Rottweiler Soup: Now We Have the Bomb
New words to learn: floughrous – spinning out of control; froadate – nullify, cancel; bhent – a downward spiral; gimnal – a joined work, the parts of which move within each other; swivet – a state of extreme agitation; grutch – to begrudge; darry – to weep spontaneously or for no apparent reason; yawp – to make a raucous noise, to complain; strill – covered passageway for gases; pules – gangrenous limbs; probang – a thin rod with a sponge on the end for removing objects from the esophagus; birrey – a paper cut; imbroglio – a state of great confusion or entanglement; barricize – transform a suburban area into slumland.
I opened my eyes tentatively, getting used to the glare. Panoramic windows revealed ragged, scummy gray clouds wandering aimlessly and forlornly across the sky like semen in dirty bathwater, here and there clinging to the Dublin Mountains in the distance. Maggie had just pulled back the curtains—all of them—and it dawned on me that I was in her apartment.
‘You like?’ She stood there in blue-striped pajamas referring me, I assumed, to the room.
‘Very much . . . Maggie.’ I was referring to her. ‘How in God’s name did we get here?’
‘You don’t remember? Well, I’m not surprised, you were so out of it. Jesus, Joe, you really should have taken it easy on the drinks last night. Frank had to practically carry you to the taxi.’
Still no recollection.
‘This is your place, right?’ It was an inference based on previous exposure to her aesthetic: Scandinavian—lots of wood, Arne Jacobsen, Georg Jensen—crossed with Thomas Kinkade. I figured if I started with the obvious, I’d get some credit for not being totally insensate.
‘Lovely. Cutting edge, but homely.’ I winced. ‘Whereabouts are we exactly?’
I nodded. I knew of such a place.
She was standing at the bottom of the bed, hands on hips, a sympathetic smile on a countenance that otherwise meant either a sense of superiority because I had no idea what had happened last night or a barely concealed rage because I had no idea what had happened last night. Maybe both.
‘How’s the head?’
‘Fine’, I answered, still trying to take everything in. It dawned on me that I was lying in a four-poster bed, and just as it dawned on me, Maggie jumped on top of it. Like a bloody schoolgirl.
She bounced her way up the bed on her knees, so that finally our faces were inches apart, her eyes sparkling, those gray-green marbled, dilated, heroin-addict eyes, and she pecked me on the cheek.
‘You should be okay. I woke you up around three and gave you some painkillers.’ She took my puzzled look for . . . puzzlement.
‘What do you remember about last night, Joe?’
I shifted uneasily under the clothes.
‘Well . . . the Guinness.’
‘The cigars . . .’ I was already guessing.
‘What else?’ Was it worth the risk?
‘The screwing.’ She pulled away.
‘Ahhh, Joe. You’re just guessing now.’
Fuck it. I didn’t screw her.
‘No, no’, I protested. ‘I’m sure of it . . . or maybe I just dreamed it.’
‘Nice try, Joe. Nice try. But I’m afraid I’m going to have to cast aspersions on your manhood.’
Goddammit. I tried to make light of it.
‘You can do what you like with my manhood, Maggie.’
She made the universal hand gesture for impotence.
‘You weren’t up to it, Joe. You couldn’t manage. Do you not remember at all?’ The air of disappointment was starting to hurt my head. ‘Christ, Joe, I tried my hardest. I did what I could to get you going, but you kept passing out on me.’
‘I’m sorry, Maggie. Really. You have no idea.’
She shrugged, the harm already done.
‘Don’t worry. You can make it up to me. I’ll think of something. But you’re really gonna have to watch your boozing, Joe. Either cut down a bit or build up your tolerance. Seriously. You’re no spring chicken any more. You can’t deal with the consequences any more.’
This sounded like a direct challenge. Playfully, I made a grab for her waist, but the sudden movement brought a hot ball of vomit up my throat.
‘What do you mean, the consequences?’ I managed a wry smile to disguise the fact that I was forcing burning puke back down my oesophagus. She allowed herself to be pulled closer. I must have stunk of the booze, so it was decent of her.
‘What, Joe . . . you mean you suddenly feel up to it?’
I infiltrated my left hand down the back of her pajama bottoms.
‘Hangovers always make me feel horny, Mags.’
‘You’re a dark horse, Joe McManus.’ She pulled my hand back up off her ass. The missed opportunity registered slowly.
‘Frank’s always said to me, “that Joe McManus, he’s hung like a dark horse”.’
I managed a feeble grin, concealing regret and bile.
‘So long as you’re not confusing me with a black sheep.’
‘Is it possible to be hung like a black sheep?’
Mmm. Possibly not.
‘Might as well be hung as a horse as hung as a sheep. Isn’t that what they say?’
They say nothing of the sort. Delia, on the other hand …
Mags chose to ignore it.
‘Hold still a minute.’
She was close enough to me that I could feel her body pressed against mine through the sheets, so I was distracted enough not to realize what she was doing as she approached my face with her right forefinger and thumb. I think in the back of my mind I was expecting her to squeeze a spot she’d noticed, and I was willing to let her go ahead. It was only when she pulled away from me again that I realized she’d picked a booger from my nose.
She wiped her fingers on a tissue and got up from the bed.
‘Go back to sleep for a while. I’ve got some paperwork to do.’
I slept until three that afternoon. At some point Maggie joined me on the bed and was watching old movies. I’d have slept well past three had it not been for her elbow in my ribs and the sudden panic in her voice.
