Breakfast in Belfast, 1972
Ryan Everett Felton
It was one of MacCruiskeen’s boys I plugged. I rolled the eejit down the alley and tottered off for a pint.
In Belfast there’s no call for subtlety anymore. Snipers’ve seen to that. Most blokes in my line of work appreciate it, that lifted veil. Guns blazin’ and that.
I miss the subtlety, me.
This lass’s in the oul’ pub, in the stool next to me usual spot. A knockout – hair spun from silver, skin like cream. Like she’s waitin’ for me there.
She takes me hands, wraps the fingers round a cold Guinness. Makin’ eyes and pouty lips at me. I mean, Jaysus. ‘Member what I said about subtlety?
I drain the glass. “Thanks for the Arthur’s,” I says. “One on me?”
This bird shakes her head and lays a palm on my chest, where blood and dirt’ve formed a stiff pancake. “What happened?” she asks with a voice like rusty nails on glass.
“Hazards o’ the job,” I says. “Deal went arseways. Disciplinary measures were taken.”
What she does then is, she unbuttons me shirt, bold as yeh like. Pulls it off, reaches for the barkeep’s dishwater bucket. Wads up the shirt and dunks it into the suds, scrubbin’.
“What is your vocation, Bradaigh?” she asks. That voice – makes me bones cold. And when’d I tell her me name, anyhow?
But she’s so pretty I’d be a right gobshite, blowin’ ‘er off. So I say, “Entrepreneur.” Then shrug. “Or errand-boy, more like.” Her white eyelashes fall like wee curtains. I ask, “And what do yeh do, miss? For livin’ or pleasure?”
She’s still sloshin’ that shirt through the soap-water. “I sing,” she says.
“Gowan!” I lean in, smell her. Scent’s like peat, like earth. “A singer! Round here? Would I’ve ever heard yeh anywhere?”
Wringing the wet outta me shirt, she says, “No. Not yet.”
I take back the shirt and slip into it. It’s spotless, now.
It’s hard not starin’ at her figure, leanin’ over the bar to return the bucket. She comes back up with another draught for me.
I drink. “So,” I says, “will yeh be givin’ us a song then?”
“Oh yes.” She smiles. Pointed teeth, in rows like a shark’s, peep outta her pretty lips. “Any minute now.” A silver comb, silver like her hair, comes outta her pocket and she’s brushing that perfect head of hair. “It’s almost daylight,” she says. “Are you hungry?”
“Nae,” I say. “Thirsty still, though. Barkeep?” But then I look round. We’re alone. “Where is everyone?”
“When I entered, they left.” She puts the comb away. “Are you hungry?”
And then I understand. Bit late, at that, but I see now. I say her name.
“Bean Sí,” says I. “Banshee?”
I could leave, I think. Or stop her singing, somehow. But it wouldn’t matter. She’d only find me again. Or I’d find her.
She pours another pint. Makes me a proper breakfast. And when I finish, she sings the last song I’ll ever hear.
‘Least it’s pretty.