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Tents, Brittas Bay, 1976

The last fella was baby-faced with tufty brown hair and it was Majella’s turn to sit in front. He’d been crapping on about what Dublin girls liked to get up to, and when she didn’t answer, he told her to cheer up outta that and let a smile out of her. He took his hand off the gear stick and, before it landed on her knee, she stabbed him in the cheek with the brassy end of her lighter, yelling at him to stop the car. From the back seat, Roisin bashed him on the head with her fist and the car skidded sideways onto the grass verge. While they scrabbled to get out, he kept shouting, ‘What the fuck?’ Majella slammed the door and, as he screeched away, Roisin whacked her haversack off the boot. They stood in the middle of the road yelling ‘wanker’ till he was out of sight. 

 

‘That’ll learn you,’ Roisin shouted. ‘Fucken prick.’ Then they were both laughing, and yelling, ‘What the fuck? What the fuck?’ in his country-boy accent and mimicking his wide frightened eyes. 

 

When they’d calmed down, Roisin lit two fags and handed one to Majella. They were on a strip of road with no houses, just rough, tussocky grass and hawthorn. Majella sniffed the air. From somewhere behind them, the smell of the sea drifted across the fields, mingled with the slight coolness of evening. 

 

‘Fuck’s sake,’ she said. ‘Middle of nowhere.’

 

‘It’ll be grand,’ Roisin said. They stood smoking and looking around. Roisin took a last drag, dropped her butt onto the road and screwed it into the tarmac with a pointed foot. She picked up her haversack, her hair swinging, sleek and shiny, around her face, then walked backwards along the grass verge getting ready to stick her thumb out. 

 

‘My turn to sit up front,’ she said. ‘For me sins.’

 

Eventually an auld lad in a filthy Ford pulled up and dropped them outside Jack Whites.

 

Dekko was waiting for them in the car park. He strolled over, looped his arms around Roisin’s neck and gave her a long, slow kiss. He put his hands on the round of her arse, pulled her close to him, and they clamped together, wearing the face off each other. Majella looked away, lit a fag, sat on the low wall. The sky was darkening, and the air had chilled. Eventually, Dekko stood back a bit, smirking. Majella watched him reach into his jeans, adjusting his horn. He waved at her with his free hand, calling out that they should go in and have a few scoops. She sucked a last drag, tossed the butt over the wall and joined them. 

 

‘There y’are, Majella,’ Dekko said, and he lifted his chin at her.

 

‘There’s Dekko,’ Majella said, and she copied exactly the way he’d tipped his head. 

 

Inside, Dekko led them to a small table in a snug.   

 

‘Guinness?’ They said ‘yeah’ and he went to the bar.

 

Roisin took out her Major.

 

‘Smoke?’ she said, grinning, and Majella took two from the pack, lit both, and gave her one. 

 

When Dekko came back, he pulled his stool up close to Roisin and crushed their shoulders together, his dark tumbling hair meshing with hers. 

 

Majella looked around. Through the double door, a large bare function room with a few fellas bent over the pool table. Here in the bar, a couple of auld lads at the counter, a colour television with a match on but no sound. She spotted the sign for the Ladies, took a few slurps of Guinness, grabbed her knapsack and went over. 

 

The jacks was cold and damp with only one cubicle. The little brass bolt dangled from a rusting hinge, so she sat on the loo with her foot jammed against the door. The walls were scratched and flaking, a reddish undercoat bleeding through the yellow. Near the floor, the paint had rotted away exposing the pocked cement wall. 

 

She took her time, smoked a fag, read the graffiti. Brits Out and IRA stuff. Hearts with girls and boys names scrawled beside them. Some pricks, tits and a badly drawn fanny. Also, ‘Mary Wheelan is a ride’ and, ‘I wish SF loved me as much as he loves himself’. Majella took out her little knife. She stayed sitting on the loo, scratched out an arrow pointing to the fanny and wrote ‘clit here’. Then, further down, as far as she could reach, ‘XX loves XX’. She always did it in code. When she’d finished her fag, she stubbed it out on the wall and made an ashy heart around what she’d written. There was no loo paper so she used a tissue from her back pocket.

