Horace on Sabbatical


Says I, "There's a piece in the 'Irish Times' about you."

"Well, you don't want to be believing all you read in that paper," says Horace. "Check out the real news, the sex scandals or see if there are any interesting robberies or cases of cannibalism. That's more to my liking."

I read on. "'Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Genoa, has just published a Lenten letter to the faithful in Italy, setting out ten rules on how to resist the temptations of the devil.' That's you he's referring to. You're in diffs now."

"You don't want to be believing all that baloney. How long have you and I been together? How long have we been in partnership."

"Since I was about seven. And I now want a divorce." Long John Silver had a parrot who sat and shat on his shoulder all day long. I have Horace.

Horace brushes off my dandruff, scratches his pointy chin, crosses over his legs, and changes the subject. "Wouldn't you just love a cream bun for breakfast," says he, on the first day of my diet. "Lovely fresh cream, velvety to the tongue! Glenmac gets them in today, you know. Or, better still, do you not fancy a wee Gordon's. I bet you the Rock's open for those coming out of Mass," he adds.

Cardinal Tettamanzi's first rule: 'Do not forget that the devil exists.' Rule Two: 'Do not forget that the devil is a tempter.'

Often, near the end of the night in a pub, Harvey nods to me. "Get a couple of double of Bacardis for the road, Dan, it's last orders." A mobile phone will ring in somebody's pocket three tables away and he says, "That'll be for us. That's them checking to see if we're still here." I go to the toilet, glancing at the mirror as I pass. "Baldy, but not bad for 75," he jokes, reassuringly.

Back at the table he whispers in my ear, "Get this. We've just been invited to a party and there's a taxi outside. Word is, the one person they want at this party more than anyone else in the world, is you, otherwise it'll flop. I'll write the address on the back of your hand, but don't tell Hartley, he'll talk you out of it. That wee Jinny-Anne on his shoulder has him tucked-up with a hot-water bottle at ten every night. Close your eyes and nobody'll see you leave."

There are days when Horace is like a child. He'll hear an ice-cream van and he'll say, "Wouldn't you just love a big ninety-nine!" Or he'll see a remote-controlled model airplane in the window of a toy-shop and you know what he's thinking, "Remember when you would have died for one of those! Go on in and buy it."

Other days he'll be a bad pill. Especially when I am trying to read.

"Roddy Doyle! Hoy! Jimmy Joyce! Okay then, Edna O'Brien! Look out the window, Missssss OOOOOO'Briiiien! Look out the stupid window! That's a fine day for the park. Or a few beers. What do you want to be sitting there for, reading a lot of drivel when you could be taking the fresh air! Get your coat on and let's go out for a dander, you never know who we'll meet."

Or the radio could be on subliminally low.

"Quickly! Turn up that tune!… Turn up the tune! T-Rex! I don't believe it. Haven't heard that one in ages. Do you remember it, Dan? She's my woman of gold and she's not very old, aw, aw awww. She's my woman of gold and she's not very old, aw, aw awww… La, la, la, laa, la, la, la, laaaaa… La, la, la laa, la, la, laaaaa… Where were we then? Was it Bundoran? Or Galway? Who was it? Wee Mary? Lorraine?

"Dream, Dan. Dream back, my old sunshine, then let's get out and about because life is so short and sad and that's why I'm here to cheer you up! You might me damned but you'll never be disappointed!"

Half an hour later I wake up in the middle of the same paragraph, having been lost in a reverie of past times.

"Boy, does Cardinal Tettamanzi have your measure," says I. "And all the tricks you use to make me do things I don't want to do. Rule Ten, he says, will see the defeat of the devil. 'Be humble and love mortification.'"

"Humble! This guy wants to be the next Pope. First Genoa, then the world! What does he know of our culture! Of what we've been through! The pressures we've been under! But if you want I'll pack my bags. It's your life. I'm sure there are plenty of shoulders out there, wanting to lean on me."

And as he took off I heard him sing:

"Oh, when we are not full,
We are quite dull.
A queueman being
Is meant to be insane.
Goody two-shoes,
Gives me the blues.
I know somebody who fancies
Cardinal Tettamanzi…"

"Horace! Horace!" I shout after him. "I just need a break. Come back after Lent, okay?"

He winks back. "I knew you'd say that!"

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© 2007 Irish Author and Journalist - Danny Morrison