action are rival brothers. And yes.

He late at night. I took care of things. there were some time at all I would learn all I’d need to know about the ins and unpleasant duties that had to be dealt with. and I was the one who cut the umbilical cord – with a sterilised cut throat razor now that I think of it. eh?). And I must say – even though I was playing at exactly. I refereed a grudge fight between two of the runaway lassie. it goes without saying. who. I was touched And I did. I told him out straight that he was better – and when it was over I declared one of them the winner off without her and I paid him off. I didn’t actually it. held the dog and pulled the trigger and that was leaving. so The other carnies were not exactly over the moon about me you can imagine my horror. which was customary wages in fact (I know. and they did – six he saw sense – he was not going to live to tell the tale anyway feet deep. was sturdy roustabouts – blood and spit and sweat everywhere distraught with grief. I know. and he to stand up to anyone who cared to challenge my authority. in another town. without any compunction whatsoever. or at least until the heat died physically bring the infant into the world but I did assist in the down. And to give But he got a bit of a land when I stood up to him (most people myself even more gravitas I moved into Strobe’s fancy trailer wouldn’t). At first he resisted shotgun. that his that. to spitting and scowling at the drop of a hat. birth. I wore one of his like the way I ran things in his absence then he could always heavy overcoats around the place too and I got into the habit get somebody else to do his dirty work for him. (Where were we anyway? – a out the gate one night. I and I advised him to get out of there altogether and start anew shot Strobe’s old wicked dog when he bit a punter on her way if he could somewhere else. for nigh on seven weeks I was the lord and master. young wife would soon come back to him. lighting them up with the silver lighter the money I said I never took a dime that wasn’t owed to me he’d left behind. I was all heart in those days!) in those days. laughed and told me not to be taking things so seriously and 44 45 .All of this became an important part of my work and in no It wasn’t all plain sailing I needn’t tell you. to learn that she called the child after me in the end. Strobe told me later that he was banking one of the girls was due to have her baby – in the middle of on me taking care of things until he got all of this. as he put nowhere – I helped to deliver the child. I steeled myself cigars and sleeping in his bed and shooting his dog. I just went inside the trailer. Yes. – and he left with his little pathetic bundle upon his back.’ I said to whoever was handy. No. And that’s why I was the ideal candidate to think I managed to overcome the many-headed obstacles take over the reins when Strobe did his moonlit flit with the that were hurled at my then-young feet. Yes. when I went assuming command of the ship but as one day bled into the into the trailer one day and found Strobe sitting behind the next they began to accept that I was probably the best man – if desk as if he’d never been gone.‘ love lark’ out of his system. I told him that if he didn’t and I slept in his big feather bed every night. and as for of smoking his cigars. but overall I outs of the trade. I suppose. wearing his clothes and smoking his I do say so myself – I wore the mantle well. I even began drinking some of his whiskey (after all why take a dime and you can steal a dollar. I made myself right at home there. I began making noises about the takings. gave him an extra day’s while I sacked the loser on the spot. got the town called Willow if I’m not mistaken). I took care of everything. I really let him have it. and disappointment. Another The first thing I did was to try and console the young husband time. He asked me what I thought not the only one – for the job. holding up a wad of grew a bit of a beard and I let my hair grow long and I took money and waving it under my nose to emphasise his point. hoping in his heart of hearts. But after a few days ‘Bury him. And. For instance when young lady that time.

First when we lived – Lisa and mother and me – in the little hovel in Rat Alley. and he winked at me as I went out the door.he clapped me on the back and offered me a glass of whiskey which I declined to take. 46 47 . I was lonely then for the ordinary life that I knew we’d never share. Loneliness? Yes. But I knew that he wouldn’t let it lie and that one of these days or nights I’d be getting a good kicking for myself at the back of the rifle range. I have tasted it and drank it and felt it and wore it like a cloak all my life. And so. She broke down and cried when I put my arms around her. for the peace and comfort and warmth that most people call home. As for me – like Dick Whittington – I headed for London where on The South Bank I caught sight of the Spiegeltent for the very first time – that palladium of dreams – and my heart and soul were both instantly won and lost. I told him I had to get back to work and he threw his hands in the air and said. I went back to sleeping in one of the other old wagons after that and it was there that the girl came to me one moonless night. looking for comfort. I know what that means. ‘Fair enough…fair enough…’ a couple of times. She said that Strobe was a cruel and dangerous and heartless individual – not that I needed her to tell me that – and that she was already regretting what she’d done. comfort her I did. and when I decided to bail out one night with my little stash of money I took her with me. And whenever I did catch a glimpse of it (now and then there were moments to cherish – pancakes and tarts and homemade brown bread or a new mat that lit up the room) only to have father enter the fray and upend the applecart. We hitched a lift to the nearby railway station and I bought her a ticket and put her on board a train (the last decent thing I ever did) and I sent her home to her parents’ place where I hoped and prayed she’d be welcomed back into the fold again.

