A final grumpy customer, then a blast from the past

Welcome to the Evening Echo’s annual feature — Summer Soap. Launched last year, Summer Soap is a daily fictional serial run over 12 parts, which began last Monday and runs each day in the Echo for a fortnight. Called Personal Services, this story was written by Sue Dukes (right) of Skibbereen, and is one of two soaps chosen from work submitted by students of the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. In this penultimate chapter, Madge’s past is unravelled...
A final grumpy customer, then a blast from the past

“And how is Bridget?” “She’s in the home , now, full-time, her not being able to do housework or anything.”

Episode 11

BOB’S glare would ring bells in hell. He’s seen the ‘unmarried mother’ leave the premises. Unfortunately, he didn’t manage to fight free of youthful indoctrination. And Siobhan thought I wasn’t judgemental?

“Come and get comfy, that’s right, slip it all off. So, how’s life treating you?”

“I can’t complain, but the pension doesn’t go far these days. I told that traffic cop I was a pensioner, but the louse still gave me a ticket. No respect, that’s the trouble, and my Ma being a pillar of the community in her day.”

That’s not exactly what I’d heard on the grapevine.

He eases distastefully onto the couch as if wondering what he might catch. I get going on the bits I can help with. He’s tense, OK, but I wonder what he’s got to be worried about. His bank account would keep Cork city in lights for a few years.

“How’s the tennis elbow?”

“It’s as bad as it ever was. I was told you were good.”

“I’ve been treating the shoulder, love, not the elbow. Your doctor told you to take painkillers and give it a rest.”

“I’m right-handed,’ he grumbles. ‘I can’t do anything with my left hand.”

Frustration can make people grumpy.

“Well, there’s plenty out there looking for work. You could afford help since you sold your mother’s estate on Southside.”

“I was swindled. The construction company said they could only put ten new houses on the site, and that my house would stay. It was in my family for generations.”

“Once you sold it to them, they could do as they pleased.”

“I should have got more, for forty houses.”

“Well, you’ve no dependents other than your lovely wife, and you can’t take it with you.”

“That’s not the point.”

“And how is Bridget?”

“She’s in the home, now, full time, her not being able to do housework or anything. They’re charging me a small fortune, and the state’s not paying a penny towards it!”

“And you think they should?”

“Father Andrew agrees it’s wicked they don’t help, when I’d already left it to the church. I mean, that’s what the welfare state is for, isn’t it?”

“Actually, it was instigated to pay subsistence to those who’d otherwise be on the street, starving, not that you’d know it these days.”

“Of course, my wife is in the best home I could find.”in the best home I could find.”

To keep up appearances, I’m sure. Well, she’s finally discovered payback time for fifty years of unappreciated devotion.

“Society’s going to the wall, that’s what it is. People don’t know their place any more. And what the girls are wearing! It’s enough to make Ma turn in her grave, so it is.”any more. And what the girls are wearing! It’s enough to make Ma turn in her grave, so it is.”

“I expect she did that when you sold the house.”

Oops, that didn’t do anything for his tension.

“Well, in my day women had to wear a hat to mass. And all that nonsense about abortions… They shouldn’t have got knocked up in the first place. Spoiled goods Ma used to call them, God bless her dear soul. They were lucky to get married at all.”

Now I’d heard that the dear soul had been shipped off somewhere for five months as a young woman, returning slimmer than when she went, if you get my drift. I’m amazed that Bob can hide behind self-righteous superiority when he knows, and everyone else knows he knows.

It’s kinda sad, really. When you lie to others you’re lying to yourself, and that’s fairly dumb.

As we bid each other good day, I look down the road and realise my own past has unravelled.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more