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The Drunkard
by [?]

“Ah, Jasus,” I said crossly, “what do I want to go home for? Why the hell can’t you leave me alone?”

For some reason the gang of old women at the other side of the road thought this very funny. They nearly split their sides over it. A gassy fury began to expand in me at the thought that a fellow couldn’t have a drop taken without the whole neighbourhood coming out to make game of him.

“Who are ye laughing at?” I shouted, clenching my fists at them. “I’ll make ye laugh at the other side of yeer faces if ye don’t let me pass.”

They seemed to think this funnier still; I had never seen such ill-mannered people.

“Go away, ye bloody bitches!” I said.

“Whisht, whisht, whisht, I tell you!” snarled Father, abandoning all pretence of amusement and dragging me along behind him by the hand. I was maddened by the women’s shrieks of laughter. I was maddened by Father’s bullying. I tried to dig in my heels but he was too powerful for me, and I could only see the women by looking back over my shoulder.

“Take care or I’ll come back and show ye!” I shouted. “I’ll teach ye to let decent people pass. Fitter for ye to stop at home and wash yeer dirty faces.”

“Twill be all over the road,” whimpered Father. “Never again, never again, not if I lived to be a thousand!”

To this day I don’t know whether he was forswearing me or the drink. By way of a song suitable to my heroic mood I bawled “The Boys of Wexford,” as he dragged me in home. Crowley, knowing he was not safe, made off and Father undressed me and put me to bed. I couldn’t sleep because of the whirling in my head. It was very unpleasant, and I got sick again. Father came in with a wet cloth and mopped up after me. I lay in a fever, listening to him chopping sticks to start a fire. After that I heard him lay the table.

Suddenly the front door banged open and Mother stormed in with Sonny in her arms, not her usual gentle, timid self, but a wild, raging woman. It was clear that she had heard it all from the neighbours.

“Mick Delaney,” she cried hysterically, “what did you do to my son?”

“Whisht, woman, whisht, whisht!” he hissed, dancing from one foot to the other. “Do you want the whole road to hear?”

“Ah,” she said with a horrifying laugh, “the road knows all about it by this time. The road knows the way you filled your unfortunate innocent child with drink to make sport for you and that other rotten, filthy brute.”

“But I gave him no drink,” he shouted, aghast at the horrifying interpretation the neighbours had chosen to give his misfortune. “He took it while my back was turned. What the hell do you think I am?”

“Ah,” she replied bitterly, “everyone knows what you are now. God forgive you, wasting our hard-earned few ha’pence on drink, and bringing up your child to be a drunken corner-boy like yourself.”

Then she swept into the bedroom and threw herself on her knees by the bed. She moaned when she saw the gash over my eye. In the kitchen Sonny set up a loud bawl on his own, and a moment later Father appeared in the bedroom door with his cap over his eyes, wearing an expression of the most intense self-pity.

“That’s a nice way to talk to me after all I went through,” he whined. “That’s a nice accusation, that I was drinking. Not one drop of drink crossed my lips the whole day. How could it when he drank it all? I’m the one that ought to be pitied, with my day ruined on me, and I after being made a show for the whole road.”