‘and get on with it. I’d try on the hats and garments. Because I smelt it too. I’d ramble around like an awed schoolboy who was ached for the sight of her. I knew that. I would on the chin. you see: off my clothes. I didn’t retaliate. and she is a bit of a drawback when you have leanings towards a career called for the caretaker and the gardener and the two of them in the theatre. is it any wonder that I became what I am? Is it any wonder letter box. And so it did – in there was a rotten old smell off me. the quixotic magician. about how we would misery. good looks. And I fretted the air-borne acrobats. just let out to see the sights: the beautiful. Loud voices next door. about my skin.’ It goes without saying that I did not erase her from my life. and for your own good do your best to erase her from your life. I’d do whatever I in the yard. spangled dancers. ‘Dry your eyes now. My first few days in the Spiegeltent were wondrous days I did not forget her. I was told that I was a big boy now and that I should just get on with it. time. But I was not hired for my only to be caught and hunted away by the limping caretaker. the cheeky for her safety. that going to have to earn its keep from now on.But all of that was only one side of the story and not a patch ever existed in the first place). a prerequisite surely – talent! But no.’ Loneliness? Yes. Yes. what has it yielded in the heel of the hunt – nothing only pain And then Lisa was taken from me and I was told and expected and sorrow. survive the oncoming storm. Without complaint I went nun instead and the nun came and thrust the note back into about my work. that I’d recently discarded. a motor car stopping outside on the street. worried for her well-being. off my hair. them. that she had been shifted to some other institution. I had came out and shoved me away from the gate. The word is this priest said to me one day as if Lisa was just an old coat tattooed across my back. let’s face it. off of me – the stench of misfortune and Lisa and what would become of her. off lie awake at night and worry and fret about our future. I’d inhale the orphanage on my day off and try to catch a glimpse of her magic air. It was not going to be easy.’ he said. the damp. ached to feel her little hand in mine once again. I’d go up to the chaps in the band. the ‘other’. ached for the sound of her voice. No. cloying smell of my loneliness. the postman rattling the So. or into the asked her to give it to Lisa for me. and how I looked was them – the caretaker I think it was – told me that I stank. After all what has the ‘ordinary’ ever done for me. ‘You’re a big boy now. all of these things sent me shivering into that lonely that I gravitated towards the ‘rococo’ and the ‘bizarre’ and place. adjusting his biretta and popping a mint into his mouth. and I knew he was right. Desperate to see her. I mainly because I had no talent to speak of which. begged her to tell me where it was but she wouldn’t. The truth of the matter is I indeed. But the child gave it to a kitchen to wash the dirty dishes. I know what that means. that any vestige or veneer of respectability was long gone (if it 48 49 . I was told many times. All I had was how I looked. or out to the back yard to sort the bottles. I took it on the loneliness I felt when mother left us to our fate. I once scaled the high wall could to affirm my presence there. I could not. dead set on making my mark on this new- my hand again and informed me that Lisa was no longer with found life of mine. And one of no talent. to just forget about her. I’d touch the velvet curtains. and I was handed a mop Another time I stood with my face pressed against the barred and broom and bucket and sent to work on the floor of the gate and I slipped a note to one of the other orphans and salon.

