John Brady

The good life

The birth of both the species and of the individual are equally parts of the grand sequence of events, which our minds refuse to accept as the result of blind chance.

- Charles Darwin


Gone to hell,” Joey Byrne muttered. His wife was staring at the grass by the water’s edge.

“What,” she said

He studied the broken glass and the flattened balls of tissue at his feet. He’d found another syringe here last week. The dog pulled against the leash and nosed into the long grass. He let his eyes wander back to the neck of a bottle bobbing in the weeds. At least it hadn’t been smashed here on the path. Four, no, five of those condoms today already too. Rings where they were unrolled. Out here by the banks of the canal, here in the middle of the city of Dublin, there were people putting on those things and going at it. Had they no shame?

He sighed and yanked on the leash. The dog lifted its leg. He turned to his wife.

“Come on now, Mary. We’ll be off.”

His wife of seventy-five rose slowly from the bench. He looked back up the canal. Away from the lock the canal’s surface was a mirror. There were no swans this evening. The streetlamps were popping on one by one. God Almighty, he thought, the mess they’d made of Dublin. Poxy yellow lights like a jail, office blocks that belonged in the middle of Arizona. Mary was up at last. She moved stiffly to his side and grabbed his arm. He glanced down at her. The operation last year had aged her ten years. She’d never be back up to par. It had taken them twenty minutes to walk to the canal tonight. He knew because he had timed it.

“God, Joey, I’m stiff as a board. ”

He bit back the words which sprang to his lips. It wasn’t her fault that she needed new hips. But was he himself stuck now, plodding along next to her for the rest of his life? He was seventy-six, by God, but he could leg it out with men half his age. He’d lose that too if he wasn’t careful.

“What’s the hurry, Joey?”

“Now, Timmy!”

No doubt about it: the Jack Russell was the best. You could throw your hat at the rest of them. There wouldn’t be a rat alive within a mile of a Jack Russell’s home.

“Joey! Easy there! I’m not as quick as I was.”

Her hand tightened on his arm. He thought of the times they had made their way down these footpaths, along this stretch of the canal, in all weathers. Fifty years and more. There’d always been courting couples here but it had never been so sleazy, so dirty. He remembered the white rings of the condoms discarded by the path.

“Honestly. Do you ever see the swans here of a summer’s evening any more? Not on your life, I’m telling you. They’re gone too. That’s how smart they are. After eight o’clock, even the swans know the writing’s on the bloody wall here. If only the other animals… Ah, what’s the use.”

She stopped and took a deep breath.

“Those things,” she said. “The rubbers? Is that what you mean?”

He looked down at her. All this smut on the telly: safe sex, etcetera. Was she smiling?

“Do you have to talk like that? Do you?”

She clutched at his arm again. She was breathing hard when they gained the footpath. He looked back down at the water. Mary murmured something between wheezes. There was violet on the canal now. They’d waited until the evening so that the bloody traffic and noise was gone, so as they could take a simple walk down by the canal. Was that asking too much, not to have to put up with chancers coming by looking for a bit of how’s-your-father? Drugs. Something stirred in his stomach and burrowed in behind his ribs. He’d seen them the other day too, with their skirts up around their backsides. Standing there smoking, staring back at him; sneering, bold as brass: brassers.

“Where are the Guards when you need them, I’d like to know. I think they’ve given up, that’s what I think. They don’t care, do they.”

“What Guards?”

The Jack Russell strained at the leash again. He yanked on the strap. The dog stood on its hind legs.

“God and it’s still so hot out,” she said. She pulled on his arm. She was smiling, he saw.

“Joey. Remember you used to go for a swim here? You and Tom and Ernie and the lads. God be with the days. Do you remember?”

He hated her asking questions like that. He could still make out the matte of weeds and scum on the surface. The bark startled him. Timmy had moved between Mary and him. The terrier had planted his front paws on the stone anchors for the railings and was staring at the canal bank. He drew hard on the leash. The dog braced its legs and barked again.

“Now Timmy! Give over.”

He tugged but the dog still pulled back. A rat, he thought. That’s all they needed.

“Come on now, boy. Go after them another day. Come on.”

A car raced past with a thumping sound pouring out its windows. Joey Byrne pulled the dog away from the railings. He didn’t turn to his wife when he spoke.

“Come on, Mary, we’ll be off home. Before the bloody vampires are out in force.”

The detective crouched and drew out a pistol.

“Oh, here we go,” murmured Kilmartin. “Out comes the shooter. About time too.”

The detective was a woman. She was dressed in dark clothes. She had chased the suspect who had shot her partner into a poorly lit alleyway.

“Here, Molly,” said Kilmartin. “What do you think of that?”

Detective Thomas Malone cleared his throat.

“She’s got all the moves,” he said. “I think she’s going to come out of it all right.”


“He’s up behind that dumpster,” said Minogue. The three policemen watched her inch her way along the wall of the alley, the pistol grasped upright in her hands. A police siren sounded in the middle distance.

“He is not,” said Kilmartin. “It’s too bloody obvious. Isn’t it, Molly?”

Malone glanced at Minogue before answering.

“She’s probably better trained than we are,” he said. “At going up alleys after drug dealers carrying guns, like.”

She sprang away from the wall and took up a shooting stance behind the dumpster. Nothing.

“Told you,” said Kilmartin. “He’s done a bunk. Long gone.”

“Oh, oh,” said Minogue. Kilmartin strained to see what his friend and colleague Inspector Matthew Minogue had spied.

“On the ledge,” said Malone. “He must have climbed up.”

“He did on his arse climb up on any bloody ledge,” snapped Kilmartin. “Sure wasn’t he shot the once already?

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