THE 205 moves slowly down Western Road and always gives the impression traffic is heavy when really the road is traffic-lights heavy. With how this day is going, Matt isn’t surprised they’re hitting every red light.
“We have him now, I reckon,” Barra says, his knees shaking and adding to the discomfort of this stop-start journey. “It’d be better if you get him on the leash. Your smaller and quicker, like.”
“Yeah. Nothing to do with you sh***ing your pants when you see a dog?”
Barra grunts. “Just a good plan, like.”
Matt looks out the window. UCC students waiting to cross and pass through the college gates. All colourful in jeans and joggers, shirts and skirts, headphones and hats. No worries. And he has landed himself into a dog chase. Not a sign of the smarts needed for a future in third level education.
They turn up Donovan’s Road, watching the students struggling up the incline and press for the stop on College Road. A few students glance at them. Can’t blame them. He certainly doesn’t pass for a fresh-faced first year and Barra looks like he should’ve left school years ago.
“Here a few years early,” Barra laughs.
“Jesus, you’re ambitious.”
They pass an odd barber’s the size of a cube and house after house in need of a good paint job. It’s probably the only road he’s ever been on where the glass bins overflow, and not with jam jars like at his Nan’s gaff, while the rest look lighter than a Jenga block.
A couple of stragglers saunter, either really confident of making class in time or really into stopping every two seconds to check their phones. Should be better at multi-tasking in this day and age.
After wandering around looking for a van or a flash of a hard hat, they hear some drilling and scramble down College Square. A couple of white vans parked outside a house with a small skip between them.
“Bingo,” says Matt, and Barra rubs his hands together.
He checks his watch. Just after 11. Plenty of time. A couple of buses and they’ll be home and dry.
The builders, unlike the mechanics, are working at such a slow pace they must be langers. They toss some wood or a bucket of dust into the skip, pause for a two-minute chat, throw something else in.
Matt gulps. Big crowd. He elbows Barra. “After you.”
Barra stands outside the wall. “Sorry, haven’t seen a dog, have ye?”
Two of them jerk their thumbs inside. “Bill.”
They borrow a couple of yellow hard hats. Matt scowls. Too big; the rim tingles his eyes like an annoying fringe.
The house reeks of vinegar, sweat, pizza boxes, and the sawdust scratches at their skin. Bill doesn’t look like a builder, but a teacher - round glasses, small eyes, slim as a drill bit.
Barra clears his throat. “You picked up our Dodger this morning. Labrador. Big teeth.”
“Any proof he’s yours?” Bill drawls, tearing up the wooden floor.
Matt holds up the collar.
“Sure, that could be for anyone.”
F**k this day. “We’ve no proof.”
Bill nods and points at the wood. “I’m up the walls. Toss out a bit of that, show he’s yours.”
He isn’t up the walls; he’s on the floor taking his time. No point arguing anymore. This search for Dodger is like the hardest video games in grinding for one hundred percent completion.
They fill the skip. It takes longer since Barra tapes up the felt the wrong way and ends up unravelling it, the tape plastered to the underside.
“Nice job,” Bill says and stretches his arms. “Tea break.”
The builders make them a cuppa and Barra takes out his lunchbox. Matt hits him.
“No time, you muppet.”
“Matt, I’m starving.”
Bill adds sugar to his mug. “We were gonna call the guards. Then a dog walker came by and said she’d handle it. Calling the dog people, I suppose. Said she’d take him to Fitzgerald’s Park till he’s picked up.”
Matt rolls his eyes. No-one he has met today has convinced him that adults take personal responsibility.
“Course. Crunchie, quit it.”
Barra slurps down his tea and strides after him. Will they ever find Dodger in time? And is Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla worth it?