By Aiden Corkery
I wasn't sure if my nose was broken or not but it sure was mangled-looking. Then again Andrew always had a pissed off look about him, not that he wasn't good looking -he was - it's just that he always looked annoyed about nothing much in particular. Now though he had something to be pissed off about.
- You ungrateful Cork whore
- I bring you up to my house, feed you, show you around Derry and what do you do? You only go and break my fucking nose.
I was about to mention the fact that despite all his fancy-dan education his thick Derry accent always returned when he got excited, but a galnce at the vicious looking blood stain on his shirt convinced me that this wasn't the best of times to make this observation. In fact this wasn't the best of times for saying anything - it didn't matter that he was winning the game of basketball by at least thirty points, or that this wonderful lead had been accumulated in less than a quarter of an hour. The fact of the matter was that I elbowed him in the face, he hit the floor and suddenly our game of basketball had adopted the rules of boxing. He had hit the floor, therefore he was losing the game. I made for the door but his voice stopped me befor I even reached the end of the court.
- Ye surely don't think I'm going to let you out of the game that easy?
He bounced the ball towards me.
- Come back here for your humiliation, you southern scum.
He was laughing. I trotted back into centre-court, never more eager to embarrass myself.
- Alright, you Proddy lover
I said, knowing he was, thanks be to Jesus, over the incident.
- I'll just have to whack your nose in the other direction this time, okay?
As we played on, his lead moving hopelessly out of my sight, I began probing Andrew about his politics, something which strangely , he never talked about.
- Now fuck off Mick, you know I don't talk about that shit.
- Aw Jesus come on Andy, show a bit of interest in what's going on around you.
He slammed the ball down viciously, causing it to break away towards the garden. Silently we watched it nest itself in the soft grass. Andrew was first to speak.
- Mick, I enjoy bringing you up to Derry, it's good craic, I even enjoy playing baskerball with you, shite player an' all though you are, but when you start going on with that four green fields, republican shite, it annoys the tits off me. You don't live here and you certainly don't know what it's like. Sure there's the odd problem with discrimination but that's changing and besides, I can't blame anyone for pissing on that Bogside shite, they don't want to help themselves. In my nineteen years of existence I've never had any real trouble up here.
- Do you ever think that might be `cause your Dad's a rich businessman?
He shouted. I was beginning to realise that the reason Andrew never talked about politics was because it got him too worked up.
- So, they're prepared to tolerate your existence, all you are to them is a higher grade of shite.
I was about as worked up now as Andrew was.
- Just don't forget who you are.
Andrew had by now walked over to where the ball was, shaking his head. I was fair clsoe to crying on account of his stupidity.
- Oh piss off back to your republic so, and take that chip on your shoulder back with ya, `cause the fourth green field ain't going'.
he roared as he walked towards the house.
- Oh and by the way I'm calling you at half four tomorrow morning for swimming practice.
With that my northern Catholic friend slammed the door closed behind him.
* * *
As we walked back from the pool and my body still in shock from the feel of cold water at five in the morning, a group of six military type men stopped us up. What with the dark it was a few seconds before I realised who these boys were. This was no RUC or British army patrol, these boys were the B-specials and if the reports I'd heard down south were anything to go by, we were well and truly buggered.
- Well ladies,
said the most important looking of the group,
- Would yis kindly tell us what in the name of Jesus Christ upon the crucifix are you doing lurking around Derry city centre at six o' clock in the morning?
I was too scared to speak. Andrew, who for some reason seemed to think there was nothing to fear spoke in a perfectly calm manner.
- Well officer, my friend and I were out swimming at the pool and now we're returning home.
The officer repeated to himself slowly in a sickly tone. The men behind him began to laugh, almost invisible in the dark.
- Swimming at six o' clock in the morning?
The men behind him were now beginning to giggle like nervous school boys.
- Could you do any better than that my lovelies? I mean swimming? What kind of an eejit...
His voice trailed off
- Show us your bags
No move from Andrew.
- I said SHOW US YOUR BAGS.
The officer made a faint nod behind him and one of the soldiers moved from the darkness and grabbed the bag off Andrew's shoulder. He tossed it at the officer, who didn't bother to catch it but rather let it bounce off his chest and fall to his feet. There he began toying with the bag, nudging it along the cobblestones with his boot.