 

Out in the bar, the two were bet into each other. Dekko had his hand between Roisin’s thighs and she was grinding on it. Majella made loads of noise sitting down, scraping her stool across the tiles, clattering her knapsack onto the table. They stopped and made a big show of moving apart, pretending to talk to her. But really just making it all the more exciting for themselves in the end.  

 

When Roisin got up to go to the loo, Dekko shook two fags from his pack. He lit Majella’s, then sparked his own with the same match, eyeing her from under his hair.

 

‘So, Majella,’ he said. He blew the smoke out real slow. ‘She never said you were tagging along.’ 

 

 ‘Funny that.’ She took a mouthful of Guinness. ‘Cos she didn’t tell me we were meeting you neither.’

 

They stared at each other for a few seconds. His eyes were light green and very clear. 

 

They dragged on their cigarettes, then spilled their smoke out at the same time, hers sideways, away from him, his funnelling downwards, over his tee-shirt. After a bit, they both smiled, then laughed.

 

‘Jaysus,’ Dekko said. ‘What are we like?’ He ran a hand through his hair, rested back against the snug partition and looked at her sideways, but serious, and she felt her face go hot. She put her head down and pretended to fiddle with her knapsack.

 

‘Yeah,’ she said. ‘What are we like.’

 

When Roisin came back, Dekko asked if they wanted another pint or would they prefer to head off to the tent? Majella shrugged and tried to catch Roisin’s eye, but Roisin ignored her. She gave Dekko a long, meaningful stare and said, yeah, actually, she was gagging for the tent. 

 

‘Grand,’ he said, and he stood up. ‘Going for a slash first.’ 

 

Roisin adjusted her tee-shirt, put her elbows on the table and stared into space. Majella watched Dekko walk to the Mens. He stopped by the phone on the wall, pushed coins into it, gave a quick glance at them over his shoulder, then turned away while he made the call. Roisin was still staring at the ceiling.

 

‘That auld lad’s car was fucked,’ Majella said to her. ‘Like he slept in it. Him and maybe a dog.’

 

But Roisin only made a face without turning around and Majella took some matches from Dekko’s box and broke them into little bits, lining them up on the table. 

 

Dekko came back from the toilets. 

 

‘Right,’ he said. ‘Let’s buail an bother.’ 

 

They left the pub and walked in the blueish dusk along the small road. Dekko took Roisin’s haversack and asked Majella did she want him to carry hers as well? She told him to fuck off with himself and he laughed. He and Roisin held hands while they strolled, stopping to gob each other every now and then. Majella walked behind or ahead, trying not to look at them clenching at each other’s arses. Midges landed on her face, itching her. There were no houses or cars, and the road got smaller with sandy edges and grass in the middle. The sky was navy now, with streaky yellows leaking from the west and, even though it was Dekko, she wondered if he’d have other lads waiting, whether they’d be able to fight them off.

 

After a while, they cut across the dunes. His tent was sheltered in a dip, a blurry geometry against the shaggy marram and mounded sand. She could hear the sea, sucking in and out softly. Outside the tent, there were rocks to sit on, piles of old wood stacked at the side, and a circle of smaller blackened stones, with burnt stuff in the middle. 

 

‘You’re all set up here, Dekko,’ Majella said. ‘Not virgin territory then?’

 

Roisin glared at her, but Dekko just laughed.

 

‘Always the harsh word, Majella,’ he said. ‘Why don’t youse settle yourselves and I’ll get the fire lit.’

 

She and Roisin sat on the rocks. They didn’t speak. Dekko unzipped the tent and hauled out a six-pack. 

 

‘Can, Majella?’ He tossed her one. 

 

‘Oh, Jaysus,’ she said. ‘Not fucking Harp?’ 

