MARTHA'S NIGHT OUT.
Martha lifted the gin to her lips and sipped. Micheal Murphy sat beside her smoking the pipe, the smoke drifting upward to stain further the ceiling of the bar. Someone played at the piano, the sound being lost amongst the voices, the chatter, the laughter. The gin warmed; the eyes lit up. She gazed at Murphy, at his teeth biting the pipe, at the smoke easing itself out at the side of his mouth, at the eyes of him half-closing because of the smoke. She sipped again, the gin going down a treat. Warmed more. She moved her eyes from Murphy and settled them on Danny Moran up at the bar; spilling his words like loose change into the ears of any’d listen. The cap on the back of his head, the hair at the front dark and curled. She knew his wife, thin as paper, drained as cabbage after cooking. He took his hand to her, so Martha’d heard, the bully of a man; his children cower at his approach, him with his bellyful of the drink. Martha sipped more of the gin, removed her eyes from Moran. Murphy removed his pipe and supped his porter, his lips rubbing together after a mouthful. She took a cigarette from her handbag, put it between her lips, and lit it with a match from Murphy’s box on the table. Women who smoke in public, her mother used to say, they’re the wrong type. Times and manners, Martha mused, inhaling deeply. The satisfaction of the smoke, better than the sex, at least with him, she thought, gazing at Murphy, supping deeply his next mouthful. She looked at his fingers curled around the pipe, the others on the other hand clenching the glass. The scar on the knuckle where’d hit the wall when she ducked his blow at her. Serves him right. Hoped he’d broken it, but he hadn’t, just bruised. Worse luck, she mused, remembering the hiding he gave her later after the hospital stay over night, pretending to all it was with some drunk he’d fought. Liar, liar your arse’s on fire. She smiled at the words. Her mother warned her: He’ll be as much good to you as a boil on the buttocks, Mother said on the wedding eve. Never listened. Always the way with the young. Know best, so they think. She exhaled the smoke, watched it rise, wanted to rings like Father, perfect things he did. She used to watch as he blew them all for her. Amused she was. Cancer got him though for all that ring blowing. Rest in peace, Daddy, she mused watching the smoke unfold along the ceiling. Murphy broke wind; waved his hand; pretended innocence. Smelly buzzard, she said beneath her breath, looked away, tried not to breathe in; hoped the smoke would mask, over lay, but it didn’t. She watched Mick McGuire raise his pint to his thick lips, the tongue showing through the glass like some snake as he supped his ale. He’d kissed her once at some Christmas party, his slobber on her like some dog’s spittle. Best forgotten that. His hand on her backside, looking for the door, so he said, in his drunken stupor, and Murphy taking not the blind notice, as well he might, having touched and felt Mick’s fat bitch of a wife and thought better of it, even with the drink inside him, numbing his senses, what with her bust and bum and the wet kiss enough to drown kittens. Martha wanted home soon, into the bed, to snuggle down, hope he doesn’t want to sow his seeds, she mused, watching the pipe rise and fall in his mouth, the hand supporting the bowl, his other hand holding glass. McGuire broke into singing, the baritone voice bouncing off walls, the words smoothed by drink. where the girls are so pretty. poor Molly McGuire, to have that voice in your ears, and that flesh in between the sheets and legs and her with the Christ on the cross above the bed, with the rosary hanging. Bell for last orders. Murphy heaved himself to the bar, taking his and her glasses with him. Same again. As always. The pipe on the table out and dead. Smokeless. She stubbed her cigarette butt in the ashtray with a quiet violence. Watched Murphy’s arse as he scratched. What she had ever seen in him is an unholy mystery. Fooled by his tongue, his promises, and the folly of youth. Such is life. In sickness and in health. Richer or poorer. Until death does the favour. She closed her eyes. Imagines herself on Daddy’s knee, his sweet songs, his warm heart, the tales of his youth, the silly jokes, the rings of smoke from his cigarette rising up to the ceiling the breaking up and dissolving into the air, like a magic trick she’d never forgotten or seen again. God bless, Daddy, she muttered to the noisy bar, to mix with the laughter, the chatter and Murphy’s return with a smile swimming across a sea of smoke.