‘Joe! Joe! Wake up. Wake up! Look at this.’
She’d flicked across the channels by mistake or out of boredom and hit CNN, which was showing recorded nighttime footage of bodies being dragged from the wreckage of a bombed-out building.
‘It’s only Connolly Station, Joe. Connolly fucking Station. Here in Dublin.’
I sat bolt upright.
‘Look’, she said. ‘There’s the ticket office. What’s left of it, anyway.’
‘Wha—? When was this? What time?’
I jumped up and scrambled across her for the remote to turn up the volume. The reporter on the spot looked grim, like he’d been at an ambassador’s party.
‘Most of the victims were innocent commuters buying tickets, waiting for their trains or queueing up at the Complaints desk. Even though it was well past rush hour when the explosion occurred, the station was busy because of the usual delays: leaves on the line, a suicide in Raheny, commuters from Sligo sabotaging their train so they wouldn’t have to go home to Sligo for the weekend. There was no warning and no expectation that something so monstrous might occur, even though it was Dublin on a Friday night.’
So monstrous? Where had this man been? Had he never seen the cats in Phibsboro throw themselves under cars in despair?
‘As yet, no one has claimed responsibility for the blast. Antiterrorist experts say it has all the hallmarks of a dissident group, which narrows the suspects down to two and half million people. Police are presently using social media to round up all selfidentifying anarchists, circus performers, tattooists, anyone with piercings, rail users—’
I turned the volume down. Clearly this jerk wasn’t going to give me info of any reliability. I clambered off the bed and searched for my pants. Usually they’re conveniently at hand, on the floor next to the bed.
‘Wardrobe’, Maggie said, and I followed her gaze until I found it. I pulled on my pants and picked up the phone. Strange now, but it was definitely in that order. Like whoever I phoned would know from my voice that I had no pants on.
I tried Frank’s number at the embassy first. This was an act of the purest optimism, hoping that Frank would be in the office on a Saturday morning. I just got the answering machine. I tried his home number and had more success. Jane answered.
‘Jane. Thank God. Is Frank there?’
‘No, Joe, of course not. You heard about the bomb, right? Frank’s gone into work. As soon as he saw the news. What about you? Where are you?’
‘I’m at Maggie’s.’ Should I be telling her this? ‘Did Frank say where he’d be?’
‘He was going straight to the hospital to check the casualties, then to the embassy. Said he’d be out all day. Have you tried his office?’
‘Yeah. No luck.’
‘Good thought. Thanks Jane.’ What an idiot. Me, I mean. I was still half asleep.
But Frank had his mobile turned off, the stupid bastard, which meant I’d have to go over to the hospital myself to find out what was happening. But back to Herbert Place first to put on some decent clothes and get a wash. There was a danger that if I went the way I was, I’d be mistaken for one of the casualties.
‘Maggie, I have to go.’ There wasn’t any argument.
‘Sure, Joe. I know. Only . . . make sure you look after yourself. I don’t like the sound of this one bit. You don’t know who’s a terrorist and who isn’t these days.’
‘One of the joys of the job. Don’t worry. I’ll give you a ring later.’
‘Keep in touch’, she said and kissed me at the door with enough passion to arouse gratitude, if nothing else.
‘I don’t think there’s much I’ll be able to do, but I want to get the dope from Frank. He’ll know what’s going on.’
Frank always knows.
From the October edition of Q magazine:
When we discovered that the theme tune to the TV quiz show Mastermind is called ‘Approaching Menace’ (by Neil Richardson), we thought two things: (1) That’s no way to talk about John Humphrys, and (2) How many other theme tunes are selected on the basis of their title? As it turns out, quite a few:
The theme tune to Channel Four’s How Clean Is Your House? is Dvořák’s ‘March of the Faecal Matter’.
The theme tune to Coronation Street is ‘Grimm, Up North’, by Burt Bacharach.
The theme tune to Blockbusters is ‘Suspekt Unkle’, by the Fall.
The theme tune to University Challenge is Gustav Holst’s ‘Ode to Smugness’.
The theme tune to Deal or No Deal is ‘Casino of Cardigans’, by Franz Ferdinand.
The theme tune to The Apprentice is ‘(You’re Not) the Boss of Me’, by Lil’ Kim.
The theme tune to The Antiques Roadshow is ‘Plunder!’, by the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band.
The theme tune to Animal Hospital is ‘Misplaced Pity Boogie-Woogie’, by Jools Holland.
The theme tune to How to Look Good Naked is ‘Sad Hand Shandy’, by Blur.
The theme tune to Doctor Who is ‘Return of the Repressed’, by Captain Beefheart.
The theme tune to Countdown is ‘Siesta’, by Moby.
The theme tune to Top Gear is ‘Fat Lad Manifesto’, by the Nightingales.
The theme tune to Property Ladder is ‘Brick Lust’, by Pulp.
The theme tune to Fawlty Towers is ‘The Four Seasons Pathétique’, by Vivaldi.
The theme tune to A Question of Sport is ‘Triumph of the Will’, by Skrewdriver.
The theme tune to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is ‘Death by Questions’, by Ludovico Einaudi.
The theme tune to Househunters in the Sun is ‘Escape from the NHS’, by Underworld.
The theme tune to Autumnwatch is ‘Fanfare for the Common Shrew’, by The Future Sound of London.
The theme tune to The O.C. is ‘California Reaming’, by Green Day.
the theme tune to Question Time is ‘Empty Stage’, by Fleetwood Mac.