 

‘Get it in intaya, Cynthia.’

 

He took another can and stood in front of Roisin, smirking down at her while he popped the tab, his crotch almost brushing her face. Roisin fixed her upturned eyes on his, made her mouth all pouty. She ran her hand slowly up his calf and Majella looked away. 

 

They sipped their lager while Dekko moved around lighting the fire. Majella watched Roisin. She was posing on her rock in case Dekko looked at her. 

 

‘Let me guess,’ she said to the side of her head. ‘Mermaid?’

 

Roisin turned briefly, her face a blank oval in the dusk.

 

‘You say something?’ 

 

Majella gave a sarcastic snort and shook her head.

 

‘Juggle us up a spliff, wudja, Majella?’ Dekko said when he’d got the first few sticks lighting, and he threw the grass and skins over to her. She licked three papers, put them together and held them on her knee with a finger while she sprinkled the grass in a neat line. She rolled a nice, tight joint and tore a roach from her cigarette packet.  

 

The fire took hold, flicking higher within the stones. They slugged the cans and passed the spliff around, getting quieter and quieter watching the flames. The grass was strong and bitter. Dekko made the second joint loose and fat and, by the time they’d smoked it, Majella’s throat was scorched. The spit and hiss of the fire and the jumpy, bright flames were making her spacey and light-headed. It was as if she could see out the top of her head, the huge sky, bursting with stars, a skit of purple horizon. Her mouth felt dry, like cloth. She got up from the rock. 

 

‘Is there any water, Dekko?’ 

 

He pulled away from Roisin and told her to check the lemonade bottles behind the tent. She caught her ankle in one of the guy ropes, and went on her hands and knees in the sudden dark, feeling for the bottles. She picked one up by the waist and felt its weird, sloping heaviness. 

 

By the time she came back, the two were getting off with each other, lit up by the firelight, their legs tangled, hands wedged into each other’s groins. Majella drank a pile of water and left them to it.

 

She clambered up the dune, feeling her way through the scratchy marram, her feet slipping backwards in the sand. Even though there’d been no rain, everything was damp and sticky with salt. As she slithered down the other side, the moon came out, high over the Irish Sea and she saw the waves run, black and hissing, across the flat sand. She didn’t go to the water, just squatted close to the grass, wrapping her arms around her knees to stop the horrible weightless feeling. She’d no watch to tell if the minutes were bulging into hours or rushing past in seconds. She’d stay away as long as she could anyway, let them get it over with. 

 

When she came back, they were still at it on a blanket outside the tent, the pair of them panting, Dekko on top, his bare arse gleaming, Roisin’s legs kicking under him, her hair pooling like blood on the sand. They probably heard her come back, but they didn’t stop.

 

Majella unzipped the tent and dragged her rucksack in, pulled out her sleeping bag and laid it along one edge. She seemed to be getting more stoned instead of less. There were little gritty bits everywhere, and the world tipped, falling away from her, making her weak and lonesome. She used her jumper for a pillow, but kept on her jeans and tee-shirt. 

 

She was half asleep when they got in, tittering, fumbling around zipping their sleeping bags together. She thought they’d finished screwing outside, and they were quiet for a while, whispering, but then they started up again, touching off her, tip-tip-tip, keeping her awake, driving her mental. She’d have taken her bag out to sleep on the dunes, but she couldn’t bear the sand hoppers. She thought about walking along by the sea for a few hours, but she could meet a gang of bikers, get gang raped, tossed into the water in rough chunks of murdered flesh, washing up later at Dún Laoghaire Harbour, bits of her slopping against the pristine white sides of the rich wanker yachts. The two took ages, moaning and shifting beside her, and Majella lay completely still, listening, getting wet. When they finished and Dekko’s breathing got heavy and slow, she tried to slide her fingers down the front of her jeans, but they were too tight, so she put her hand between her legs and held it there, pressing hard but not stirring. There were no thoughts, just the pulsing between her legs, more and more intense, and the fear of moving or her breath coming fast.    

