Saturday, February 9, 2013

CLOSING TIME





CLOSING TIME


He wants to turn the key in the lock to stop the endless cackle of life. At one minute to six, two hand-bagged ladies in hats continue to discuss the merits of a red plastic egg slicer. Widowed, they are in no hurry to return to houses, devoid of passionate embrace or passionate argument. The divorced shopkeeper, on the other hand, can't wait to pull down the faded blinds on the endless whining about extortionate prices on the one hand, or on the other, the endless carping about goods on special offer, that must have been manufactured in China or Taiwan, and must, therefore, be of a lesser quality. He is about to choke on the futility of it all. The useless bits and bobs, and the empty-headed people that collect them. He hates his flaky inheritance.....Flannagan's ironmonger's, where his grandfather had served a life-sentence. He coughs up his irritation like a grunting last-orders bell.

 'You really should get something for that cough,' said the square-shouldered lady in the pink hat, and without lifting her eyes, she scoops up a blue china teabag holder between pink-leathered fingers, as if she has unearthed a bronze-age chalice, that deserves an intense scrutiny and evaluation.

God he needed a drink. If he didn't shut this circus soon, his head would explode. 'Shit, how long does it take to decide whether an egg-slicer is more useful than a teabag holder?' he grizzles as he turns his head to the photograph of his late grandfather, Bill, in his favourite pose; standing behind the chunky mahogany counter  in a brown slop coat over a starched white shirt and the red dickie bow, which Bill believed, gave him an air of eccentricity, that women found irresistible. His face looked exactly as it had on the day of Jim's confirmation. 'One day, Jimmy my boy, all this will be yours,' he slammed; sinking his seventh or eighth Jameson of the afternnoon. The confirmation celebrations ended abruptly that night, when the barmaid from the Spinning Wheel burst in on the gathering, and announced she was carrying Bill's child. Jim's grandmother, Gertie, did not say a word that night, but Jim remembered that she moved into the back bedroom, that overlooked the graveyard, which he thought was weird. Following that ultimate episode of betrayal and embarrassment, his grandmother was seldom seen helping out in the shop or standing on the corner, across from St. Matthew's chatting to Mrs. Nesbitt and Mrs Grogan, as she once did, on Sunday mornings after 11 o'clock mass. Nevertheless Bill kept his word. Jim did inherit it all: the shop; an inability to be faithful to one woman; and.an over-dependence upon alcohol.

Jim walked towards a switchboard next to the front door and flicked off one or two lights, and then back on again, thinking that this might urge a decision and the realization of a life outside theirs. 'Oh dear,' said the smaller, but full-chested woman in green tweed, 'For a moment, I thought there had been a power cut!' Undeterred, the ladies were making for the tea towels, and the words, 'Get out for fuck's sake!' were welling up in Jim's throat, but both actions were suddenly interrupted by screeching brakes; an enormous bang and shattering glass. The screaming started and shouts of 'Get the police....!'; 'Someone call an ambulance.....!' Without saying a word to him or each other, the two ladies scuttled towards the front door and rushed out on to the street to join in the morbidity of watching someone who might just be taking their last breath, trapped behind a steering wheel or drowning in their own blood.

He locked out the outside, and grabbing the Jameson bottle from underneath the mahogany counter, he trudged upstairs into the back bedroom overlooking the graveyard. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, he picked up the silver-framed wedding photograph and turned it face-down for the hundredth time.  It was closing time.


Maureen Walsh - February 2013


This is a track from the inimitable Tom Waits' wonderful album, Closing Time: Grapefruit Moon






Ciao for now!

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