Hakk!! Hawwwkkkhh!!! Hak!! Khhakkhh!! Fuck! My fuckin head!! Hak! Kahokk!! Hok-thooee!! Ukkhh. Urk. Nnnggmnngghh. Mmnnnnhh. N.
I stir in the bed but I do not move, for I have experienced this before, many years ago in the Aran Islands. Sane men don’t move until this ritual has passed, for it is the waking-up rite of the Sons of Beelzebub. They might shit on you.
True enough, I say. Good night last night, yeah?
Yeah. And your man was in great form, wasn’t he?
Mmmmnnnn. Fuck. My fuckin head.
Your head, Joe? Do you want a Solpadeine?
Only then does Joe appear above me, and he is Colonel Kurtz. The horror! The horror!
Fuck! I ejaculate.
His entire bald skull is covered in blood. In his right hand he’s carrying a panga and, in his left, the severed head of a water buffalo.
No, actually. I just made that bit up. It isn’t true.
Myaaarrrrgggghhhh! he attempts.
Go on, I urge. You can do this thing
Nya nya nya heeeeaaaa.mnnhh. Joe gestures frantically at his own scalp. Ppphhhhnhheeerrrvvvee.
Jesus! Why didn’t I spot this?
Shaving? I nod and smile at him. Cut scalp?
Joe smiles through the blood and nods. Ggggnnnuuullmmnnrrrghhhhh!!
Great, I nod back. Fuck off. I have a hang-over.
Hours pass. Where the fuck am I? What the fuck am I?
Existential hours pass some more until I don’t care who or what I am.
What the –?
It’s Sunday. We’re still at the Midlands Music Festival. It’s nearly one o’clock and I have a big decision to make.
Will I get up?
This is what we must decide: Music or Hurling?
It’s not very cool, now is it? Here you are at a fairly good music festival, and you’re trying to decide if you’ll head into town to watch a fucking hurling match? No. It isn’t cool, but it’s real.
Dig out that programme there, Boss.
OK. We have the Cosmic Banditos. I’d love to hear a band called the Cosmic Banditos. What a great name.
True. They’re on at one o’clock.
True. How about Luan Parle?
Nah. Sunny Sweeney?
Right. Oh, look. Here’s Ben Taylor. You know – James Taylor’s son?
Nah. Nah. Scratch him.
Do we want to see anyone, or will we just stay in Mullingar and get drunk?
Fuck that. After all the money we spent?
Right. So what about the Hillbilly All-Stars?
You’ll never guess,
They’ve been moved to later, so we can catch them.
So we can hear them?
Sure looks like it.
Nyeah! Fuck ’em!
OK!! Here we go!! Taxi!!!!
We land up eventually in Mullingar, in some hotel bar with a big screen, where we get to see Limerick play Tipperary in the big hurling game. Wooooo Fuckin Hoooo!! Go, fuckin Limerick!!!!
We have maybe half a dozen pints of Guinness and we piss off all the Tipperary supporters in this fine hotel by our general boorishness and lack of sensitivity.
Limerick win, which pisses off theTipperary supporters even more than our generally deplorable demeanour.
Mullingar is a typical Irish rural town. In Mullingar on a Sunday, you’re likely to meet many men in suits as a mark of respect to the Sabbath. They’ll be in suits, unlike us, who don’t know what the fuck day of the week it is. These guys will be suited up, and what’s more, most of them will have attended some form of worship, even if it was only Statan worship. Mullingar people are very devout.
Look, Mammy. There’s Seamus Crotty, and he wearing a suit. Look at the red nose on him!
Hush, Teresa. Isn’t Mr Crotty comin’ back from the virgin-sacrifice at the Satan-rock. Couldn’t ya show a bit of respect, girl?
Such a character is sitting next to Joe. He’s bald, but he has an embarrassing comb-over. He has a suit. Shiny.
Were ye at the music?
We were. We are. Well, not this very minute, considering we’re here talking to you, but in principle, yes. We are.