 

She woke early and wrecked, as though she hadn’t slept. The tent was hot and stuffy. The two were on their sides facing away from her, only a sliver of Roisin’s bare shoulder and the curve of Dekko’s back. 

 

Majella crept out, unzipping the tent as quietly as she could, grabbed her sandals and scrabbled to the top of the dune. On the other side, the grey plate of the ocean, the dead weight of it in her guts, and all around, the pale of morning air, damp and cool. 

 

She climbed down the mound. When she got to the water, she rolled up her jeans, took her sandals off and waded in. The shallows were fresh and jittery with little bubbles. The flares on her jeans made them bulky and they wouldn’t stay up, so she rolled them inside instead, stuffing them close against her thighs. She splashed along keeping her legs splayed so the jeans didn’t unravel. When she’d gone far enough away from the tent, she put her sandals on and headed across the strand. She had a mental feeling, like she might scream, but she kept hurrying. 

 

She scrambled up the first hillock and stood on the top, looked all around, then scooted down behind a high clump of grass. She dug a shallow hole in the sand, her head twisting to keep a lookout all the time, pulled down her jeans and knickers and peed fast. After the piss, a large soft poo slipped out. She wiped herself quickly, tossed the dirty tissues on top of the squishy shite. She scooped up globs of sand at the edge of the hole, and covered everything, stamping it down carefully to make sure the shite didn’t ooze out. 

 

She looked around again and ran to the water, kicked off her sandals and sloshed in up to her knees, washing her hands over and over. One leg of her jeans flopped down, getting sopping wet, and she made a sound through her teeth. 

 

She started walking again, further along the beach. There was a sick loneliness growing in her belly mixed with a sharp, biley hunger. 

 

She went as far as she could, until cliffs blocked her path and then she turned around really slowly with her eyes closed. But when she opened them, there was only the low sky and the empty beach stretching away. 

 

When she got back, Dekko was tidying up the bits of burnt stuff and Roisin was sitting cross-legged on the sand in her knickers and tee-shirt, smoking a fag and fiddling with her hair. 

 

‘Where’d you get to?’ she said. 

 

‘Went for a walk.’ 

 

Dekko passed her a can of Seven Up and a biscuit.  

 

‘Here you go, Majella,’ he said. ‘Breakfast.’

 

She popped the can and sipped it. Everything smelled of smoke.

 

‘Listen,’ Dekko said to her. ‘Me and Ro is going into town. Meeting a friend of mine. You want to come?’

 

Majella looked around at the dunes, the wind whipping through the grass, the fragile tent, the desolation. 

 

‘Yeah,’ she said. ‘Why not.’ She saw the wink Dekko gave Roisin and the sick, biley thing fluttered in her stomach. 

 

The walk took almost an hour. No one would pick up three people, but Majella walked ahead with her thumb out, going backwards now and then to make sure they were still behind her. 

 

In the end, it wasn’t a town, just a seaside shop with some wooden picnic benches at the edge of the car park, a garage and an outside jacks. Dekko went into the shop and Roisin and Majella sat across from each other on a picnic bench. 

 

‘Fucking wrecked, so I am,’ Roisin said.

 

Majella stared at the monkey puzzle tree beside the garage.

 

‘Yeah, well, you would be.’

 

Across the table, Roisin sniggered and coughed.

 

‘He’s got great hands,’ she said. ‘And legs like a fucken ballerina.’

 

‘Right.’ Majella said. She kept her face turned away, poking at a tooth with her finger. ‘I hope to fuck it doesn’t rain anyway.’

 

Dekko came back with four cups of takeaway tea and eight packs of Tayto. He sat beside Roisin, put his arm around her, lifting the lids off the tea with his other hand. Majella took one of the Styrofoam cups and a bag of Tayto, swung her legs over the bench and sat with her back to them, the edge of the picnic table digging into her spine. She watched the few cars driving past and crunched her crisps, wishing she had enough spare money to buy bread and cheese for a sandwich. The two behind were canoodling and whispering.

