Immediately Lilah shuffled in from the cold she knew something was up. As she waited for her glasses to clear from the instant blindness that plagued her whenever she stepped into a warm pub from the icy outdoors she was deafened by the silence. Tom, the owner, was in his usual spot behind the Guinness pumps and Jane his cheery plump wife was not looking cheery at all.
Everyone was staring at Mary Crowley: the bus driver’s wife. She was standing statue-still at the mouth of the snug. An empty glass in her right hand. Ann Kelly was facing her. The front of her sheer cotton blouse shining and slick and see through where Mary Crowley’s Gin and Tonic had connected.
The citizens of the Happy Shamrock were staring, waiting. Ann Kelly picked up a half pint of Guinness and emptied it over Mary Crowley’s head smacking her on the forehead at the same time. Tom made as if to launch his lanky frame from behind the bar. The glass didn’t break until it slipped from Ann’s hand and smashed on the cold granite tiles. The sound of the glass against the floor acted like the starter pistol at the local point to point.
Ann Kelly launched herself at Mary Crowley, Marys large girth and short body made her a difficult target, Ann’s tall frame and translucent blouse were no match. Mary buried her head in Ann’s stomach and drove her back into the snug upturning two small tables and landing her onto the couches. Tom grabbed Mary from behind and started to pull her back. No mean feat, his arms are long but she has a strong attachment to the ground. ‘Stay outta this Tom’ Mary bellowed at him. ‘It’s got nothing to do with you’. ‘It’s my pub Mary, when you’re on my turf it is my business’ Tom panted onto the top of her head. ‘I don’t want to have to bar you. Now go on home and cool off’. Ann started laughing from her couch. ‘you’d never manage to bar her on your own Tom, there’s not enough of you.’
The whole pub started sniggering like schoolboys smoking in the bike shed. Lilah felt her face burn, her mother and her aunt at it again. Getting drunk and making a show of themselves. She wasn’t in school anymore but she could hear the taunts of the other children ‘ your mammy’s a drunk, she’s a slut, she can’t hold her drink’ they were right. Almost. Ann Kelly only ever got drunk when she went drinking with her sister – in – law Mary Crowley and they always ended up fighting – they were married to two brothers and were the best of friends most of the time. Ann always ended up with drink down her front. ‘That was the best part of the show, seeing Ann Kelly’s underwear’ Lilah had heard an old man at the bar smirk to his drinking buddy.
Tom was still trying to move Mary out of the snug area ‘your Geoff wouldn’t want to hear you two’d been at it again Mary’ he reasoned ‘go on home and sleep it off’.
Ann hopped up from her position on the couch ‘no way are you sending her home, she’ll get an earful from Geoff. Let her go Tom or I swear I’ll swing for you’
Tom took her at her word and suddenly released his grip on Mary who tumbled forward two or three steps promptly fell on to Ann and the two of them ended up on top of the couch like lovers.
A roar went up from the bar and the men began to clap. Lilah was so embarrassed she thought of turning around and sneaking out the door but it was too late. Jane was beckoning her over to the bar ‘Lilah love can you not get your Mum to go home with you? She’s had a skin-ful and that was before she got here at all.’ Tom stood beside her at the bar his face like an undertakers. ‘They must have been hitting the shorts pretty hard at the hotel after Eamons funeral. He was only a neighbour what would they be like if he was a close relative I’d like to know.’ Jane nodded her head towards the snug that was Lilahs queue to go and intervene. She’s been doing this since she was ten years old and it never got any easier.
She looked at her mother in disgust. Her short black curls were plastered to her skin by a slick of sweat. There was a dark stain across her breasts where the Guinness had hit her top. And there was a smell of sweat from her clothes. ‘Lilah my darling girl. Will you have a drink with us?’
‘Dad sent me, he wants you to come home now, its late.’
‘ah your father is such a fuss pot. The night is young’
‘She’s like her father and her uncle’ Ann Kelly started ‘too uptight to know how to have a good time’
Mary Crowley was having none of it ‘What do you know about having a good time? You’re so uptight your idea of having a good time is to sit at home knitting and drinking tea’
A ‘you’re idea of a good time is to sit on the toilet waiting to pee’
M ‘You’re idea of a wild time is to pee on the seat’
A ‘You’re idea of a crazy time is to pee standing up like a boy’
M ‘You’re idea of a crazy time is to take a dump in the corner of my kitchen’
A ‘That wasn’t me’
M ‘On no, well prove it’
A ‘How can I prove it? That was months ago’.
M ‘Did you DNA test it? Did you keep samples for analysis? Hah thought not.’
A ‘I know it was you’
M ‘No it wasn’t’
A ‘Yes it was’
M ‘Shut up’
A ‘No you shut up’
M ‘Get out’
A ‘You get out’
M ‘This isn’t your house its a public place I can stay if I want to’
A ‘I said get out’
M ‘Make me’
Ann stood up but Mary was too quick for her. She lunged for Ann grabbing her blouse and pulling her across the bar tearing the flimsy fabric as she went
Ann trotted after her grinning like a lunatic
Lilah followed the circus that was her family, cheeks burning, head hanging.
‘See told you we’d get to see more of Ann Kelly’s underwear’ the old smirker by the bar said.
Lilah emptied the last of his drink over his head. Maybe she was more like her mother than she liked to think.