Who did ye hear?
Quick calculation. Exchange of knowing nods.
Eh. Where’s he from?
More silence. Not often we’re stunned.
Is he an Irish lad?
He is. Come on Bock. Let’s head back.
Richmond Fontaine are a shit-kicking fuck-off bastard of a band and that’s what we arrive straight back into. The rain has stopped at long last, and these guys are playing up a fucking storm in the big tent. Nobody cares that the mud is now up to our armpits, even inside. People are dancing. People are smoking. People are fucking. People are eating burgers. Is good, yes? Is good, no because sadly we abandon Richmond Fontaine with fifteen minutes to go.
But Bock, Joe, cry Richmond Fontaine. Doncha love us??
Sure do, we shout back, but here comes the Blind Boys of Alabama!!
Have you ever seen or heard the Blind Boys? Doesn’t matter if you, like me and Wrinkly Joe, are the greatest living unbeliever. You just can’t help going out there and TESTIFY!!! Praise da lawd!!!
And so we do. We wade in the water, we sing the House of the Risin’ Sun to the tune of Amazin Grace, and for just a few minutes, God’s people is all in one place, singin’ along and bein’ righteous!! Praise da lawd!!! Fuckin great!! I lean towards the woman beside me and I say here!!! That woman never cease from swayin’ to the Lawd’s music, but say, Thank ya, Brother, and swig back a big shot of my whiskey. Thanks ya, Jesus!!
Stick it in your mouth and shake it around a bit.
I look back at Wrinkly Joe, trying hard to look like Travis Bickle. What?
The hip flask, he enlightens. There’s probably another drop in it.
Oh, I say. Right.
We wonder up the hill, grateful for a small respite, when Joe spots some of his friends. I mooch along behind him and fall into idle chatter with one of the women, whose husband slumps in a deck chair, reading.
Oh, very good.
Yes. Very good.
Oh yes. Very good.
When the fuck will we be able to decently stop making pointless conversation to each other?
Very soon now, you boring fucker, when Joe stops talking to my friend.
Good, you incredibly boring fucker.
At that point, the woman’s husband looks up at me, utterly bored, glances at his wife and returns to the thing he’s reading.
Now, I can’t help being what I am. This is an affliction and I’ve had it all my life. Perhaps some of our readers are the same, but words just jump off the page at me. They jump up and say Look at me you fucker!!! Misspellings. Bad grammar. I can’t help it, all right? Fuck off.
And so, as in all other things, I can’t help noticing what this woman’s husband is reading, at an open-air music festival, where everybody is having a great time. What’s he reading? Go on. What the fuck is he reading?
War and Peace? No.
A history of the Hell’s Angels? No.
Willie Nelson’s tax returns? No.
This guy is reading a book about erectile dysfunction.
I shit you not.
What the fuck? Come on, Joe. Let’s go and listen to Gillian Welch.
We miss Kila but so fuckin what? It gives me time to climb back into the battlements of Belvedere Castle and try to make up for yesterday’s professional embarrassment. The high-velocity slug hits Paul Brady so hard he doesn’t even notice he’s been killed and carries on singing Arthur McBride until a stage hand runs on and clubs him hard with an old microphone.
That leaves the Be-Good Tanyas and the Hillbilly All-Stars.
I like the Be-Good Tanyas and I have some of their music on CD, but I have to tell you that I detested them in the flesh and we ran away to the beer tent after about fifteen minutes. We did no such thing with the Hillbilly All-Stars. These boys are one seriously rockin’ bunch of Mo-Fos who rounded off the early part of the evening for us, and I gotta tell ya, folks, just get out there and buy their albums. Fuck, what a band.
Now. Nobody among us is interested in Glen Campbell. Much better stuff going on back at the campsite where we have some serious musicians living among us. We cook up another curry, roast a few chapatis, blast off another verse of those Late John Garfield Blues and then it’s time for Wrinkly Joe to tell us about the Runaway Bride.
Open another wee bottle of that there wine Gerry, good man.