 

‘Back in a sec,’ Roisin said after a while. ‘Dying for a piss.’  

 

Trying to not turn her head, Majella watched her go along by the road to the toilets. She knew the exact walk. The one she used when she wanted you to watch her, her head high and the hair swishing, her long legs striding. When she went around the side of the garage, Dekko coughed.

 

‘You’re awful interested in that road,’ he said.

 

Majella swung back over the bench, put her elbows on the table. He had that smirk on him. 

 

 ‘You’d be surprised what interests me, Dekko.’

 

‘I don’t think I would, Majella, that’s the thing.’

 

She had an urge to fling the rest of her tea in his face. Someone called his name and Dekko waved at a skinny article with dirty blonde curls loping across the car park. He was wearing a denim jacket and loose, patched-up jeans and hopped along like he was going up and down steps. It took Majella a few seconds to work out that he should have had a raised shoe, and she wondered how far he’d come with that limp. He stopped a few feet back from the bench, nodding his narrow head slowly at them, a slanted grin on his face.

 

‘Howaryiz,’ he said.

 

‘Here’s the main man,’ Dekko said. ‘How’s it going, Haitch?’

 

‘It’s all hunky dory, Dekks, all shite-ie-mighty.’

 

‘This here’s Majella,’ Dekko said, and he made a courteous gesture with his outstretched arm. ‘And, Majella, this here’s my good friend, Harry Clarke.’

 

Harry came closer and stuck his hand out. 

 

‘Pleased to meet you,’ he said with his crooked grin.

 

Majella leaned back, but wiped her palm briefly across his.

 

‘Harry Clarke?’ she said. ‘Any relation?’

 

‘To who?’ 

 

‘To Harry Clarke.’

 

‘Yeah,’ he said, and he looked at her with his curly head tilted. ‘Harry Clarke is me da.’ Majella tried to stare him down without reddening, but just as she was losing the battle, Roisin came back and Dekko did his introductions again. 

 

When they’d finished their tea, Dekko and Harry stood up and walked off a bit.

 

‘Where we going?’ Majella said to Roisin. 

 

‘Somewhere they know, I suppose,’ Roisin said. ‘And, anyway, do we really caaaaaaare?’ She crossed her eyes comically and did a happy little twirl on the tarmac, her arms spread wide. 

 

‘So, are we staying another night, or what?’

 

‘Well, I am anyway.’

 

Majella opened her mouth to say something, but up ahead, Dekko was calling Roisin, and she turned and ran to him. They set off down the road, Majella trailing behind, Harry in the lead. After ten minutes, he cut across by a caravan park and led them to a hollow behind the dunes. They hunkered down out of the breeze into a spot of warm, soft air. Harry took a fat bag of grass out of his jacket pocket and rolled the biggest joint Majella had ever seen, the shape and size of an ice cream cone. He kept grinning at them while he skinned up, chattering shite about how excellent the grass was, then he took his lighter to the monster, and pulled hard, making a scrunched up, spliff face as he inhaled. The whole flat top of the joint flared like a torch, and Majella watched how he kept sucking it into him, watching how, being a cripple, he’d developed other tricks, like always having the most ganja, being the biggest dope head.

 

They lay on the dunes, smoking. Majella closed her eyes. The sun came out, hot on her arms and feet. The high came on quick and she felt herself slipping down inside. The air around her billowed with the low chat of Dekko and Harry. She drifted on the sounds, then opened her eyes to slits. Roisin was sitting next to Dekko looking into space, twirling a strand of hair with her fingers. 

 

Time started sliding around. Dekko and Harry weren’t talking anymore. Majella couldn’t tell how long she’d been staring at Roisin. She had a stoned feeling that Dekko’d been watching her watching Roisin, that he could see right into her. She felt around her mouth to see had it opened or tightened, what it might be showing, then lay down, put her arms over her eyes and waited for the panic to move off. 