half couldn’t help but feel that he was tailing me all over town. he wanted to be me. had treasure and he was the one they’d loathe and discard. most repulsive and Fair enough. the nearest tavern or dancehall and we’d carouse until dawn. I confronted him in the end and he broke down and We were attached to a high flying wire that would whisk us cried – big fat tears falling from his watery eyes like rain on up into the air and sweep us from A to B across the stage like the roof – and he told me he loved me and that he couldn’t live without me. He could make you I very seldom slept alone in those days and seldom with the weep. our heads side by side and our two out-of-sight as I’d walk a girl to her digs after a night out. whichever way you want to look at it. and he could I? The boys in the band wouldn’t have it – I mean. could Heppy. We tutelage I stepped out in front of an audience for the very first were called The Misbegotten and we sang of love – lost and time. His eyes were too close was pleading for mankind while I had the heart and soul and together for comfort and his teeth were all over the shop and voice of the devil incarnate. I’d come back to the base in the morning – Madrid. No. or badly if he wanted to. And yet the irony was that – in his ears were… no. He looked at me and he assumed that annoyed with me for not taking him along. look. And I am. my a corner with his finger in his mouth. and under his we were two sad eyed angels that had just fallen to earth. And sometimes arms (his left. I cannot find the words to describe real life as well as on stage – I was the one they’d love and it – his ugliness. He taught me the tricks of the trade. so I suppose me! Definitely! I should be grateful to him for it. no watching what I’d do and who I was with and where I’d take one knowing for sure who was saying what to whom and why.A freak called Heppy Tooey took me in hand. God. how what he saw on the outside was what I was within. down where the demons dwell. Jupiter had let him down. drinking coffee at a pavement café. Sometimes when I think of it now I have to find my light and how to pick up my cues and how to lower to admit that – and it irks me to say this because I was the one my eyes and becalm my beating heart. I always thought he was physique. Barcelona. celestial one who it had been baked in sulphuric acid. He taught me the little that debunked it. Heppy and I know and the little I know has got me thus far. what? He very nearly achieved it too. not the Spiegeltent happened to be – to find old Heppy sulking in me per se. I’d catch sight of became a two headed being with two hands and three legs him again. wherever I didn’t realise it then but Heppy fell in love with me. down. Except on one front that is: he could sing like an angel. but. And you know about cramping our style – and quite frankly neither would I. my body. He designed a suit that would inhabit us both so that we were strapped together like Once or twice I caught sight of him skulking in the shadows Siamese twins. my image. the audience seeing one or other of us at any given time. The meaning behind our little… what shall I call it… an act? Heppy was probably the ugliest. the me he thought I was – my face. Strobe had taught me well. And soon I and one voice – his! He would sing and I would lip-sync. my right) wrapped around each other until we in the mornings as I’d make my getaway. down. come on. them. showed me how found and lost again. I cannot do it justice. forgotten poor Heppy. Working 50 51 . talk wanted to consume me. soaring to the Each night after the show I’d hitch up with a few boys in heavens like a castrated choir boy one minute and diving down the band and maybe one or two dancers and we head off to deep into the lower musical realm the next – down. And that was the final straw for me. it seemed. The meaning behind our little act was simple – unfortunate creature I have even encountered – twisted limbs although I’m not so sure I grasped it at the time – but the gist and the makings of a hump and a scaly face that looked like of it all seemed to be that he was the pure. but – we were before our time. he could make you forget your own name same woman twice – yes. Berlin.

’ way – a slight. of them like psychedelic arrows as they both latched on to If I’m not mistaken I think that might have been the first time each other in mid-air. lock. a second skin. although it was never stipulated. I could tell that he was mildly We held on to the suit – the show that is. the very it and. Everything was going swimmingly until we heard his safety harness give ‘Heppy. I’d come across it concussed by the way his eyes rolled about and there was a now and again when I’d be rifling around in a chest. The heavy contraption hit him square on the And when we moved on.’ he joked to the audience in I often think of him these days – old Heppy. and then they sailed and somersaulted I ever got up the nerve to even speak to him. I knew wrong time. or me I said. – Michael The Archangel – was flying overhead like a graceful 52 53 .) Music was playing and the glittering spears of light glanced off the two ‘What do you mean?’ the gaffer said. And then without further question is happenstance: I happened to be standing in the ado I was pushed out onto the stage and made to get on with very right place at. stock and barrel.’ he commanded. a cocoon that I’d lately standing throughout the ordeal and he even managed to keep emerged from.’ I said. I was in the shadows. The quick-thinking gaffer – a squat. (She is a delicate looking creature time. and then I was me again. And once I had a dream about it: I dreamt that the show on the road. and I did.with him and smelling him and touching him and listening bird on the wing. and yes. I slipped out of one the first place. You’ll want to know how or why I became Maynard Perdu in ‘Put it on. it was him with porcelain skin and the heart of Madame Bovary. a few of us hurried to his side. nevertheless. Am I right? I thought so… The answer to that defining outfit and into another. language) was just standing there in the rain – lost and lonely wearing some ridiculous garb. Maynard Perdu. and it reminded me of a trickled down his face and hands. or I’d nasty open gash across his forehead as a tiny rivulet of blood find it slung in a heap on the floor. we did become lovers for a brief period of time. I think of him broken English as we helped him into the wings. metallic jangle – and it plunged and crashed down on to the chap who was currently masquerading as To tell you the truth I didn’t think he’d go for it but he did. some might say now in hindsight. So I went to the gaffer and laid it on the line. this just put the standing on the forty foot platform preparing to hurl herself tin hat on it for me altogether. Heppy Tooey temple and he staggered backwards and I thought I heard him (which apparently means The Sad One in some unspoken curse under his breath – in Norwegian. in magnificent unison above our craning heads. he was me and I was him. I mean I was only a kid at the headlong into his arms. ’bloke’ jutting out like a sore thumb. ‘You should see the other bloke. To his credit he stayed pelt that I’d just shed. the word and I wonder what ever became of him. martinet of a man – came to the aid and he put the wounded ringmaster sitting on a nearby chair and while someone else attended to his wounds the gaffer was carefully divesting him of the blood-spattered suit which he then tossed in my direction. His partner – the beautiful Ariel – was to him was bad enough but this was…well. The show was in full flight – literally: an acrobat that my job was to buy them all the precious time they needed. when the accident occurred and and truly forsaken. ‘It’s him or me – take your pick.

I tapped into their unfulfilled hopes and dreams Perdu. in essence performers.’ I sang. And it seemed to me that I came to the role fully. cane I was transfixed by the character of Maynard Perdu. All of this psychological stuff would take its toll on me in time but right there and then I have to admit that I was in my ‘A doddle?’ I said. I teased them. ‘A doddle. On offended and insulted them. without a backward glance. showed call the deep well of life. who later confessed to me hand and I led them by the nose to drink from what I now that his heart was in his mouth sending me out there. In other words was a breeze. For instance – on that maiden voyage – when some old drunken fool in the front row tried to upstage me I didn’t 54 55 . Yes. and the strangest part of it all is that nobody seemed to I removed him from his chair. a word I was not particularly au formed. On my return to the main stage a woman asked me to sing a listen.‘bewitched’ is definitely the right word. everything I did and said seemed right on the money. The other thing that struck me to playfully frogmarch him down the centre aisle before was how at-home I felt in the costume. a leisurely stroll along the I became the wicked inner self that they all thought they had boulevard. and I scrunched up my face to imply that element. the giving him a Chaplin-esque bum’s rush out the front door second. I’ve been bewitched before and I warbled it to her. I answered – in the voice of Maynard Perdu – that it and I gave voice to their unspoken aspirations. nothing fazed me that night. already more than halfway there. long ago supplanted with good intentions. a word that. I reintroduced them to their long forgotten fears me a huge hug and he asked me how it felt to be Maynard and phobias. they just accepted me for the neck and the seat of his baggy trousers and I proceeded what I was supposed to be. transfixed is not the right word. did not really do either my hand. and all to hilarious laughter and applause. With comical aplomb. No. I took them – the audience that is – by the the end of the evening the gaffer. swaggered into the the eyelids. and since and. the minute. perfect the arrogant air – but. Bedevilled maybe? Or particular song for her and I did. And when I finally came off stage at to walk on water. the cane belonged in fait with. darken man. I flattered them. in my opinion. the very moment I donned that suit and twirled that and onto the street.) The spiel – witty and dangerous at the same time ‘If You Were the Only Girl In The World. – instinctively poured forth from me as I moved across the I made up a poem on the spot too – something about a man stage like a man who had both the will and the wherewithal who looked like a goat. The suit fitted me like a glove. enhance the visual side of things – I’d The gaffer laughed and slapped my back and said I was a hard grow this tiny pencil moustache. he threw his arms around me and gave their futures.It was a surreal feeling stepping out there for the very first even falter. that’s it. notwithstanding dressing room to take my place among my fellow poker-faced these few paltry things. grabbed him by the scruff of notice the change of personnel. No. and the words slithered from my mouth like molten me or my performance justice. I read their minds and foretold the contrary in fact. nothing put me off my stride. lava. believe you me. I no reservations whatsoever about offering me the job. I put her sitting on my knee bewitched perhaps? (Yes. eh?’ the gaffer grinned. No. this was a foreign word to me. in time. like a true vaudevillian. and I. it seemed to me that I was. accentuate the lips. I would. anyway. a walk in the park. time.

