Chapter 1 – Wakes in his apartment
Nicholas Martin, 1986 Leinster debating champion, Bachelor of Arts (second class), and apple of his mother's eye, shivered nervously in his twin bed. He pulled the covers until they were tightly wrapped around him, cocooning for warmth, his body in fetal position. One hairy foot protruded to test the temperature. It withdrew quickly inside like a nervous rodent peering from its hole only to scamper back within.
His oversized cranium nestled snugly in one arm. It housed the brain that posed most excellent questions in high school.
Father Morrisey wrote in his report that Nicholas was "a gifted, insightful child" adding "the sky was the limit with a boy like that."
The report card was kept along with other chosen mementos. He stored them in a Jacob's biscuit tin in the closet, opening it only when the world was unforgiving. Then he reviewed each, handling it reverently, carefully re reading those past words of promise.
Now he drifted still on a warm balm of sleep. The covers rippled, a swell of blue on the ocean of his bed, as he turned over. A hand surfaced to massage his nose, pointed in relief. It ranged over the wildly tousled hair; sheer forehead and wide cheeks, caressing pools of green deep set beneath furry eyebrows.
"He'll be President some day, my Nicholeen. Won't you?" He'll show you, my Nicholeen. looked like JFK his mother said.
A drunk was singing on the street below. A bottle dropped and smashed. The singing stopped. It resumed, breaking in on his thoughts. His voice carried bawdy and shrill, as he staggered home to his bed before dawn. Above Nicholas's head, the lights of a passing car played across the bedroom wall.
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Chapter 1 – Spies Cora in bar - Working
When I walked passed the café I often saw her in there. Often she was carrying her tray between the bar top and the tables, which lined up neat and in a row, a small aisle in between. The tables were set back in a balustrade area which led up to by a step. I knew this because I was often in there in the evening, though much to my regret she never seemed to work evenings.
She was coming and going in an energetic yet defiant manner. I should have be courageous and gone in there and asked her her name. I should demand more importantly that she should have coffee with me sometime but I could never find the balls and so I stood out of sight uncertainly. I didn’t smoke but this would have been an occasion for numerous cigarettes as I waited unsure hoping that the conviction would grab me and I would walk in there confidently and proposition her.
To me she was Venus-. a romantic goddess and my Muse. Every day I passed the café and I could see her carrying trays of drinks here and there. She was not so adept and didn’t carry the tray one handed above her head as the other girls, but I loved her tentative but defiant face. I caught the looks of other guys as she passed them by. She was strong featured and almost off centre pretty. Her big nose dominated her face. Long blonde hair was tied up in a ponytail. And large hopelessly deep blue eyes.
My main plan then was America. I was waiting for a green card and then I would be away. America had it all. All I could hope for and where my freedom lay. In that land of plenty where no one gave a damn you I was and where I came from and I know I would be accepted because it had happened before.
I had applied to US immigration several times now. I was no fool. I realised my prospects in Holland were not bright. Without the language all I could expect was a dreary succession of manual jobs. Still it was not easy to get a green card.
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Chapter 1 – Johnny Martin
Johnny Martin was not a masterful man. He had lived long enough to taste the bitter tang of disappointment in his thirty years. Things had not gone according to plan. And in his more honest moments he suspected that neither were they likely too. These days he clung to more irrational and extreme hopes.
He rolled over in his bed before the alarm and in the darkened room took stock yet again of his situation. There was Ruth. She was moderately successful – more successful than him. And they were an item. They had been for six years. He had his job – a grimace passed over his face at the thought. Four years in university and he was stalled, buried in a small finance department in Dublin. Nevertheless it was a boat in a big ocean.
Still he never could have believed he would still be there. He had so many plans and so much conviction about his own abilities, and yet convincing the world that had been the problem. So he remained and was an aloof, detached, and reserved figure, flitting in and around the office. His co-workers had long since concluded it best to leave him to his own devices and he had few chats and even fewer interactions with the work crew.
Murray had tried to get him more involved in the naïve hope that he would step up and make a greater contribution and maybe develop something of a career but it had all come to naught and even he had ultimately to admit defeat.
And yet he felt that desperate times called for desperate measures. If he could just have one thing go right. Some good luck for a change. Was that too much to ask for? Ralph would say you make your own luck and wasn’t he right. He did alright and wasn’t praying for divine intervention to the best of Johnny’s knowledge.
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Nicholas Martin, Fulbright scholar, graduate cum laude University of Chicago and, top producer, Stephen’s & Co was close to his goal.
He woke before the alarm, deep in his queen-sized bed. He rubbed sleep-encrusted eyes, before tossing back the covers. The carpet was warm to his naked feet as he strode across the room. He glanced quickly through the balcony doors. A winter's sun was rising from the lake.
He sat at his computer, massaging his nose, snorting loudly to clear phlegm from his throat. Trionics was unchanged. The market hadn't opened yet. He struck a key. A graph of the week's closing prices flashed up on the screen: a steady upward curve. Satisfied he got up and walked to the bathroom.
The tiles were cold to the touch. He rested two suntanned hands on the washstand staring into the mirror. He brushed back short black hair with his hand. An irrepressible smile spread across his face. Another month, two at most and that would be it. Nothing could stop him now.
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“You could help me.”
“I don’t think I can, Joe. You have to find your own way. We all do. I know you have had your troubles, but everyone has. Adults learn to cope and find the best accommodation with life they can find.”
“What makes you an authority?”
“I was a teenager too” said Aoife. “I hated my parents. I wanted to be independent when I was too young to be. Every adult has been through it – only the process did not complete for you.”
“Are you saying I am some kind of man-child?”
“Yes basically. You just never grew up. It happens. A lot of Irish men have this problem. Their women tend to become very controlling to compensate and then they control their man but I never wanted that. I always wanted a partner, an equal.”
“Was that what happened in your family?”
Aoife nodded. “My mum basically looked after my Dad. We all did. I helped out too. But that wasn’t good enough and it’s not good enough for me. I don’t want to hold anyone’s hand.”
“But can’t you see everyone is dysfunctional, every family is dysfunctional.”
“No Joe. It’s a question of degree. There is a spectrum and one must be somewhere away from the extremes to lead a normal life. There are healthy, happy people in the world and you should strive to be one of them – not ruminate over the past and past mistakes.”
“And what’s so extreme about me?”
“Even this conversation – you are so dead pan and even keel it makes me wonder what is on the inside and what is just waiting to come out. There are no emotions Joe and there has to be. You show an anodyne face to the world. It is without feeling. ”
“You don’t know me.”
“I am right though aren’t I?”
“Maybe or maybe you just think you are.” He signed heavily narrowing his eyes.
“I think I have offended you now.”
“I think Joe we will leave it there. I am sorry to say you are just not ready and you are pretty old not to be ready – but there it is. It’s not my place to lecture you. Maybe you will change. Maybe you will stay the same.”
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