 

Harry skinned another joint and passed it to her. The more wasted she got, the more she wanted to go home, even though she knew well, if she was home, wherever that was, she’d want to be here, wherever this was. The morning got longer, like it would never end. She was starving. She couldn’t remember if she had any money, and she kept asking herself, if she hadn’t, would she have the nerve to go back to the shop and nick something. She stood up. The sun beat down on the top of her head and there were moving lights in front of her eyes. 

 

‘I’m going back to that shop,’ she said. 

 

‘Going to do a bit of tea leafing, are you?’ Roisin said. She was lying on Dekko’s chest, her hair was shining, glinting and slipping. She smiled lazily up at Majella and blew her a kiss. 

 

‘You coming with me?’ Majella said to her, and her paranoia started up again. Roisin closed her eyes and sighed dreamily.

 

‘Nah.’

 

 ‘Gettus a pile of Cadbury’s, will ya, Majella,’ Dekko said. He sat up and spilled notes and coins onto the sand between his legs.  

 

‘Yeah, me too,’ Harry said. ‘Got the fucking mighty munchies.’ He laughed like a hyena for three gaping minutes then took a big pile of crushed notes from his jeans’ pocket and tried to it count it out. He did it in slow motion and kept forgetting what it added up to. 

 

‘Ah, fuck it,’ he said in the end, and he tossed the crumpled wad at her. ‘Just gettus some Jelly Tots, wudja? No, not Jelly Tots, them other yokes, whatcha-ma-call-thems, oh, yeah, Jelly Babies!!!’ He hooted loudly and slapped at his short leg. ‘A big-fuckin-bag of Jelly Babies, okay.’ 

 

Dekko and Roisin started to laugh. Majella didn’t know what they were laughing at. She had to get away quick before she started freaking out or feeling faint. 

 

‘And yeah, get whatever youse want for yourselves too,’ Harry yelled after her, and he did his wild, mad cackle, waving his arms at her from the grass.

 

It took ages to walk up the road. The cars came very close when they passed, and Majella kept jumping and looking around. Her legs were heavy. 

 

In the shop, she kept her eyes down so no one would look at her, but then she saw there was no one else in the shop anyway. She was the only person in the world. She got a plastic bag of Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut, six cans of 7 Up, a paper bag of Jelly Babies, and a floppy cheese and ham sandwich with a bag of crisps. At the cash desk, the girl said something. Majella couldn’t understand a word, even when she repeated it. She thought she might freak or say something crazy, so she landed a pile of notes and coins on the counter, and let the girl take whatever she wanted. 

 

Outside, she sat at the picnic bench, tore open the sandwich, piled the crisps onto it, and ate the lot in three huge bites. The hunks of half-chewed dough snagged in her chest and she started to hiccough. She opened a can of 7 Up and gulped it down to move the blockage. Then she had to go for a leak. On the way to the jacks, she couldn’t think whether it was normal to bring a bag of Jelly Babies into a stinky loo, so she stuffed the chocolate bars and sweets behind the bins outside. But when she was in there, all she could think about was some wild cat going behind the bins and spraying cat piss all over everything. She hated the smell of cat piss. 

 

When she got back to the dunes, Roisin and Dekko were lying on their jackets, faces pressed together. Harry Clarke was sitting watching them with his eyes half closed. When he saw Majella, he yipped like a dog and put his hand out. She gave him a bar of chocolate. He tore it open and stuffed half into his mouth in one big chunk. Then, laughing and chomping, he took the plastic bag from her and threw two bars at Dekko and Roisin. He rummaged in the sweets, his dirty curls falling down.

 

‘Where’s me Jelly Babies?’ he said, and Majella couldn’t believe it. She looked all around her, but her head wouldn’t turn properly, like cables with no oil. 

