‘Tha’s Garda brutality, tha’ is,’ Deano shouts into the face of the man-pig towering above him. He takes up most of the space in the small waiting room at the front of the station. Green and pink leaflets scatter on the walls in grimy plastic containers. Deano has bumped into them a few times during his scuffle, refusing to accept the fine they’re landing him with.
He pushes Deano into the door of station without much care for the young lad and throws the paperwork at him again.
‘That’s a big word for a lad like you. I would have used ‘civic duty’ instead, has a truer ring to it. Doing the town a favour, keeping you off its streets for a few hours.’ A red splotch is spreading up the Garda’s neck. ‘Now get the fuck out of here or I’ll slap you with another public order offence.’
The glass window to the office swings open and the woman-pig sticks her head out, one hand covering the cream phone. ‘Just go home, Deano. Don’t go getting yourself into more trouble after joyriding in a stolen vehicle. You know well we could have thrown the book at you but we didn’t. Unless you want us to go harder?’
‘I told youse already, I was just bringin’ it for a drive before I brought it in.’
‘Yeah, yeah…’ A thick hand pushes him backwards out the swinging door and onto his arse on the cold pavement outside the station.
‘Dirty-fuckin-pigs.’ He rises, with two fingers in the air to door of Ballinasloe Garda station and spits onto its front step. Picking up the crumpled fine they gave him, he shoves it into his Fred Perry trackies and heads off down Main Street.
He jogs down the middle of the dark road, no cars around at this hour. The cold air turns to smoke on his breath. He’d played it cool at the station, but the adrenaline was pumping through his veins now. He tried to stay out of trouble this year; Emma said she’d take the baba away if he didn’t cop the fuck on. She’s going to fucking kill him when she hears this.
‘Tha’ bastardin’ Cleary had to leave his fuckin car there,’ he shouts down the empty street.
He only wanted to see what it felt like to drive a beamer. Not like he’d ever get that chance again. Tearing down the motorway to Athlone and back to town again. Tunes blaring. The freedom of it, felt fucking amazing. They could barely afford powder for the baba’s bottles never mind a damn car. She’s been on his case lately after losing the job in the shop. He had to tell her it was a customer service problem, they said he didn’t smile enough.
Well, it was partly true, so he was only telling her a white lie. His mother always said it was just his face, not his fault he looked like he wanted to reef ya. He was always being told to smile in that godforsaken petrol station.
He was actually riding the young one behind the till, the one the boss fancied. One night, when Deano was cornering her into the storeroom for a quick kiss, she was acting coy all of a sudden. Red-faced Mahon walked in the door and caught them rightly. He blew the head at him. Told him not to show his face ever again or he’ll call the Gardaí and say he was stealing from the tills. He’s as much of a dirty bastard as the rest of them. Deano can never get a break in this town.
The bedroom light is on, he can see her shadow behind the blind, pacing with the baba. The birds are starting to wake up. He can hear them chirping around the trees in front of the estate. He jiggles his key in the red door. It’s gone rusty over the years; his Ma never bothered to sort out the lock when she was alive. The only thing that woman was able to do without fail was drown herself in a bottle of wine every night.
He takes the stairs, two steps at a time, rubbing his frozen hands together for warmth. The house isn’t much warmer than the street.
The bed covers are a mess. Emma’s clothes are thrown over one side of the room while the other side is spotless. Deano’s clothes are neatly folded in colour co-ordinated piles on the rocking chair. His Ma used to always say, a tidy house is a tidy mind. The girl despised cleaning, no matter how much he nagged her about it. They fought about it as much as his inability to support his family right.
‘Where the fuck was you all night?’ She starts as soon as he gets a foot in the door.
‘Jus need ta sleep, lots of sleep right now, babe. You can fuck me out of it in the morning.’
‘You were supposed to get nappies in Tesco’s before it shut. Where the fuck are they?’
Deano slaps a hand off his forehead at the memory of why he’d left the house in the first place. He’s struggling to keep things in his head lately. It just goes in one end and out the other when she’s ranting on about shite. We need this and we need tha’ is all she ever says, rapin’ him for the cash.
‘Jesus Christ, Deano. Can ya not do nothin’ right? Don’t tell me you were down in Joe’s again? Do you think we have the money for you to go boozin’ and your child at home in a fuckin dishcloth diaper?’
‘Sorry babe, it’s a long story. There was a car. Just left at the side of the road. Keys in it and all. I was just gonna have lil’ drive for meself and then the dirty pigs pulled me and locked me up for the night. A fuckin’ public order offence and all I was doin’ was their fuckin’ job for them. Found Cleary’s car and all,’ he says, with a bit of pride in his voice.
Emma’s face goes white at the name. Like half the town, she’s been following the news on the radio. She could only get snippets of news on Galway Bay FM. They had to get rid of the telly a few months back when the TV inspector came calling. Deano lifted the big block of a yoke out the back door and ran down the street with it, finding a spot in the bushes for it till yer man left. He searched the house and all. When he finally fucked off, some gobshite went and robbed the telly on them. Can’t trust no one around here anymore, they’d rob your fucking Granny if you left her sitting outside.
Emma closes her eyes and breathes deeply, rocking the stirring baba in her arms. It’s starting to squeak, voicing its mother’s discomfort.
‘I can’t do this anymore.’
‘Whatcha mean, you can’t do ‘this’ anymore?’
She hands over the baba into his arms, kissing its little forehead and whispers down to it, ‘I’ll be back for you soon.’ With that, she grabs her black bomber jacket off the floor and heads out the door without a word to the gobsmacked Deano.
Baba wails after its mother’s warmth. Even Deano can feel the cold off himself on his clothes. He strips down to his boxers and hops into the bed, wrapping its little figure in all the bedclothes. Rubbing the heat back into it. Until it quietens again and all that can be heard are its rasps of breath fogging in front of the tiny bundle in the blankets.