We are approaching Belfast, evening falls, the crows call out a warning. I’ve got an uneasy feeling. Few is drunk, or merry anyway. Merry in a morose way. Maudlin. The phone rings. I put it on speaker.
“The Few”, a thick guttural accent, hard to place exactly but Munster somewhere.
Suddenly Few is alert, and bright as a button. “Denis!”
There’s a throaty, possibly insane, chuckle down the line.
“Alright kid, it’s The Denis to you. Cmer till I tell ya a question, there’s a delay, she can’t see you till tomorrow, can ya hang on for a night? We’ll put ya up like. Ok boy?”
The house is nondescript, terraced, redbrick, not far from the Europa hotel. It’s grotty, Few expresses his disgust in the strongest possible terms. Fucking rathole. Etc. He disappears upstairs with his bags, shouting “Let’s paint the town red, white and blue! Perfect opportunity! So what if she can’t see us tonight?”
Who is She? Still he won’t tell me.
He reappears, dressed in a gold lamé suit, straw boater. Eyeliner and even a hint of rouge, if I’m not mistaken. My disapproval is obvious, even to him. His face crumples.
“It’s how she likes me – AND – I didn’t bring anything else…I’ll have to hit the tailors in the morning”.
“Is this wise Few?”
“Wise? Where has wisdom ever taken us my boy? This is an adventure, an excitement, a night of surprises! did I ever tell you about my times with Alex Higgins? So, I simply must visit the Royal Bar, down on Sandy Row, he spent much time there, I must see it!”
We’re outside, about to enter when Few’s ears prick up –
“Wait, I hear a song, a singer, there” – he swings around and points to a bar called McCoisty’s on the far corner. “There first, I fancy a tune!” I’m not sure if he means listen or sing. I fear the latter.
It’s busy. The Sandy Row Rangers Supporters Club banner above the bar fills me with trepidation but Few is high, wild and handsome, he’s not to be trifled with. There’s a piano man on stage, crucifying Joe Jackson’s “Be My Number Two”.
He pushes his way through to the bar, I trail along, heart in mouth, now. Please Few, No Few.
“A dry sherry my good man, very, very dry. The full David Norris. The barman eyes him suspiciously.
“Is yer head cut?”
“A dry sherry, aye?”
“In a wee glass, there’s a good chap.” He winks at me, proud of his local dialect. He points to the stage and hisses that he’s going to have to sort this out. The barman to me “Tell yer pal there to catch hisself on or there’ll be a sitch-e-ation, if you get ma?”
Before I know it he’s seated at the Korg and he launches into a beautiful version of The Look of Love. Breath-taking really, I wonder again why he ever quit, I know, I guess, but. He finishes, the bar erupts in raucous applause. Few swells with delight, his big, fat overblown ego reaching bursting point.
A shadow falls over me, I look up, there is a giant of a man standing there, wearing a string vest, Union Jack on one arm, red hand on the other, a spider’s web tatoo all over his face. His FACE for fuck sake.
“Play us anather wan Paddy”
Few looks Spiderman up and down, smiles
“I guess there are some people you just can’t refuse, you’ll enjoy this”
“By lonely prison walls….”
“’ll knock yer bollix in ya Fenian bastard!”
Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war. I’m felled backwards, Spiderman is grabbing Few, pulling him down off the stage, there’s a knife somewhere, flashing red under the disco lights.
Behind me, the doors of the pub crash open, standing there is a mad-eyed, wiry little fucker, Hitler mustachio, all adrenaline, bristling blue ink and bravado.
“I tell you mate, lay another finger on The Few and I will slit your fucking throat”
Everything stops, for a second, just long enough
Come on ta fuck we’re out running they are the sick breath at our hind the car the keys the fucking keys slam the door start banging on the window Jesus fucking Christ roll up kicking the fucking door drive for fuck and we’re gone
The Denis, for it is he, turns to me. “The Few really done it this time.” Everyone’s quiet for a while, breathing, just breathing. Then “We need a good drink I tell you. I swam The Shannon and I only 21.”
Note : We realise this is nonsensical, poorly conceived, awkwardly expressed and lazily imagined. We’ll try harder. Promise.