 

‘I had them,’ she said. ‘I protected them from the tomcat’s piss. I don’t know where…’

 

‘Ah, forget it,’ Harry said, and he started laughing. ‘Tomcat’s piss is the worst.’ He threw himself back into the sand dune and made sucking sounds on his chocolate while he rolled another spliff. 

 

After the joint, Majella felt dizzy. She lay down, put her jacket under her head and closed her eyes. 

 

When she woke, the others were standing over her. It was evening and chilly.

 

‘Come on, Majella,’ Roisin said. ‘Wake-the-fuck-up, wudja?’

 

‘We’re goin’ to the disco,’ Harry said to her. ‘It’ll be mad.’

 

The disco was in a Barna Building behind a pub. Harry elbowed his way to the makeshift bar, grinning back at them, ignoring everyone staring at him while he pushed past, bobbing up and down on his short leg. They followed after him and crushed up close together. He bought a round of drinks, then another one, piling notes onto the counter and getting them all wet with Smithwicks, and they shouted at each other over the music. He kept buying drinks. He bought a round for some lads, and Majella wondered where he got the money, though she didn’t care. She was getting pissed as well as stoned and the music was great. When Blondie came on they belted out onto the dance floor, Harry Clark leading the way. 

 

They danced close together, Roisin laughing into Majella’s face, the two of them with their arms in the air, the lads behind them. 

 

‘It’s mental,’ Roisin yelled into her ear, and Majella laughed and swayed. 

 

‘Look at the lads, Majella,’ she screamed. ‘Look at yer man going at it.’ She pointed at Harry and Majella saw that, even though he had a limp, Harry Clarke danced like a maniac, sort of sexy, his hips wired like a snake, and she loved how he didn’t know he was a cripple, how he knew he had something other than a limp going for him. She watched his curly blonde hair and his narrow little waist, and his sweet smile, and then they were up close, laughing into each other’s faces. When Dekko saw her dancing with Harry, he threw one arm around Harry’s neck and the other around Majella’s shoulders. 

 

‘Harry Clarke is having a mental time,’ he roared into the noise. ‘I’m tellin you, Majella. Harry Clarke is yer only man.’ 

 

Then he and Roisin were mingled up with everyone else and the disco ball was splintering the room and the music.

 

After a while, when she was totally wrecked and sweaty, Harry grabbed her by the hand and took her to the edge of the room. He kept her hand tight until they got to the wooden bench at the side, and he pulled her onto his lap, sideways. They were dripping with sweat and pounding with heat. Everything was slippery. He ran his hot hand up the back of her shirt, unhooked her bra strap and slid his fingers around her breast. She was impressed how easily he did it, and his hand felt lovely, warm and wet and strong. She twisted her head to look around at him, to kiss him. He was laughing and fiddling with his fly with his other hand. He shoved her off his lap, made her sit astride him.

 

‘Get a load of yer man,’ he said pointing at his crotch, grinning, his eyes wide. 

 

She looked down at his mickey poking out from his trousers. He made her hold it, covering his hand with hers, rubbing it up and down fast. They stuck their gobs together, tongues mashing and sliding, and she rocked hard on his leg, jerking at his prick with her hand. He said something into her ear and she said, ‘What?’

 

‘I said there’s no way you’re a…’ 

 

She couldn’t hear him.

 

‘No way I’m a what?’

 

‘A bender,’ he yelled. 

 

She jerked back from him.

 

‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ 

 

‘Nothing,’ he said. He pulled her hand back onto his mickey, he was breathing hard, looking down at himself. 

 

She grabbed him by the hair, yanked his head back.

 

‘What the fuck did you say?’

 

‘Nothing,’ he said, and he grinned up at her, his hair in his eyes, panting, ‘I thought maybe you were a lesbo is all, but no way.’

 

She sank her nails into his balls and he yelped, but then she kissed him, sucking his tongue right into her mouth, trapping it there till he came, messing up the end of his tee-shirt.

