THERE’S not much time left.
An hour and a half at most. Matt’s feet hurt and he never wants to move again.
“We giving up?” Barra asks.
Probably. Definitely. So stupid; he should’ve gone to Mahon. Someone will return Dodger to Mrs Higgins They’ll never find him. They’ve checked the busking spots on Patrick Street, Oliver Plunkett, Paul Street. No one performing a duet with a Labrador Retriever. Best to go home and forget about Dodger and the PlayStation. The dog has certainly lived up to his name. Must have too much knowledge from previous lives.
The sound of a guitar, and the soft voice of a girl. Singing a Hozier song. God help her; the tune drones on a bit. They sit up and look down the street. Outside Crawford Art Gallery. A busker and a dog.
He’s already running over.
Emmet Place, bathed in sunlight, is almost foreign. The greyish stone like a path in a European capital, the Crawford’s round headed arches reminding him of the great churches of renaissance Italy. Its white windowpanes glow and the music rings along the black railings.
Matt stops. The girl strums. The Apache delivery girl in her too-ripped jeans. Dark hair, earrings fighting for space. What’s her name? Ally? Pretty sure it’s Ally.
And Dodger. Tongue wagging. Staying still for once. About flaming time.
Barra stands behind him. “Let’s throw her something first.”
“Go on so.”
“I’ve no money.”
“Sure, I didn’t have to after bringing lunch.”
Matt fishes inside his shirt pocket and tosses a two-euro coin into the case. Ally nods, stops playing and pauses for a drink.
“No bother at all,” Matt says.
“Come here, we’ve been looking for Dodger for Mrs Higgins. We’ll take him back.”
He creeps towards Dodger and Ally strums her guitar. “Hold up. No rush. Besides,” she taps the case with her foot, and it jingles, “more money with a dog.”
“You can’t do that. What about Mrs Higgins? That’s lousy, like.”
“Why so keen? Is she in a bad way, like?”
“I dunno,” Barra says. “She’s gonna give us a PlayStation for bringing him back.”
“Crunchie! Shut up!”
Ally shakes her head, smirking.
Matt glares at Barra. Dodger rises, sniffs, then circles Ally’s coat before settling again, his head on his paws.
“We’ve thrown you some money and all.”
“Two-euro hardly makes up for all the times not tipping for deliveries, you tight s**t.”
He groans. Why is it that children always pay for their parents’ mistakes?
“Tell you what, can ye sing? Kids make more money.”
“Crunchie! I swear to God -“
“Four songs and he’s all yours.”
Matt’s mouth hangs open. “I am in me s**t.”
“Three,” Barra counters.
Matt pulls him aside and Barra winks. “Think I got us a good deal.”
“Not for me, you muppet!”
Ally adjusts the mic. F**k. He feels sick. The one nice day and everyone’s in town. People stopping to chat, strolling, taking their time.
His hands are sweating, and the mic is all slippery. It’s huge, staring into his face like a dark sun. He clears his throat. His hands slip.
Caoimhe Mulcahy. Carrying a Boots bag. Maybe she won’t - she’s noticed. Ally tunes the guitar, fingers a few notes. Jesus.
He glances at Dodger, Barra, Caoimhe, and other passing people. This is the final boss battle. He can do this.
He belts out some Gavin James, The Script and The Academic. Ally is right. A hell of a lot more tips. For God’s sake, another task they’ve done without getting paid. Worst real-life video game ever.
“Not bad,” Ally says as she counts up her money. “Dodger is all yours.”
After positioning themselves either side of Dodger, and Matt threatens to never share the PlayStation if Barra moves, he hooks the lead onto Dodger’s collar.
The dog whines and they’ve to drag him away, thanking Ally.
“Hey, Matt.” Barra nods ahead of them.
Caoimhe Mulcahy is waiting. Matt swallows the moisture in his mouth.
Time to make an impression.