I was just passing the time of day in Ron’s bar the other afternoon with Jimmy the Bollix, enjoying a new drinking competition we’d just invented, where you pour Guinness into your ear to see if it makes you as drunk as pouring it into your mouth when –
What? What’s that? Would that be Twenty Major’s friend Jimmy the Bollix? It certainly would. You’ve never mentioned him before, have you? No? And why would that be? Well, it’s a bit sensitive, but let me explain.
As I said, I was passing the time of day with Jimmy the Bollix when I came out with how annoying it was, the way he ‘whittered’ on all the time. ‘“Whittered”?’ he asked. ‘Don’t you mean “wittered”?’
‘No’, I answered, ‘I mean “whittered.” And since I mention it now, do you remember me saying exactly the same thing to you a month ago?’
‘Now that you mention it, yes I do.’
‘And do you also remember me coming out with the rather cryptic-sounding pronouncement “incorrectly aligned quotation mark, page 96”, also a month ago?’
‘Again, yes’, answered Jimmy, the Guinness he was then pouring into his ear emerging from his nostrils and eye-sockets simultaneously.
‘There is a reason for that’, I announced. ‘And that reason is our friend Twenty Major. Or rather your friend, or so you must think. Have you noticed the way that when he comes in here I go and sit in the corner, resuming my long-standing attempt to finish Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu?’
‘That I have noticed’, Jimmy answered.
‘Then let me you tell you a story. I had an ulterior motive for mentioning that “whittered” and reversed quotation mark a month ago, long before I could have otherwise have had any other reason for doing so. And that reason was to prove that the secret author of Twenty Major’s The Order of the Phoenix Park, which contains the aforementioned errors, is none other than me!’
‘Well ride me sideways!’ blurted Dirty Dave at the bar.
‘Twenty and I go back a long way’, I continued, ‘but we don’t like to talk about it now. It’s all very embarrassing. I didn’t mind writing his book for him in return for the blog-link [HINT HINT] he has promised me, as long as that dark chapter from both our lives is never, ever mentioned again.’
‘Tell me more’, asked Stinking Pete.
‘We were in
‘You went all the way to
‘Shut the fuck up Luciano. No one wants to hear about your stupid fucking friend in Inchicore. So anyway, Twenty, or “Gene” was busy with the paper while I pioneered yet another scam. My scam also involved the printing business, and was designed to help people who’d become helplessly addicted to the taste and smell of printer’s ink, to the point where they couldn’t come home from a day’s work without drinking a bottle of the stuff.’
‘Sounds serious’, interjected Ron.
‘It is indeed a terrible affliction,’ I said. ‘I called my homemade remedy “Inkwean”, to be taken at moments of particular stress and temptation such as “Homecome”.’
‘Homecome’, said Dave, ‘what’s that?’
‘That is the universally recognised word for the time when you come back from work.’
‘The what…?’ said Pete. ‘No it isn’t. What are you talking about?’
‘To be honest,’ I continued, studiously ignoring him, ‘I made the stuff out of cough mixture and breakfast cereal, but it too we used to stand on street corners and sell. We were doing a roaring trade.’
‘So what was the catch?’ asked Jimmy.
‘The catch? What do you mean?’
‘I just presumed if the scam was as great as you’re making it out to be you’d still be there living in a condo or something instead of back here downing pints with the likes of us.’
‘You have a point. What happened is we got greedy. Twenty, or “Gene”, started buying his supplies of paper from local mafia types, who didn’t take so kindly to the old defaulting on the bills. In fact, the stress of this situation got to him so badly that in no time at all he was wetting his bed.’
At this point Stinking Pete, Dirty Dave, Jimmy the Bollix, Lucky Luciano and even Ron himself all vomited with amusement into their pints.
‘Divil the word of a lie. By now though I knew this situation was getting out of hand. It was time to go home. But first I needed to reassure our friend, let him know everything would be all right. I remember it well, going into his room one night and looking down on his ugly face, holding my nose against the smell of piss and the vomit caked into his beard, and singing him a little lullaby. We’d leave all those unpaid invoices behind and return to this here bar and start all over again, I told him.’
‘A lullaby?’ asked Jimmy. ‘You sang Twenty a lullaby?’
‘Yes’, I answered. ‘“Cheer up sleep-pee Gene, oh what can it mean, to a Dade ream-bill leaver, and a Homecome Ink-Wean?”’