The smelly cupboard is the ideal place to hide the guns until Jaz can find somewhere better. He’s thinking ahead of ripping up floorboards and stashes beneath the sink and behind bricks levered from the wall in the kitchen cupboard, but for now they are kicked under a soiled dress and pair of striped pyjamas that he wasn’t sure belonged to anybody.
The Goat has settled into a place on the settee and he glances up when Jaz comes in. The bottle at his feet holds a mouthful of whisky and his Uncle has a matchstick-thin roll-up fag smouldering on his lower lip. Karen sits opposite him, in front of the empty fireplace, on a wooden chair painted with peeling blue paint, plundered from the kitchen. She is half-watching Coronation Street. At family does, Jas recalls the same effect, The Goat, is not to everyone’s taste, like social Anthrax, family and close relatives keeping their distance. It takes him a second to pick out Angela standing away from the light of the telly, leaning, with her forehead pressed against the window, peering out the at the rain falling and the street below.
Jaz stretches. ‘You want to nip out for a pint?’ he asks his Uncle.
‘Aye,’ says the Goat. ‘I wiz just thinkin’ the same thing, but I’m a bit short.’
‘Nay bother.’ Jaz taps the side pocket of his denims, checking his cigarette packet is there. Two ten pound notes and a fiver nestle next to it. He doesn’t need a pocket calculator to know that is enough drinking currency to float a barge of bevvy merchants. ‘I’ll get you a few beers.’
They pop into Mackintoshes because it’s the closest. The pub carries its usual passengers, most of them cluttered near the bar, a grey fog of fag smoke above their head. A sour-faced drunk swings around on his barstool to peer through the thick lenses of his specs at Jaz and the Goat, as if they exist as distant figures on the faint horizons of a watercolour. As they get closer the drunk pushes off from the counter in the vague direction of the toilets, giving Jaz so wide a berth, he bounces off another customer standing at a pillar. ‘You’re all right Archie,’ the old fogey mouths to the drunk man, but he too is crouched down in the collar of his jacket watching Jaz through narrow, watery eyes. A quiet watchfulness surrounds Jaz and the Goat.
‘Thinks he is something,’ the drunk man mutters to himself. Taps the side of his nose. ‘The mair you know, the less you need to know and—’ he staggers away in a shuffling circuit of misdirection that takes him around tables and chairs and people sitting in them, he vaguely knows, flapping out the door and a gust of wind and rain breezing into the bar at his back.
Jaz positions himself at the far end of the counter, the door at his back, where it turned at an angle to the snug for carry outs. The barman is pouring a pint for somebody else. He comes limping slowly towards them, balding head combed over by a sweep of hair and hairy forearms under rolled-up sleeves.
‘I’ll have a pint of lager and pint of heavy for him.’ Jaz nods towards the Goat standing behind him. ‘And two double whiskies wae water.’
‘Nae water for me,’ the Goat pipes up. ‘I don’t like waste.’
‘Whit the fuck’s the matter with everybody?’ Jaz says to the barman. ‘It’s as if there’s a funeral in here?’
Under the glow of the gantry the barman holds a glass under a bottle of Bells and pours a golden measure. ‘Aye, you could say that,’ the barman says, not looking at them. ‘Seems they’ve found the body of wan of our regulars, Dermot Connelly.’ He looks across at Jaz. ‘Dunno if you know him?’
Jaz puts the fiver flat on the counter, the weight of his hand over it, ready to pay for his drinks. He waits until the barman has poured their drinks and put them in front of him before he answers. ‘Aye, he was a neighbour of mine. Had a bit of a run in with him. But I’m hell of a sorry to hear that.’ He pushes the fiver towards him. ‘Better take a drink for yerself.’
The Goat leads the way and they sit down on wooden seats at an empty table with their backs to the wall. ‘Here’s to people like us,’ the Goat says, clinking his whisky glass against his nephew’s.
Jaz has plans, no intention of staying long, but the route to the bar gets shorter and shorter and the number of drinks he buys gets longer and longer. He finds himself in a huddle listening to what the Goat tells him and how when he adds emphasis to what he’s saying by adding the phrase: ‘And Bob’s your uncle.’
When he tells Jaz, for example, that the boys won’t be staying this side of the water long and would be going back to Northern Ireland soon, he explains how easy it is get money, guns and explosives through Customs. ‘We’ve got a lot of people supporting our cause, ready to rise up with us. We’ve got the staff rotas and we just wait until one or two of our men are on duty and Bob’s your uncle’.
The Ibrox Disaster had been explained in the same way. The IRA had fired into the crowd and they’d turned back and stampeded. And Bob’s your uncle 66 Glorious Protestant casualties’.
‘Bob’s your uncle, mating with a Catholic was like shagging a crocodile.’
‘Would never work with a Catholic gaffer. Their brains were too small to work things out and it was an insult to humanity. Bob’s your uncle if he didn’t quit on the spot.’
‘The trouble with the Troubles was that only one group was taking it seriously. They wanted to come over here and have us wearing a dress like yon priests and bend our fuckin’ knees to the Pope. They wanted to take over our schools and make us like them. But we’re too fuckin’ soft-headed. Gave them shelter and somewhere to live. And how did they fuckin’ thank us? By shagging our women and blowing us up. We need to show them who’s boss. Send them back to Paddy-land, in a box, if necessary. Fuckin’ women and children as well. Casualites of war. That’ll send out a clear message, we’ve no’ to be fucked wae. I'd nuke them all and then Bob’s your uncle.’
Jaz look up, and about him, surprised when the last bell at the bar sounds. With their plotting the end of Paddy-land they’re the last out of the pub and Bob’s your uncle.