The Drink’s the Devil
“Oh Mother of Moses.” Micheál moaned as woke to the world, his head splitting and his stomach roiling.
Or at least he thought he moaned. It was hard to tell if he had verbalised it or merely thought it. And it was far too much of an effort to distinguish which. He hadn’t even the energy to open his eyes yet but he knew it was morning by the light that pierced his eyelids, ignorant to the agony it was causing. He tried to screw up his eyes more tightly but this only served to increase the pain in his head.
“Never again,” he said. Or he thought. It didn’t matter which.
Last night had been a mistake.
It was always a mistake.
And he always said never again.
It was that bollocks Gallagher. He had tempted him out. The man was the devil.
No, the drink was the devil, Gallagher was just the instrument.
What was it last night? Where had they gone?
Half formed contorted thoughts rose up and fading from his mind, rushing him and receding.
He lay with his eyes still closed, flat on his back, breathing heavily.
Last night, he thought, last night. He struggled to recall anything.
Gallagher. A car. The bulb hanging from the ceiling. A shot glass. Oh the shots. That rang a bell. Oh the bell hurts.
Fragments of last night appeared but it felt like trying to watch a film in a shatter mirror.
Oh what time was it? He’d have to get up for work. Or maybe he was already late. God, what time was it. Ah, who cares. He was too sore to move. He’d just lie here.
He enjoyed breathing. Just laying there with the blinding sun on him, breathing. He had grown accustomed to the brightness, it didn’t hurt as much now.
But where was he?
It was very bright. Very bright. He couldn’t be in his bedroom, not with that small window of his. Shite, where was he?
He strained his ears. There was a strange rustling noise. What was that? Oh no, it was the wind. He was outside.
The birdsong and the bleat of a sheep someway off confirmed that.
Still he lay with his eyes closed.
Back to last night, what happened?
Gallagher, the car, the bulb, the shots. Oh and the blonde. Or was she a brunette. There was definitely a girl. Wasn’t there?
Aw what did it matter. He could just lie here in the sun.
Gallagher, the car, the bulb, the shots, the girl. Round and round they went, churning like his stomach.
But his thoughts were abruptly interrupted by a gentle nudge at his head.
This forced him to open his eyes and, through the glare of the sun, he saw a ewe standing over him chewing the cud beside his head.
“Hello ma’am,” he said gently but the ewe startled and bolted from his vision down the field.
Just as well, he thought, best left on my own.
He allowed his eyes to drift closed again, breathing slowly, revolving his thoughts round and around.
How long he lay there he couldn’t say, but his thoughts got no further, and all that developed was the desire for food. He knew from experience that he needed to fill his stomach. A fry would be best. Greasy bacon, eggs, sausages and beans. That’d help. Then it’s just a case of riding out the rest of the day.
Oh God, don’t give me the day two horrors, he prayed, instinctively clutching at the scapular that lay round his neck.
Who’s the patron Saint of hangovers? Ah, at this point St Jude would do, patron Saint of hopeless cases.
Maybe prayer would help.
“Dear Lord, deliver me from this hangover and I vow to never drink again… and forgive me in advance for breaking that vow.”
He chuckled to himself but immediately regretted it as his head opened once more.
Divine retribution, he thought.
He slowly opened his eyes again, squinting once more into that direct light. The blue of the sky was stretched out overhead, a few sparse clouds dotted here and there.
He felt so small beneath that expanse. So insignificant. And his internal hangover threatened to rage. Dark thoughts prowled the corners of his mind; taunting his loneliness, reviving his patheticness, mocking his worthlessness.
He shook himself from it, refusing to let the darkness linger.
I have to get up, he thought.
And mustering both his will and his strength he forced himself up to rest on his elbow.
His eyes fell from the blue above, surveying the field before him, dotted like the sky with puffs of white that moseyed around of their own volition. Beyond the field hills rolled along the horizon.
I chose a good spot, he thought.
As his eyes fell lower they widened with horror; his legs were wearing what appeared to be white, skin tight women’s jeans, ripped style at the knees.
They definitely weren’t his.
“Mother of Moses!” he moaned.
This time it was definitely out loud.
He checked to make sure his top was still his own, the checked shirt was still there, albeit with a button or two open.
But the jeans, who’s were they!?
His head hurt all the more as he wrestled with this question and he shielded his eyes from the light.
Gallagher, the car, the bulb, the shots, the girl.
The girl? What was she wearing? Were they hers?
Oh shite, he thought, what did I do?
He turned an imploring prayer to heaven this time.
“God, please don’t let me have.. have… have sinned. I’m sorry. Ah God!”.
He moaned loudly and any sheep that had braved to come closer made a hasty retreat.
Confession on Saturday, he told himself. Confession. Again.
Here he was. Pathetic and alone in a field, God knows where. Alone and no way home.
A sudden surge of dread enveloped him and he threw his hand to his pocket, fearing the worst but the firm edge of a phone quelled that. He pulled it out to ensure it was his own and that it had some battery life; forty three percent.
