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The Drunkard
by [?]

If I had only known it, this was a bad sign; a sign he was becoming stuffed up with spiritual pride and imagining himself better than his neighbors. Sooner or later, the spiritual pride grew till it called for some form of celebration. Then he took a drink—not whisky, of course; nothing like that—just a glass of some harmless drink like lager beer. That was the end of Father. By the time he had taken the first he already realized he had made a fool of himself, took a second to forget it and a third to forget that he couldn’t forget, and at last came home reeling drunk. From this on it was “The Drunkard’s Progress,” as in the moral prints. Next day he stayed in from work with a sick head while Mother went off to make his excuses at the works, and inside a forthnight he was poor and savage and despondent again. Once he began he drank steadily through everything down to the kitchen clock. Mother and I knew all the phases and dreaded all the dangers. Funerals were one.

“I have to go to Dunphy’s to do a half-day’s work,” said Mother in distress. “Who’s to look after Larry?”

“I’ll look after Larry,” Father said graciously. “The little walk will do him good.”

There was no more to said, though we all knew I didn’t need anyone to look after me, and that I could quite well have stayed at home and looked after Sonny, but I was being attached to the party to act as a brake on Father. As a brake I had never achieved anything, but Mother still had great faith in me.

Next day, when I got home from school, Father was there before me and made a cup of tea for both of us. He was very good at tea, but too heavy in the hand for anything else; the way he cut bread was shocking. Afterwards, we went down the hill to the church, Father wearing his best blue serge and a bowler cocked to one side of his head with the least suggestion of the masher. To his great joy he discovered Peter Crowley among the mourners. Peter was another danger signal, as I knew well from certain experiences after mass on Sunday morning: a mean man, as Mother said, who only went to funerals for the free drinks he could get at them. It turned out that he hadn’t even known Mr. Dooley! But Father had a sort of contemptuous regard for him as one of the foolish people who wasted their good money in public-houses when they could be saving it. Very little of his own money Peter Crowley wasted!

It was an excellent funeral from Father’s point of view. He had it all well studied before we set off after the hearse in the afternoon sunlight.

“Five carriages!” he exclaimed. “Five carriages and sixteen covered cars! There’s one alderman, two councillors and �tis known how many priests. I didn’t see a funeral like this from the road since Willie Mack, the publican, died.”

“Ah, he was well liked,” said Crowley in his dusky voice.

“My goodness, don’t I know that?” snapped Father. “Wasn’t the man my best friend? Two nights before he died—only two nights—he was over telling me the goings-on about the housing contract. Them fellow in the Corporation are night and day robbers. But even I never imagined he was as well connected as that.”

Father was stepping out like a boy, pleased with everything: the other mourners, and the fine houses along Sunday’s Well. I knew the danger signals were there in full force: a sunny day, a fine funeral, and a distinguished company of clerics and public men were bringing out all the natural vanity and flightiness of Father’s character. It was with something like genuine pleasure that he saw his old friend lowered into the grave; with the sense of having performed a duty and a pleasant awareness that however much he would miss poor Mr. Dooley in the long summer evenings, it was he and not poor Mr. Dooley who would do the missing.