Killoyle, An Irish Farce

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Wolfetone Does God's Work

(from Chapter 3)

By Roger Boylan

Guilt-ridden, too, was Wolfetone Grey, but no more than usual. In fact, he was having a relatively good time of it that Saturday night, with the kettle singing on the hob and a sweet-drawing pipe in his gob [1] and the murmur of the dying wind outside. Mrs. Grey was upstairs in bed, and that was no abuse to his peace of mind, nor was the absence of their daughter Doreen (she'd insisted on moving into a bedsit in the town the month before, "just to be on me own, like"--aye, she'd find out what that meant, soon enough). Television had never appealed to Wolfetone Grey, and reading was a bore, with few exceptions (e.g., anything by, or for, God), so the inner life he depended on was, by necessity, rich and varied, like the lush forests of New Guinea. As in those jungles, beauty and strength were combined with the objectionable quirks in Nature's humor: man-eating savages in the case of New Guinea, a passion for quasi-religious texts and anonymous phoning in Wolfetone's. Even now his hand reached for the telephone, stayed only by the thought of God, with Whom he was in regular communication--not by telephone, but via the prayer waves that emanated heavenward from the Grey house (suitably grey in color, with white edgings) on Lostwithal Road, several times weekdays and Saturdays and twice, loudly, on Sundays, in unison with the other congregants at St. Oinsias' in the town. At church, his prayers were generally bland, hewing to traditional themes: bless those we don't know-- help us along a bit--give us a boost now and then--sorry we're such sinners, etc. There was rarely time to allude to the phoning in those group chats with Him, but at home--one-on-one, as it were--Wolfetone was more direct, going boldly on the attack in anticipation of the Divine Schoolmaster's displeasure. There was nothing intrinsically wrong with calling up people he didn't know, he argued, not per se, like. Sure, it gave most of them the bit of a thrill, something to talk about the next day over the fence or the office desk, that kind of carryon: no harm there, eh? On the other hand--yes, he was forced to admit (reluctantly) that the impostures taken on by his telephonic personality were sometimes a bit much, sailing a little too close to the wind--all right, tantamount to deception if you wanted to be legalistic about it, i.e. lying, cheating and other naughtiness. The Sweepstakes promoter, for instance, flirted with outright fraud; he knew that, but he was the first to admit it, wasn't he? Anyway, hadn't he sent them both return bus tickets, at no small cost to himself (he might add)? All quite human, though, he reassured himself, jollily, before turning as in remorse to the Almighty and grovelling a bit--after all, He was the Almighty. [2]

Interjection: Wolfetone Grey was a model citizen and provider in all other realms of his existence.

"I work my arse off, begging your pardon," he bellowed into the ruffled night. "A rise of eleven percent last month and that's more than anyone else makes at the Hall bar that old coot Power--not as if he was underpaid, that's certain," modulating the volume somewhat. God listened; go on, He said, nudging.

[Here is recalled, for God's benefit and ours, the Sweepstakes prank in which, in the telephonic guise of a Sweepstakes employee, Wolfetone delivered to an obnoxious and not overly brilliant colleague a spurious first prize consisting of a steamy weekend with the sexy TV anchorwoman of that colleague's dreams. Then, back to the phones.]

"And wouldn't they have made the charming couple. Still, there's always another time, and while I'm about it, there's no time like the present--oh, come on," to an imagined tsk-tsk from the Heavenly Head. "This time it'll be as moral as all get out, just you wait and see." The fever of forbidden desire swooned through [Wolfetone's] frail frame as, with sweating palms, he picked up the telephone. On his lap was the directory, well-thumbed in the Killoyle area. Finger poised above the dial, he cleared his throat of tobacco oysters ten or a dozen times, then dialed a number, only to be accosted by an answering machine, bane of these nighttime japes. He tried again, and again, with the same result. It was nearly half-past eleven before an actual human voice spoke the magic word. [3]


"Mr. Power? Mr. Emmet Power?"

"Is that you, Grey?"

"I beg your pardon? Mr. Power, this is Father Patrick MacCarthy of the Society of Jesus and the Redemptorist Mission. I do apologize for the lateness of the hour, but the hour is late in more ways than one, if you catch my meaning."

"Bloody nonsense," blustered Power, but the hook was in, the catch was thrashing its last.

Copyright 1997 by Roger Boylan

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[1] Kettle on the hob, you say? Pipe in his gob, is it? God save us, that wouldn't be a wee cottage somewhere in a wee corner of the darlin' land of the bogs and the little people, would it? You can count me out of this caper, Patrick my man. Hob, indeed. And through the tiny wee winda wisps of peat smoke and the trackless Twelve Pins, I suppose? Get out of that. Housing estates and heavy metal and bumper-to-bumper on the Ring Road, that's more like it these days. [back]

[2] Well, now, in my day, you'd have had a right old barney on your hands trying to get this kind of thing past the Censor's Office--but maybe that's the point! Aha! Mutatis mutandis and all that, eh? I'm onto you now, boyo. [back]

[3] Just as well, if you ask me. While we're on the subject, that brings to mind something that happened to my Auntie Nuala, a while back--that's right, the one poleaxed by a tree in the Great Storm of '87--when she was the Taoiseach's mistress and living in comfort in a mews off Fitzwilliam Square. One morning, or early afternoon as it might be, she answered the phone in her boudoir to hear nothing but heavy coughing on the other end of the line. Hello, she says, waiting for the poor bleeder to get a hold of himself and state his intentions, like; but no sooner does he draw breath than he's off again, coughing and wheezing like the business end of a bus, and it due for the scrapheap. Well, says Auntie Nuala to herself (being a woman of firm opinions), this is no sort of conversation at all, and damn near hangs up the phone when something in the other party's coughing makes her pause, a kind of roaring high note you'd hope never to hear this side of a bullpen in the mating season. Suffering Jesus, says Aunt Nuala, the poor fella's in a bad way, and wasn't that the God's own truth! Before she could fasten her corsets it was all over, in a regular crescendo of hacking and spewing. Next thing Nuala knows there's a policeman on the line asking her if she's the one who left the open packet of twenty Players Full Strength by your man's bed! I ask you. Well, take my word for it, she hung up quicker than you can say Seoirse O Suilleabhain--which, coincidentally, was the dead man's name. You remember him: leader of the Fir Bolg parliamentary splinter group back in the late . . . ? or was it the early. . . ? [back]

Copyright 1997 by Roger Boylan

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