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'Now then, everybody,' cried the television producer, 'drink, but not too self-consciously. Talk, but not too loudly. No singing, please. You're just background, remember. And let me say now, in case I forget, how much I appreciate your co-operation. And,' he added, 'the BBC too. Ready for rehearsal, everybody? You ready, John?'

The man addressed was grey with hangover. He was sitting at the bar with a camera looking at him, a microphone impending, waiting for his words. On the bar-counter stood a large Irish whiskey, untouched, un-(shudder) -touchable. 'Make it a take,' he said…'Let's get it over.'

'Boom shadow,' said the cameraman. There was some adjusting.

'A take, then,' said the producer. 'Quietish, please.'

'Will we be seen?' asked one of the drinkers, in sudden agitation. 'Will we all be on the film?'

'I can't guarantee it,' said the producer crossly. 'You're just part of the background, you know.'

'But we may be seen? / may be seen?' He finished his draught stout in one shaky throw. 'I don't think I can risk it.' He got up. 'Sorry. I suppose I should have thought of this before. But,' he said, with a touch of aggressiveness, 'this is where I normally drink. I've as much right here as anyone.'

'Stay where you are,' commanded the producer. 'I don't want an empty seat there. What's the matter? You got enemies in England or something?' Then he soothed: 'Never mind. Read this newspaper. That'll cover your face. A nice touch, too.' He took from his overcoat pocket a folded copy of The Times – yesterday's or the day before's. He had not read it; he had not had much time for keeping up with the news.

The drinker said: 'That'll be all right. Thanks.' And he unfolded The Times, raising its front page to eye-level. A grizzled man, an electrician, brought a chalk-dusty clapperboard to the camera.

'Turn over,' said the producer.

'Scene ten, take one,' said the clapperman.

'Mark it,' cried the sound-recordist. The board clapped.


'It was in pubs like these,' said the hungover man called John, earnest dead-beat eyes on the camera, 'that he spent much of his spare time. He would come in with his little bits of yellow paper and his stub of pencil and scrawl down what he heard – an obscene rhyme, a salty anecdote, a seedily graceful turn of phrase. In a sense, he never had any spare time – he was always working. His art was Auto-lycan, snapping-up, catching the mean minnows of the commonplace when they were off their guard. Perhaps his devotion to the speech-scraps and decayed eloquence of this city derived from the fact that he was not of this city, nor of any city of this mean and vindictive fairyland. He was a foreigner, a wanderer, a late settler, a man who had lived secretly in Europe – anywhere between Gibraltar and the Black Sea. This ambience was new to him. He came with a sharpened ear-'

'Is it some sort of a bloody queer ear you'll be wanting yourself?' said a bearded young man, a drunken country singer. 'Mean and vindictive, is it? And he's a fine one, sure, to be talking about fairylands.'

'Cut,' said the producer.

'Smash him,' said the young man, whom restraining hands now clutched. 'Smash the bloody camera and the whole bloody bag of tricks. Foreigners coming over here with their dirty libels.'

Indifferent, the technicians readjusted – light, shadow, angle, level – seeking perfection with cold passion. The bearded singer was carried off cursing still. The producer said to the man called John: 'Leave out that mean and vindictive bit. We may want to sell this to Telefis Eireann.'

'I rather liked it. And it's true.'

'We're not concerned with the truth. We're concerned with making a bloody cultural film.' He then shouted: 'Ready, everybody?' And, after, having absorbed something of the country in his three or four days here: 'Don't interrupt till he's finished, please.'

A Trinity College man spoiled the second take by suddenly saying: 'Well, isn't it mean and vindictive? Isn't it just what the man said it was?'


The third take was ruined by the drinker with The Times suddenly shaking so violently that the sound-recordist said: 'It's coming through loud and clear. Rustle of that paper. Like an army on the march.'

'Cut.' The producer came over to the man and said: 'I think you'd better leave. If you don't mind. No hard feelings, eh? When you come back there'll be a pint of Guinness paid for.'