The screen was full. Seven missed calls; three from Gallagher, four from his mother, smattering of texts both personal and the usual group messages, his daily alarm that had gone unheeded and a few news notifications.
Oh, a small silver lining; it was Saturday, no need to worry about work then.
He cleared the screen and decided to call Gallagher.
It had dialled out twice before he cut it short, thinking it was a better recourse to send a text of reassurance to his mother; a phone call with her would not do his hangover any good.
“I’m fine, still alive, will be home soon-ish.”
That’ll do, he told himself but before he could hit send the screen changed and brought up Gallagher’s name - he was returning the call.
“Well, you stupid bastard!” came the friendly laughing greeting.
“Aw lad, don’t talk, I’m in a feckin’ field!”
Gallagher laughed loudly and heartily down the phone and it hurt Micheál’s head.
“Lad, lad, easy, I’m very fragile here.”
“How did you end up in a field? What field?”
“I’ve no idea. Seriously. I need help. You’re a bastard. This is your fault.”
“You tempted me out. So it’s your fault”
Gallagher laughed again.
“Can you come lift me? Are you in any fit state?”
Gallagher assured him that he wasn’t too worse for wear and, after getting him to ping him his location, told him he’d be there in fifteen minutes and ended the call.
Micheál re-read the text to his mother and sent it, hoping to God she didn’t phone him for a full explanation.
He looked down again at the white trousers and cringed. Gallagher wouldn’t let this one go for a long time.
He checked all the pockets but no clues were to be found if their origins and he sat struggling to remember anything more from the night before.
Gallagher in his old red Astra arrived well before the fifteen minute deadline, Micheál hearing him long before he came into view; the death knell of that old Astra was unmistakable.
Gallagher had the biggest dopiest grin smattered across his face as Micheál ambled himself into the passenger seat.
“Don’t say it,” Micheál threatened, not even looking at the driver.
“What?” replied Gallagher innocently, “I wasn’t going to say anything, madam”
And his laughter filled the car.
“I’m never drinking again lad, I’m serious, this is it. Sign me up to the pioneers, I’ll take the pledge, never again!”
But Gallagher brushed him off as the car lurched forward, he had heard it all before.
Micheál sighed heavily and worked himself up to ask the question he was dreading the answer to.
“So… what happened last night?”
“What do you remember?” came the reply. Gallagher always answered like this. Micheál hated it.
“Nothing lad. I remember shots and some girl. I don’t even know who she is or what. I think I went home with her. These must be her trousers. Oh God!”
And he covered his face with his hands, pushing his head back into the headrest.
“Right, well do you remember anything from McKennas?”
“No. Lad, I remember nothing. Genuinely nothing but shots and that girl.”
“Right, right,” Gallagher said soothingly, “well, we went to McKenna and started on pints.”
“Yeah, well, after three you decided jäger bombs would be a good idea. And it wasn’t. After that I lost track of what you were drinking.”
“Did you not have any jäger?” Micheál asked him.
“Did I feck lad, I can’t stand that stuff,” Gallagher replied.
“Fair enough, well then, who was your girl?”
“Ah,” said Gallagher with a cheeky grin, “that’s Megan McCusker, you know Hatzers cousin?”
“Ah sweet Moses no!” cried Micheál, “I went home with Hatzers cousin?”
“You’re a feckin’ eejit, you went home with no one!” Gallagher laughed.
Micheál squinted across at Gallagher in confusion.
“But-but- the trousers,” he stammered out desperately searching his mind for answer.
“Lad”,” Gallagher replied, glowing red with barely controlled glee, “You went in to try and curt her, you had your tongue out and all, and she shot you down. Next thing you had your trousers off and you fired them at her, telling her she was up her own hole! The bouncers chucked you out, God knows where your trousers are now!”
Micheál moaned all the louder, burying his head even deeper in his hands.
“That’s so much worse! Why didn’t you stop me!? What-I mean- what am I going to do!? I’m ruined!”
Gallagher could hardly keep the car straight he was laughing so hard.
“It was feckin’ hilarious lad! Honestly!”
“Aye,” replied Micheál flatly, “real funny!” And he gestured to the tight white jeans.
“I mean, where the hell did these come from?”
Gallagher glanced sheepishly over to his passenger.
“Well, I didn’t want to tell you… no, actually I really want to tell you - I watched you hop a fence down the street and nick them off a clothes line!” And he broke out into peels of laughter again.
“Oh fantastic, so some poor woman has forgotten her washing, left it out overnight and this morning is missing her jeans, sweet Moses on a bicycle, I’m a mess. Do you at least know what house it was”.
Gallagher assured him he knew and that they’d return the jeans once they had them washed. This placated Micheál for the time being.
“Let’s head to Ryan’s for a feed, I need it,” Micheál said, “but drop me home first, I need to get out of these and probably take a lashing from my Ma. She won’t be best pleased.”
“I’m serious lad,” Micheál said resolutely, “I’m never drinking again.”