Some Kind of wonderful
Aughney wiped the oil from his hands with a rag and looked up from the bonnet of the Volkswagen Polo. He stood up and faced his father, Pat, who stood just slightly less tall than Aughney, but didn’t have his width.
‘Mooney’s been on the phone, son.’ he said.
Aughney eased the bonnet down, his broad hands spread across it slowly.
‘Has the deal fallen through?’ he asked.
Pat thought about the long drives to the club, the away matches, freezing on the side lines and avoiding being just like ‘any other father’ roaring at his son from the side-lines. He looked at his only son now with mixed emotions; ones he couldn’t quite put his finger on – joy, fear and pride,
‘Mooney wants you to call him back, the deal is on and the local press will be wanting a sound bite.’
‘I’m sure Mooney has tweeted it by now.’ Said Aughney.
‘You’re big news now, son.’ Said Pat.
‘That’s why I never have a radio in here.’ Replied Aughney.
Aughney packed away his tools with the precision of a surgeon. He worked the rag around his fingers and under his nails. He looked around the workshop that he had purchased with his first club sponsorship.
‘Best phone him back, so.’ He said.
Pat hugged him, he was a tactile father, unlike his own father, as cold and remote as the moon.
‘Well done, son.’
‘I suppose I better get a loan of Caithriona’s French dictionary.’ Said Miles.
‘French clubs are the best, son.’
‘So you always used to say.’
‘Puts you in the frame for the number 8 in the national team now, Miles. You were treading water where you were. This is better.’’ Said Pat. He could barely contain his grin.
‘Better? You don’t sound convinced.’ Replied Aughney.
‘Anywhere is better than here, son.’ Said Pat.
They walked out of the car repair yard, with the big sign overhead that Pat had designed - ‘Miles P. Aughney – Vehicle repair – Tyres, tyres & more tyres!’ and crossed the road to the farm.
Miles’ sister, Caithriona was standing at the door, still in her school uniform.
‘Dad, Miles, its 106FM, want to know if Miles wants to talk?’ she held out the old wall-mountd phone. Pat always believed no one should be completely contactable. He had banned mobile phones from the house; a rule Caithriona had blissfully ignored.
‘No comment.’ Grinned Pat, ‘Give them Mooney’s number. Miles needs to scrub up.’
‘Cool!’ said Caithriona. She enunciated clearly on the bad line ‘G-E-R-R-Y, M-O-O-N-E-Y’
Miles showered and dressed into his club track suit. He studied himself in the mirror and changed his mind and dressed into jeans and a shirt. He opted for a jacket rather than his old clubs fleece – who’d have thought a crest could become an antique? He thought.
He came downstairs where Pat and Caithriona stood with two glasses of champagne and an orange juice,
‘Can’t she have a glass, Da?’ said Miles
‘Not until she’s eighteen.’ Said Pat.
They clinked glasses,
‘Mum would have loved this.’ Said Miles.
They were silent for a moment.
‘The garage, Dad?’
‘It’ll be fine. It’s probably the most famous garage in the country now. I’ll make a few phone calls, arrange some sort cover.’ Said Pat.
He poured another glass
‘Dutch courage, son. I’ll get O’Malley to drop you to Mooney’s’
‘C’iest la vie.’ Said Caithriona, ‘I’m dying to see Toulon.’
The next call Aughney made was to Donna,
‘So this is goodbye, so.’ Her voice was flat, neutral.
‘How’s that?’ Aughney replied.
‘Pat got his way in the end.’
‘His way, Donna?’
‘Provinces not good enough for you?’ she said.
He could hear other voices behind her – a busy day in the call centre. A babel of Dutch, German, Spanish and French all working to drown out each other from the open-plan office.
‘It’s a step up, Donna.’ He said.
‘I can’t talk now, Miles. I’ll drop over this evening. I’m busy.’
‘We can meet in the local. I think Harry has some Babycham stashed in the cellar.’
Aughney tried grinning into the phone, Donna had told it works; he sensed it was to no avail.
‘We’ll talk tonight.’ He said.
The phone went dead.
That’s it, he thought – we’ll talk and it’ll be over and that will be that.
O’Malley’s taxi smelt of last night’s takeaway chicken and the heroic efforts of the pine air freshener swinging from the mirror. The steering wheel sat a hair’s breadth above his gut.
Pat told Aughney that O’Malley earned the nickname ‘Sidecar’ because of it.
‘Hope that crook Mooney doesn’t shaft you, son.’ He said.