She ran from my trailer. And then he stressed that I was to point out you wouldn’t – the less said about that the better. At one stage he actually fight him after the show that night. I together I felt I was living in a magical realm. and she hadn’t a clue who I was talking about this bout. ‘It’s her or me. ‘sweet way. I’m sure you agree – or maybe that sort of guff. or smiling at nothing at all. But more than that – and this was the ‘I know. have been said and before I knew it he had challenged me to saying that he felt betrayed of late. and when we afternoon. dear reader. That was just before I gave him a toe up the hole out the door. I’m sure you’ll forgive me but chivalry prevents me from him. to do about it until Clarence urged me to explain myself to Well.) So I finished automatically get his walking papers from the show. Over on the radio. shorn of my strength and will power.’ There were a few other thought Maynard Perdu had met his match in love. Clarence would find me staring vacantly into space. In my things too: advice on how I might stand and present myself arms she was a little wil-o-the-wisp. At first I didn’t know what and about the good times in between and so on and so forth. ironically to the sound of Roy Orbison singing It’s could say I was in a real pickle whichever way it went. and I know talk about. Needless to say I didn’t Samson.’ he said. He even – in I’d be the first to admit that things were said that should not his high pitched helium voice – questioned our friendship. getting to his feet or down in the dumps if she wasn’t around.’ I agreed. she thought Ariel was a Walt Disney character for I was well aware that there was no chance of me winning God’s sake. ‘looking down your forfeiting my time with other women. When we were stick rigidly to the script but that’s what I did in the end.’ and then angry words were exchanged and commented on my lack of verve and initiative. He All I have to say on the matter is that for a while there I told me to emphasise. issued an ultimatum to me. ‘It’s… bizarre!’ important part for me – she was not my intellectual equal The problem was that Mikey was a really strong guy so that (come on. and more than once he nose at my sister. Clarence loaned me a knuckle-duster and someone else – Camel Man or someone – slipped me a black-jack and advised But no. to Mikey that I had no real prospects in life and that it was only fair to call it a day and let her go her own sweet way.I can feel you squirming in your seat. He even told me what to say: that I respected her and going into the ins and outs of all of that. ‘A fellow wanting to fight you because you won’t go to bed with Needless to say it all ran its course in good time and I began his sister!’ to realise – and admit it to myself – that she was not the only girl in the world. As anyone quite like her and that she was a true blue and all for the good times in between. and I noticed him giving me the evil know how it started in the first place and where it all ended eye whenever our paths crossed. ‘Who do you think you are. ‘That’s novel. it’s the aftermath of the affair that I really want to 56 57 . were apart life was just not worth living. He noticed me and upsetting all the cups and saucers. weeping and sobbing and calling my name like it was some sort of mantra.’ Mikey said. rather – and that I had never met began with a smile and it ended with a song on the radio. full of romantic explained myself – something I seldom do – over lunch one disappointments and thrilling possibilities. in her arms I was and the timbre of my voice and that. Suffice to say that it liked her – or loved her. Mikey – her brother and partner-in-crime on what it is you’re itching to ask me now: you want me to talk the trapeze (The Archangel) – was not too enamoured with about Ariel and my secret love affair with her? You want to my behaviour it seems. and as if that wasn’t bad enough the loser would when I dropped Nietzsche into the conversation.’ Clarence laughed when he heard the news. so you with her.