- Oh sure it says something on it
he said feigning surprise.
- Let's see now, uuhh, Shannonside R.F.C . R.F.C stands for Rugby Football Club if I'm not mistaken does it not?
Andrew was deliberately slowing his answers.
- It does
His reply was cold.
The officer sniggered
- You know what they say about rugby don't you.
- It's a game for men with oddly shaped balls.
Silence except for the sound of the other soldiers quietly laughing.
- And as for the Shannonside...what part of the Shannon would this rugby ground be on the side of?
Andrew's reply was even colder.
- Oh, so we have us some Fenians crawling around in the dark at six o' clock in the morning with a bag full of something they don't want to show us. Open the bag Paddy.
He nodded at Andrew.
- Bend down like a good Taig and show us what magic you have inside, will ya?
Now I'd have been glad to bend down and open the bag if it would have mean that we'd get away quicker but this stupid pride thing kicked in with Andrew as it had with the basketball the day before. There was no way that Andrew was going to kneel before that B-Special. It had nothing to do with religion or faith, it was merely a matter of honour.
- Pick it up yourself.
Andrew replied, barely opening his mouth. The officer said nothing but looked around at his men, a mixture of shock and amusement on his face. After what had probably been a boring night so far, they'd gotten themselves some real entertainment here. The officer began tapping his foot. Unable to bear it, I began to walk slowly towards the bag in the least threatening way possible, bending slowly as I got closer to it. Just as I reached out for the bag, the officer took a step back and drove his combat boot into my teeth. Jesus Christ but the pain was something awful.
- I don't recall asking you, you piece of shit.
He shouted down at me.
- Now then, since the gentlemen standing up isn't as co-operative as the sack of shit on the floor, we'll just have to open the bag ourselves.
He stuck the same boot as he had used on me under the bag and lifted it up to his knee where he grabbed it with his fist.
- Soccer's my game you see. Round balls.
With that he took his knife and sliced through the canvas of the bag, emptying all its contents on the ground.
- Two towels and some swimming jocks. I guess you boys were telling the truth after all. Awfully sorry old chaps.
He said in a sarcastic English accent
- Can't be too careful these days you know. Never know what you Fenians are getting up to next. And it's all to do...
- Pick it up
Andrew pointed at the towels on the ground.
- Put it in one of your own bags and give it to me.
- I'm sorry?
The officer walked up to Andrew, eyeballing him.
- Are you threatening me, you fucking shit?
Where exactly Andrew hit the officer I couln't really tell. By the way he went down so quick, chances are it was in that area that he'd been comparing rugby balls to earlier. And so as three or so officers ran in to attack Andrew, the remaining two decided to finish off the good work their officer had started on me.
* * *
As I lay there bloodied and bruised on the cobblestones of Derry city centre I could feel the cold of the wet stones touching my body.
- Mick, Mick are ya'll right?
I turned to see Andy lying facing me on the ground about ten yards away.
- Aw fuck yeah, never better and yourself?
- Nothing a good shag won't fix, providing that part of my anatomy is still working.
It was funny to hear Andy talking that crudely.
- You know Mick, I've been thinking.
- Yeah? I'm surprised you still can.
- Naw seriously, its like funny how life is you know. Here you were this weekend trying to instill a sense of nationalism into me and there I was, telling you that no, no they're all right , Protestants aren't shits at all. I was thinking that like you know, we can all be as one. But then along come those fucking pigs to leave me in doubt as to which side of the house I belong to.
- Hate to say I told you so but...
Before I could continue gloating, he went on
- You know what, I think I'll join the IRA
- Fuck off really?
- Nah, I'm only messing. I'll tell you a decent joke though...how do you know Frankenstein is a Protestant?
- `Cause he looks like one.
It could have been the near lethal amounts of adrenalin going round our veins at that moment in time, but we began to laugh. And we lay there, beaten to a pulp, coughing and spluttering and crying from laughter on the cobblestones of Derry city centre.
- And so Mr. Michael Hogan, did you enjoy your stay in Londonderry?
- Oh yes indeed Mr. Andrew Shea. It was most enjoyable. In fact...I almost died laughing.