O’Malley smelt of woodbines and spray deodorant too; the kind you find in a deal-of-the-day bin.
‘He knows his way around a contract.’ Replied Aughney.
The taxi passed Donna’s place of work; a faceless glass-fronted multi-national with manicured lawns and a pocketful of government start-up money. Aughney could see the staff trotting down the stairs and swipe-carding their way through reception.
It reminded him of an ant-farm.
‘He knows his way around a whiskey bottle and swindling old ladies out of their wills, is all he knows.’ Replied O’Malley.
O’Malley swung the Mercedes neatly past a pot-hole. Aughney almost by reflex knew when to grip the doorframe – that pot-hole had been there since the year dot.
‘I’m sure the French will have their representative here too. He won’t get away with his usual shite.’ Replied Aughney.
‘He could plamaser the devil.’
‘True. I don’t like the sound of your transmission.’ Replied Aughney
‘It’s on my-to-do-list.’ Replied O’Malley.
He worked the gears with determined ferocity.
The fields flicked by, the high hedges and stone walls glistening from the rain, melded with the droplets along the passenger window. It was the same journey he had made with Pat, Caithriona and his mother, Grace, when she had been first diagnosed. The taxi passed the graveyard where she lay now. The town appeared over the hill, a long winding descent led to the square. Graffiti blazed defiantly from bill boards and shutters of abandoned businesses; obscenities and genitals mixed with band posters and withered election posters. A pub and church stood solidly side-by-side and across from them, the hotel where the press conference was to be held.
And the crowd that had assembled outside it, applauded Aughney as he got out of the car.
Gerry Mooney was waiting at the steps, the club manager, Delaney and a representative for the club owner stood alongside and briefly, handshakes were offered and limply returned. Miles Aughney turned and raised a hand to the crowd and they cheered.
‘Are you ready for the big time, Miles?’ asked Mooney. He had the assured air of a carnival trickster.
‘Ready as I’ll ever be.’ Replied Aughney.
‘You’re a hard man to get hold of. Had to do all the running on this one.’ Said Mooney.
‘There’s always the door, Gerry, you offered your services, I never asked.’ Replied Aughney.
‘‘True, Miles, very true - nice touch, not wearing the old club colours; they wouldn’t pay what your worth, it’s their loss.’’ Said Mooney.
Despite his small stature, he ploughed ahead of Aughney, forging a gap through the small knot of fans with camera phones. A local radio hack held out a microphone. Mooney swatted it expertly.
‘I’ve the national papers inside, the Dublin, Limerick and Cork stations and The Belfast Telegraph have sent a journo down too.’
‘I need a moment.’ He said.
Mooney turned and behind his wire frame glasses, his small porcine eyes glittered.
‘Of course; freshen up in the men’s and I’ll have a coffee waiting.’
‘Good man.’ Replied Aughney.
In the toilet, Aughney fought the waves of nausea rushing up.
Shouldn’t have had that egg, he thought.
He sent a text to Donna. He waited. Nothing.
He took a few deep breaths, stretched his huge frame and washed his face. The paper towel crumpled and tore in his hands.
‘Number 8 shirt.’ He said to the mirror.
His phone beeped – it was from Caithriona – ‘Good luck x’ the emoticon was a smiling bun burger – his one great weakness.
He sent a smiley back.
His old manager, Lorcan Delaney, was waiting outside the venue. A poster of Aughney advertising yoghurt from the Dairy Council was sellotaped to the door. Inside he could hear chairs being pulled together. He could hear Mooney’s voice booming through the microphone,
‘Jesus, is he for real?’ muttered Aughney.
‘Miles.’ Delaney said as he held out his hand.
‘Lorcan.’ Replied Aughney clasping the hand firmly.
‘Should have worn the club colours.’
‘Though smart casual would do the trick.’ Said Augney.
‘The contracts are signed off, you’re now a very wealthy young man.’ Said Delaney.
‘That’s that so.’ Said Aughney.
‘Donna? Is she on board?’ asked Delaney.
‘You know Donna, a homebird.’ Said Augney.
‘Best of luck.’ Said Delaney.
He walked ahead of Aughney into the room and up onto the small stage with the table, bottled water, microphones and the immense u-shaped display behind it. The logo of Toulon Rugby took up three-quarters of it with Aughney’s Dairy-council face crudely photo-shopped beside it.
Typical Mooney thought Aughney as he walked into the room; everything done at cost. The cameras flashed and the panel stood up and applauded Aughney.
And once he’d settled into his chair, sipped the tepid coffee, the questions started.