Turnpike

In the cavernous darkness of snug, among the forest of dark brown bar stools, beside the shadowy hearth in which a low peat fire smoldered wandered a little boy;

Sniffing the sweet-and-sour smell of stale beer, fingering sodden beer mats and sticky playing cards.

You did your best to ignore the men at the bar who frightened you with their rough, gruff, drunken ways, their hoarse nicotinic voices,

Even as they bought you Cadbury’s Fruit, and Nut and your mother’s body language told you they were friends.

Your grandfather, shuffling around behind the counter,

Serving, at the same time as holding court,

Emperor of this strange, shadowy kingdom.

Trouble: the night they got him drunk and tried to buy the pub out from under him,

A pittance on offer;

There was a phone call from a regular, and your mother came up to put the run on them— a cute clan of grabbers from Lissycasey,

And on the guards who drank after hours on the buckshee, your grandfather simultaneously intimidated and impressed by their uniforms and talk.

He couldn’t lift a barrel anymore,

Needed help with keeping stock,

Would down a short and talk horses and dogs with any passing custom,

Run card schools into the night,

And started to drink almost as much as he was selling.

It was broken into, but the guards looked the other way, didn’t lift a finger.

“You wouldn’t find an elephant in the snow,” my mother told them.

The pub was home to him,

Home away from home for half the Turnpike,

And in better years, when his wife was alive and the shop was still up and running, the heart and soul of the old neighbourhood,

A social service, a source of tick and oftentimes handouts.

She would give a gold sovereign to the mother of each newborn in that poor area of the town.

But he closed its doors for the last time and came to live with us.

Nobody could take it from him then.

But he had fallen from his perch of power, emperor no more,

Just a foolish old man who had become prey to sly and grubbing countrymen and crooked, entitled guards.

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About ucronin

Born in the country town of Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland in 1975, I now live in Madrid with my partner and two young daughters and work in a research institute. While I was always a hungry reader and harboured vague notions of being a writer, as a young man writing was the furthest thing from my mind; after leaving school, I did a B.Sc. in Biotechnology in Galway's NUI, an M.Sc. in Plant Science in University College Cork and a Ph.D. in Microbiology in the University of Limerick, the plan being to dedicate my professional career to scientific research. While having written extensively within my technical scientific field, I had never contemplated becoming a writer of fiction until a road-to-Damascus moment on the N69 between Listowel and Tarbert, Co. Kerry in the summer of 2011. Since then, most of my spare time has been occupied with writing. In whatever other free moments I have, I like to listen to music, play the guitar and garden (which here in Madrid means a lot of watering of plants and spraying for red spider mite). My ambition is to become as good a writer as I possibly can, eventually freeing myself from the cold clutches of science and earning a living through my scribblings. The type of writing that excites me is honest, intelligent, well-constructed and richly descriptive.
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