the unfaithful barns and dosshouses and mission halls. I was just about to throw in the towel to the wall. the bawdy songs that never wooden cross that I had fashioned from plywood all those 58 59 . And the speeches. I was on the look-out for a little the noise – the curses. the fat lady has accompanying her with tears in his eyes and beseeching us all yodelled her final refrain. My cell door is wide open. the sermons. the cries. this place. I went looking for my mother’s grave today. But the pain is real. a place speak of. pockets. Years and years of way to limbo. a constant reminder striding across a familiar green field and over a ditch and that I’m free to walk out of here anytime I choose. pretending to be anyone other than who I was went down. was looking. I only knew the vague whereabouts of it B ack in my cell and I am in the doldrums now. with my hands stuffed in fingernails. overgrown and tangled trousers. Sandra has very kindly squared it with the when I recognised a landmark – a well-weathered old water desk sergeant that I might stay here for a little while until I trough in the middle of nowhere – and before I knew it I was get sorted. I do not feel the cold. what would I do? I have nothing: no future to she was – an un-consecrated little cemetery of sorts. roustabouts with their broken teeth and their snapped off dirty I couldn’t locate the grave and so.me to hit Mikey over the head from behind when no one held any real solace for me. no real past except the one I’ve created. I’ve seen dead men come back to life again and live my pockets in a vain attempt to make light of it all. neither of them ever returned to No. I hovered ones die where they fell. Luckily for me the Gods intervened once again supposed to be at any given time. endless. the the Spiegel again. The fantasy has played hospital to have her stomach pumped. and not hopeful of victory and that afternoon I secretly packed little old day-dreaming me in the middle of it all. To my eternal shame and sorrow I have not been back there in a long. for the lost and lonely: suicides and still born babies on their it is cold here but I do not feel the cold. Oh yes. time-wasting bullshit. and an overwrought Ariel (calling my name I’m told) took a few too many tablets and she had to be rushed to the nearest But it’s all catching up on me now. I’ve had holes in my departed all gathered here together under the one slice of sky. But where along a stony path and through a rusty old gate and there would I go. a distraught Mikey itself out I fear. to pray for her. the phlegm. the ceaseless. And yes. longing to a bag and prepared to make my getaway as soon as the sun be elsewhere. I have rubbed shoulders with tramps and sea sick with weeds and briars and nettles and thistles and thorny sailors and drunken navvies. long time – forever and a day. In my time I have slept in hay paupers and scoundrels and good-for-nothings. holes in the seat of my chequered It is a desolate little spot. pain is real alright! 9th Dec. I’ve stood side by side with sturdy blackberry bushes. the spit. But knuckle-duster and black-jack or not I was the rows. lying and at first I lost my bearings and I began to doubt that I here on my bunk bed with my tear-stained face turned could find it anymore. Thankfully. the vomit. the opera has come to an end. holes in my shoes. children born out of wedlock. I hiked the long trek out of town and down that lonely country road that led to 8th Dec. and over a few likely candidates. her place of rest. thieves and hardship have inured me to it.

try as I might. And there was a pear intervened and called out to them: shaped glass container of Lourdes water with tiny figurines of Our Lady and Saint Bernadette installed like a ship in a ‘For Christ’s sake. half of her wreck of a woman who didn’t deserve any consideration of any secretly dreading the prospect. the very next day but I didn’t answer. in all fairness. you couldn’t down and cried in the living room. and then someone wanted Lisa to sing a song was up. One of those men – Mister Brown – gave Lisa and me a handful of coins to share. And think it was – said so. the little girl’s just buried her mother. And as I searched for the grave. set to stay standing. her mouth going a mile a minute. and one of us – Lisa I young priest who didn’t really know what to do or say. and he pushed us away and ordered us there was Lisa and me. sort and that I was a sap for thinking otherwise. and this made her cry. That was Lisa’s idea.years ago with mother’s name painted in double thick writing to my pleas until the woman of the house – a big lady with – Mary Jane O’ Neill (Née Drummond). She would A serious silence descended and father looked at me and I pray nightly for Our Lady to appear to her. There was nothing in the house to eat and men. Where I got the the arms of a washer woman and a harsh-sounding voice – Née Drummond from I have no idea. and father of course along with a few to go to bed. headstone and shiny marble stones and a border made of I begged them to stop and leave her be but they paid no heed granite and a vase of newly watered flowers and mother’s 60 61 .’ they wailed. Before the week was out Lisa was taken from me and and they put her sitting up on the counter and gathered I was sent to work – and live – in Doyle’s Department Store. A policeman called to our door two neglected. of his drinking cronies. morning father was gone and we didn’t see him again for We were in a pub called The Robin Red Breast where the three whole days. She called my name. Lisa and I were crouched in a corner like authorities to our plight. her eyes visibly knew what he was thinking. drank and drank until they were hard I was forced to go to the nearest convent to beg for alms. We both hid behind a cupboard until he went away again. and although I tried my best to stop it – I really did – they just brushed me aside and I felt I was pondering all of this as I scanned the little graveyard guilty about letting her down at the time – still do in fact – for some sign or other and I was trying to recall the last few but I was only a little boy and there was really nothing much words that Lisa ever said to me.’ bottle – only on the outside. Victorian waifs. that mother was a nerve-jangled swooning. and when we got Lisa slept with me that night and when we awoke in the to the bar another ruffian bought us lemonade and biscuits. That same afternoon a There was a fist fight of sorts and an argument over whose social worker paid us a visit and that’s when I knew the game round it was. father included. and then she said… what? her to recite a poem instead but she wouldn’t do that either Her face! I can’t quite recapture her face! and they all began chanting her name.) There was hardly anyone at it. He drew us to him and really call it that. There was a he squeezed us so hard that he hurt us. Meanwhile. I couldn’t help At closing time we followed him home through the empty but drift back to the day our mother was buried (I was going streets and hopeless alleyways and when we got there he broke to say the day of her funeral but. around her and it was bedlam. I do I could do about it. Lisa refused to sing and father encouraged know that. And that’s when I saw it – white and pristine with a majestic ‘LISA LISA LISA. and later on they burst into sentimental This became our downfall in the end because it alerted the song.

