THE traffic along MacCurtain Street is heavy. Horns beep and they crawl past The Shelbourne, then The Metropole, as pedestrians live risky and enjoy flexibility in weaving between cars.
The bus slumbers, as a man with a few strands of hair styled over his scalp, snores, tucked between two large shopping bags. The older couple chat about the weather and discuss ‘climate nonsense’. “It’s hot when it’s hot and cold when it’s cold.” The driver taps the leap card machine, bopping along to the beats of his headphones, his other hand drumming the wheel.
“What a day, like,” Barra mutters, almost nodding off.
Dodger lies across their feet. Must be uncomfortable with their shoes digging in, but Matt doesn’t care. He’s never wanted to sleep more. Won’t even bother starting the Play-Station.
The bus gains momentum up Summerhill and they make up time through St Luke’s and Dillon’s Cross. Going to be tight.
They get off at Supervalu and limp to Knight’s Court, open the little brown gate and, as soon as they’re on the grass, Dodger sh**s. Matt offers the poo bag to Barra. He crosses his arms.
“Not a chance.”
After Matt cleans up, he bangs the silver knocker on Mrs Higgins’ door. They slump into the white garden chairs with criss-crossed backs. The archway, held up by impressively white pillars, shades them. He doesn’t care how nice the next few weeks might be. It’ll be him and the PS5, getting acquainted. And maybe invite Caoimhe. He’ll buy a second controller. Tell her she can pop over after school one day...
The dog bounds up to Mrs Higgins and gets muck on her purple cardigan. She lets him lick her face, then rubs his sides. He moans, happy to be home. OK, maybe this is worth it.
“And you’re on your lead! How did that happen?”
Barra perks up. “I did it. Gets on well with me, so he does.”
“Good boy,” she says, rubbing his tummy as he sprawls at her feet.
“Did you have an adventure? Huh, did you have a good time?”
“An adventure alright,” Matt says, cracking his back.
“See you later Dodger. Mind yourself, Mrs Higgins.”
They head for the gate before Dodger barks at them.
“You boys are forgetting something.”
She brings out the PS5, giving it to Barra.
Yes. Finally. Matt traces his hand over the box. The size of the yoke! Big as an engine.
A grey Peugeot parks outside the house.
Grey Peugeot. F**k. Mam.
The car doors open, and Barra’s mam pulls herself out too. They put their hands on their hips.
“I remember now,” Barra mutters.
“Forgot to say I was going to yours this morning.”
Matt gulps and glances at Mam.
“Bunking off school, Matt. Running all over town. I was saying to myself Mr O’Callaghan’s sight must be dodgy, ’cause my Matt is at Barra’s house and has gone to school. Then guess who I bumped into at Dunnes.”
He fidgets with his phone. “Barra’s mam.”
“Huh? You are too smart for school, eh.”
They both point at the car. “Get in!”
They climb into the back. Dodger and Mrs Higgins stand in the door. They wave goodbye. Barra clutches the PS5. Matt pats the box. They know what’s coming.
Their mams slam the doors.
“Right,” Mam says. “Grounded for the week.”
“No going to each other’s house,” Barra’s mam adds.
They turn around.
“No PlayStation. For a month.”
“Ah, Mam. Jesus,” Matt groans. Foiled after everything.
“No wonder ye were running around town. Spill it, up to all sorts were ye? Searching for Dodger to get a PlayStation.”
Barra’s mam tuts. “Would you be well.”
“Proper little chancers, aren’t ye? Ye’ll both be paying for the PlayStation. Understood?”
He scowls. That’s the savings gone. Definitely won’t mention the leap card.
They drive off and continue giving out. He doesn’t care. Dodger is safe and sound. A PS5 in their laps.
They’ll play it soon.