Tom Cronin’s problem with mackerel

He put his hands on the table straight in front and let out a quiet belch. His pint glass was empty in front of him. He had drunk it down quickly. First drink at it and then putting the glass down for a minute and then taking it up again to finish it off. The white dregs sliding down the inside and gathering at the bottom. He took up his right hand and used the back of it to wipe at his mouth.

He then took up the glass and reached behind him to put it on the bar next to a couple of notes and a pile of loose change.

‘Mary I’ll have another one now. But let it rest a while so I can take the benefit of this one.’

Tom Cronin was sat across the table and still had in front of him the half pint that had been there when the man had walked in.

‘Tom do you want another for when you finish that?’

Tom Cronin shook his head. ‘I’ll be alright with this for a while,’ he said. ‘Ask me again later if we are sat here still.’

‘Tom are you sat there now still worrying about what was said last night? What was said then was all talk and stories built on the back of the drinks we had. Feck now Tom if you start worrying about that now and sitting in silence with me on a quiet afternoon like this then you are starting to put too many years behind you. Take up a pint and drink with me now.’

‘Mary,’ Tom Cronin said. ‘Mary you were here last night and you heard what was said so would you be blaming me me for not taking a drink with him?’

Mary poured the man’s pint keeping her silence.

The man had his hands back on the table looking straight at Tom Cronin.

‘Feck Tom now you’ve not changed a bit. How many years now since we left school. Probably thirty when we sat there in our shorts feeling guilty at our lack of effort with Miss O’Leary who came down here from Dublin trying to trouble us with some learning. We didn’t listen then and Tom you don’t listen now. You sit there all sphinx like pleased in your quiet ’cause you think you have something on me from last night and the both of us know we put that talk together and it was a bunch of hot air and piss.’

The man smiled, ‘Tom, you’d sit there at fifteen and and not say a word because of some half arsed talk and you are doing it still. You came in here last night and you had your fill and you went home to your bed and you lay there still waiting for sleep to come down upon you and like a fool you let the talk of the night unsettle your mind .’

‘Tom shall we talk about what we talked about last night.’

‘Feck Tom the only talk that we had last night was about mackerel and a man’s inability to catch them when they are not there.’

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