oily overalls who didn’t really live up to his name. 10th Dec. At this point the old dear clammed up on me until I bought her another gin-and-tonic and away she went again. My heart began to pound with pride and shame and With Sandra’s help I tracked down the old gardener who used overwhelming sadness and some other emotion I have no to work in St Catherine’s Orphanage all those years ago. At hear. still plead for my job back: anything. a slobbery slouch in from shop to shop and business to business looking for work. She also to be shot of me. I’d fetch lived somewhere on the outskirts of town. in fact some of them were downright rude to me transformed him into a Caravaggio painting. He invited I’d offer to wash their windows or clear their drains or any me into his stale smelling parlour and he sat by the window so other menial task that needed doing. I went down to the quayside one day last week and found She was a gin-soaked.name engraved in what appeared to be mother-of-pearl And then I got it into my head to look for my little sister Lisa. such was the grimy 62 63 . cruel mouth and a pointed chin that where it stood and I tried to imagine it wrapped around curved like a hook. had left it to marry someone called I said and done and I was sorely tempted to write a letter and Bright. hard set to hear what he was saying to me. as far as she was aware. And in the afternoons. it. I’d sweep the floor. and a little later. to my credit. belongings. hanging around all day long was a fairly handsome young man I decided to call it a day. In the mornings I’d usually play bought her another drink. in her eyes. I was filled with sadness and despair. and yes. writing. On her insistence I met her in – even me again. anyway – I’d accompany him up as far as twelve o’clock mass in the Friary. I regretted the things at sixteen or seventeen. I stood eyes and a pinched. She said that she and carry. and when I saw the little bottle of of a forever lost and broken hearted little girl with an ill- Lourdes water – perfectly preserved – I fell to my knees and conceived ponytail. kissed her old wrinkled hand and dominos with an elderly resident and later on – most days left. I’d do anything they asked. And when she changed tack and started saying that I first I found it all fairly tedious. a garage mechanic who. But Clarence – who didn’t think the marriage had worked out and I felt my heart came to visit me once or twice when I was incarcerated – sink with disappointment (I was hoping to hear of a happy assured me that Management were adamant. and I thought I heard my own sonorous voice by my standards – a seedy backstreet bar. I with little or nothing to do. He didn’t know what became of her he said and he pointed me in the direction of an ex-nun who he felt sure would be able to help me. booked into a small hotel on the main drag where I get a room alongside a few things I didn’t really need to know or want to and full board for what I consider to be a reasonable rate. I’d go My next port of call was this Bright guy. standing in the yard with perpetual tears wept. others pointless. I’ll admit had been living at Saint Catherine’s for a few years and that. they sent said that Lisa had a habit of changing her surname and that whatever wages I was owed along with a cardboard box of my she didn’t even think she was calling herself Lisa these days. Most of them refused to that – to my astonishment – a shaft of dust-flecked sunlight entertain me. At first I was so that I almost gave up the ghost at one stage in the game. telling I used the money to buy some warm winter clothes and I’ve me lots of things: some of them helpful. The name for yet. that they wanted home with nieces and nephews to mollycoddle). haggard-looking crone with veiled the blank spot where the Spiegeltent used to be. She said that Lisa ringing through the make-believe rafters. I tiptoed ever so gently towards it for fear that gardener remembered Lisa well and he painted me a picture I might break the spell. via Sandra.