 

Majella was one place, then another place without knowing how she got there. There were some lads Harry knew. They were all in the back of a van, her and Roisin and the lads, tools and a lawnmower rattling, then they were at the sand dunes, just the four of them and there were two tents now, instead of one. The lads were moving around, getting wood, and Majella waggled her hand at the tents, sniggering and stumbling, trying to think in words. 

 

‘Twins!!!’ Roisin yelled at her. She was shrieking with laughing. She hiccupped and fell against her and Majella put her arm around her. They stood close together, swaying. Roisin put her head on Majella’s shoulder and closed her eyes. Her hair brushed Majella’s neck, soft and silky, and Majella smelled her musty, intimate smell.

 

Dekko lit the fire again and Harry skinned another joint. Roisin sat beside Majella on a rock. Her head sagged and she lay heavily across Majella’s lap.

 

‘Drunk,’ she said in her slurred voice. ‘Langers.’ She didn’t take the joint when Harry passed it to her. Then she and Majella started cackling, their own secret laughing, just the two of them. Dekko stood up.

 

‘C’mere,’ he said. 

 

He put his hands under Roisin’s armpits and half lifted her to where he was sitting. 

 

‘Hey,’ Majella said. ‘Wait a minute.’ Her voice wouldn’t work properly.

 

Roisin slid off the rock Dekko had put her on.

 

‘Goin’ to bed,’ she mumbled, and she crawled toward one of the tents.

 

‘Wrong one,’ Dekko said. He grinned at Harry, got up and unzipped the other tent, pointed Roisin’s head at it, then came and took a few long tokes on the spliff, standing up.

 

‘G’nite,’ he said. He climbed inside the tent with Roisin. When he started zipping it shut, Majella tried to stand. 

 

‘Hey,’ she yelled. ‘Wait a minute.’ 

 

Then she was on her hands and knees outside the tent, grabbing at the zip. Some vomit came up into her mouth and Harry was behind her, pulling at her foot. She tried to kick him in the face and she could hear herself shouting at Dekko, ‘Hey. What the fuck? Hey.’

 

‘Go to sleep, wudja, Majella,’ Dekko shouted back. ‘Get her into the tent, for feck’s sake, Haitch.’

 

‘Let me in,’ Majella yelled. ‘You fucker. I’m not staying out here with hop-along.’ 

 

She tried to get at the zip again, but Harry was in front of her and he held her two hands. ‘It’s okay, Majella,’ he said. ‘C’mere. Calm-the-fuck down wudja?’

 

He put his arms around her. She was crying and her body was sore and there was more vomit, some of it splashed on the side of the tent. Harry helped her sit up straight and he lifted a bottle to her lips. 

 

‘What’s in it?’ She tried to push it away. ‘What’s in it?’ 

 

‘It’s only water, Majella. Fuck’s sake. Rinse your mouth is all.’

 

Then she was in the other tent with him, lying on her side crying, and he was behind her, stroking her hair with his hand, the metal button on his denim jacket warm against her cheek.

 

‘It’s okay,’ he whispered in his slurry voice. ‘It’s all grand.’

 

‘You fuckers tricked me.’ She was still snivelling. ‘I should be in there with them.’ 

 

 ‘No, Majella.’ He kept stroking the side of her face. ‘You should be in here with me,’ he said. ‘This is where the likes of us belongs.’

 

 ‘I’m not like you,’ she said, sobbing. 

 

‘You are so,’ Harry Clarke said gently. ‘You and me. Peas in the pod.’ He was falling asleep. His voice dropped. His hand stilled. His arm was warm and heavy around her shoulder and her crying slowed. The tent was quiet. From outside, sounds washed over her, the ocean slumping to the shore, small waves nuzzling the sand. 


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

is based in Galway. Her stories have appeared in The Dublin Review, Banshee, The Irish Times, Per Contra and other journals in Ireland and the USA. She is the recipient of the John McGahern, Francis MacManus, Penguin Ireland and Bryan MacMahon Awards for fiction. She is working on a story collection assisted by funding from the Irish Arts Council.

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