And so he went out. Autumn sun gilded Duke Street. He turned into Dawson Street and then walked south to Stephen's Green. They knew then, or somebody knew. The shadow of a gunman, the regular dream of the two courteous strangers in raincoats. He still had The Times gripped in his left hand. He glanced again at the box-number. And, had it not been for this chance today, he would never have known. The fear could have remained a dream. The only thing to do was to answer, no longer to remain in hiding. But, before he wrote, there was something important to be done. He had parked his small car just off Baggot Street. He strode nervously to get it. Then he drove through the shining traffic north, across the river -Capel Street, Dorset Street, Gardiner Street.

The big room was cool, a sanctuary. When the tall man came, he said: 'I've made up my mind. I've been thinking about it a lot.'

'It's a very momentous decision.'

'I've done what you suggested, thought of other roads. But this is the only one I can take.'

'If you're quite sure.'

'Sure as I'll ever be. I can be useful.'

'You can that. Well, I'll do what I said. The wheels can be put in motion. I don't think you'll have to wait long.'

'Thank you.'

His drive to what he called home was a long one, along the coast road, the sea on his left. When he saw Blackrock Park on one side, Blackrock College on the other, he felt calmer. The sun was brilliant on Kingstown Harbour, what they now called Dun Laoghaire. Monkstown Road. Larry, one of his dig-mates, a man who had no second name, worked in a pub just off there. A curate. Holy name, holy office. George's Street, Lower, Upper. SummerhiU Road. Glasthule. Sandycove Road. Scotsman's Bay down there, Sandycove Harbour. And one of the towers that Pitt had had built for the protection of British soil. The French are on the say, they'll be here without delay, and the Orange will decay. It always seemed a very small consequence of a very big invasion. A decaying orange. Things shrunk here to sweetness. It was time to engage the bitter world again. He turned right into Albert Road.

It was a decent little house, newly painted, painted often: the sea salt tended to get at it. A gull wheeled and mewled above the sugar-candy roof. He opened up with his Yale. Mr Sullivan, who had once worked in the Castle, could be heard coughing loudly from his room. The hall had a damp comfortable smell, vaguely bready. There was a barometer, also a coat-rack. On the walls were crude pictures of the Sacred Heart, the BVM, St Anthony, the Little Flower. These were the work of a man who sat all evening in the cellars of the Ormond Hotel, making his hagiographs among hot pipes like pythons, a bottle of beer occasionally brought down by an art-admiring waiter. 'I'm home, Mrs Madden,' he called. The word no longer seemed forced or conventional. Soon he would be deeper home. Mrs Madden came out from the kitchen, huge-bosomed, crazy-eyed, wiping her hands on her apron.

"Will you be wanting it now?'

'I have a letter to write. Then I'll be down.'

'Don't be too long now. I'll start it right away.' And she went to get down her frying-pan. He mounted the stairs. There were other holy pictures on the wall of the stairwell, but these were Italian – olive-skinned Christ, swooning Madonna. There was a photograph of the late Pope John. He entered his bed-sitting-room. It looked out on to Dundelea Park with its little hand-shaped lake. Beyond was Breffni Road, then the sea. He had no pictures on the walls, only maps of cities. The scales were tiny; to read the names of the streets he had to use a magnifying-glass. All the cities were beyond what was known as the Iron Curtain.

Well, he had worked, he had kept himself, but it had all been so much marking time. After his weeks at the Dolphin, he saw that his money would not last for ever. He had taught foreign languages in a little private commercial school in, of all places, Booterstown. He had eaten sparely, had kept to draught stout with the odd ball of malt, as they called it. He had not been with a woman at all. Marking time. He sat down now at his little table, took out his writing-pad and ballpoint and set down his few lines of reply to the advertisement in The Times. He put down the date, but not his address. He said: 'I am alive. I am not very much afraid. Put that same enquiry in The Times one year from now to the day and I will not be afraid at all. I will then say where I am and you can come for me.' He signed his name: they would find the signature genuine. After lunch he would go down to Dun Laoghaire and see that the letter went aboard the packet, to be posted in England. It was a return to the old way of cunning. Soon that cunning would be in the service of a more interesting end.

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