I’m happy to report. working as a Maître d in Tony’s Place. I couldn’t go on any longer. ‘Hey. his prayers rather) were answered and I had a ‘It comes with a health warning. It turns out the ex-nun was right. I was even warned off once by a big Bright anyway.’ think Lisa. a smoky voice that was cold and hard and Orekiko and Kreatopitia and Stifatho and Piroski and… unforgiving so that I hoped and prayed that this wasn’t the what they call Arni Psito – which is Veil Stew with onions to voice of my little sister. 64 65 . ‘Watch it!’ I more or less decided to call a halt to it. worn out and disheartened. He agreed that Lisa had a habit didn’t give over. the hidden. It was too distressing – the hopes and fears. of the day – and it breaks my heart to have to say this. ‘I’ll send you nowadays. week Tony is getting my name embossed on the menu. a swishing red hem going out a side door. pig-tails which he gave me to keep. All wonderful stuff with beautiful give me her name and when I told her who I was and what I textures and aromas. the glimpse of calling herself these days. I have secured a job. the truth of the matter is she just doesn’t want to be found. at the end ‘If you find her let me know. the pain and loss. And then – a few days later – Sandra presented me with a phone number to call. I wear a tailor-made uniform and next wanted she just hung up on me. once or twice. and the fact that suppose – reached into his wallet for a photograph of Lisa in the closer I got to her the lonelier I felt. It is a Greek restaurant and I’m still trying to get I dialled the number and there was a woman’s voice on to grips with the names of all the various dishes on offer: the other end.’ I warned him. bit of good luck. a lipstick-stained cigarette in an otherwise empty ashtray. the shade. gorilla of a guy who threatened to break my face for me if I will-ever-come-of-it variety. according to my shame.’ and. And then one day last week. I was propositioned.beauty of it all – the light. wherever she is and whatever she calls herself ‘Yeah right. I suppose I was afraid – brave soul that I was – of what I might find in the underworld. And the other was a fruitless visit to a woman’s shelter in Navan which made day I suggested that we design an Early Bird meal and he is me uneasy to say the least – never trust a place or a person or seriously thinking of heeding that advice. The trail undertones – and I had to shift in my seat and force myself to led me into louche taverns and bars and a few other places of concentrate. The lady. to hadn’t worked out and Lisa had run off with. In truth. my prayers (no. the He immediately apologised and at once – to make amends I half-forgotten memories. a good looking delinquent of the no-good. Indeed. In the end I had the feeling that the tables of changing her name and identity and although he gave had been turned on me and that someone was following me several of her pseudonyms he didn’t know what she was me around – a silhouette in a shop window. refused to the likes of you and me. And anyway. like it or not. No. at long last. sounded vaguely familiar. I was gulled.’ she said. He Over the next few days I continued my search for Lisa: there wants me to advise him on the wine list too. I waited for more but she didn’t elaborate. the marriage ill repute. a husky voice that ‘Good riddance to her. knows where I am and that I am looking for her daily bulletins about her.’ I said to myself on the way out. Enough was enough. whoever she was. but – I ‘I’d be very interested to learn what became of her. shadowy a number that can spell itself backwards I always say.’ he said as an addendum. Finally. I was jeered. ‘he said as he led me to the door.

Oh Lisa. my own flesh and blood. She looks Greek although she swears to me that she is not. I’ve said it. Sandra says. I intend to give it to her for Christmas. Tony more or less said as much to me one night last week. I do not wear a uniform and my name will not be appearing on the menu.Hold it. There now. Ends. But there is potential for me to rise up through the ranks. I might as well admit that I did not slash the cigarette from Weasel’s gob with my cane that day. She gives me little titbits to eat when everyone has gone. I’m employed to wash the dishes and clear the tables and sweep up when everyone is gone. Lisa. And while I’m at it. hang on. and I agree. I am not the Maître d. I must stop this… crowing. Lisa. I must be patient. In fact I have put a down payment on a lovely brooch up the town. where are you? Tony’s wife Belinda is a beautiful woman. in fact it was the other way around: he knocked off my hat and he gave me a good kick in the pants for myself too as I hurried away. stop… No. I have grown quite fond of her. 66 67 . I must be patient and thankful for what I’ve got. I know she will wear it well. She wears her hair up in a sort of a beehive when she is working and when the night is done she frequently lets it fall down over her shoulders in what could only be described as wild abandon. She is kind to me. The other night she gave me a bowl of tomato soup and freshly cooked bread and olives to eat and we drank a few glasses of ouzo together while Tony did the books in the other room. I sit at a table and listen to her cares and worries and woes. Sandra is right.

68 .