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Authors: Patrick McCabe

Mondo Desperado

BOOK: Mondo Desperado
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A Note from the Publisher

When I first received this manuscript from Phildy Hackball, I was at once confused and astounded, but knew instantly that it was inevitable I should have to meet the author. You
can imagine my surprise (me being an ingenue of an English publisher who had never been in Ireland before, much less Barntrosna) when he greeted me in a leopardskin swimsuit, smoking a large cigar,
repeatedly peppering me with questions regarding the works of Franco Prosperi, Giuliano Carcanetti and ‘the other Italians’, of none of whom, I was ashamed to admit, I had ever heard.
Much of what happened after that is shrouded in a foggy haze, I am afraid, induced by any number of bottles of the finest whiskey and brandies produced by my host. But what I do remember is being
privy to some of the most inspiring conversations it has been my privilege to encounter in all my many years as a publisher. ‘Wait till I tell you this one!’ and ‘The best of the
whole lot is . . .’ are phrases which now come wisping from the vaults of memory as I recapture the image of Phildy astride the television with the waste-paper basket on his head,
triumphantly beating his chest as he sings for me, in its entirety, the wonderful ballad ‘The Wolfman from Ardee’ (not included here), or lighting another Cuban cigar as, behind
billowing clouds of smoke, I hear his rich brown voice intone the first sentences of ‘My Friend Bruce Lee’ or ‘The Boils of Thomas Gully’.

Memories I shall treasure always.

That was three years ago. As to how the opinion-makers and custodians of the sacred literary flame might react to
Mondo Desperado
, one can only speculate. For my own part, there is little
doubt but that these stories establish a new high-water mark as far as English literature is concerned. No one, I feel certain, who comes into contact with them can fail to be affected by them,
these wondrous journeyings, eclectic voyagings into the interior, which, for the first time, permit us a glimpse – in the company of the peerless Phildy Hackball – into a world which is
truly desperate.

Simon Mitchell

Editor

Phildy Hackball: An Appreciation

What can I say about my buddy Phildy? That it comes as no surprise to me he has produced a book which is about to burst the literary world wide open? Because it sure does not!
Right from the very first day I met him, I knew! ‘Phildy,’ I said, ‘you’re going to do it! One day you’ll send a book flying out of that typewriter that’ll leave
them all standing!’ But little did I know it was going to be a ‘mondo’! Although I should have, because me and Phildy – why, we spent our lives sneaking into them! Nudies
too – you bet! But mostly mondoes! If we’d been caught, we’d have had our arses kicked into our necks, of course! After all, we were only eight or nine! Oh but boys was it worth
the risk or what, watching all them old tribesmen beating each other senseless with poles, bulls having their heads hacked off – and, best of all, of course – sex-change operations
taking place somewhere in the backstreets of Asia! Powerful! No surprise then when, years later, Phildy turns to me and says: ‘Tell me this, Pat! Did you ever think of becoming a woman at
all?’ Or when, one day in the Bridge Bar, he looked at me and said: ‘Listen, amigo! Who is to say there aren’t alien life-forms standing right here beside us now at this very
minute?’

A lot of people have said to me lately: ‘In all seriousness, Pat – what do you think of these stories of Phildy’s? Are they based on his own experiences or
what?’ To that, I would say that the answer is – yes and no. There is no way, for example, that Phildy would have anything to do with the blowing up of student priests, or the filming
of young girls in their pelts. He just isn’t that type of person. ‘No way, baby!’ as one of his characters might say! All he is doing is listening to the stories he hears around
him and turning them into literature. And what literature! Not that I’m any expert, mind you! (Phildy says: ‘I’m afraid, Pat, you know as much about Chekhov as my arse knows about snipe-shooting!’), but you
won’t get better than ‘The Hands of Dingo Deery’ or ‘I Ordained The Devil’ in my book. You want to know what I think of Phildy? I think he’s fantastic! To tell
you the truth – and I don’t care who hears it! – if he asked me to marry him in the morning, I’d be off down that Asian backstreet like a shot!

Pat Cork

(Friend)

17 Main Street,

Barntrosna

Contents

Hot Nights at the Go-Go Lounge

The Bursted Priest

My Friend Bruce Lee

I Ordained the Devil

The Hands of Dingo Deery

The Luck of Dympna Wrigley

The Big Prize

The Boils of Thomas Gully

The Valley of the Flying Jennets

The Forbidden Love of Noreen Tiernan

Hot Nights at the Go-Go Lounge

It’s hard to figure how in a small town like this a mature woman of twenty-eight years of age could get herself mixed up with a bunch of deadbeat swingers, but that is
exactly what happened to Cora Bunyan and I should know because she was my wife. It is now exactly a year since the nightmare began, when my good friend Walter Skelly first voiced his suspicions,
taking me by the arm as we left Louie’s Bar and Grill on our way back from lunch to the offices of Barntrosna Insurance. ‘Larry,’ he said, ‘look here. I don’t want to
alarm you but there’s something I think you should know . . . it’s women – Cora. They have needs, you know what I’m saying? You gotta pay them a little attention,
that’s all.’

When Walter had finished his story, I could just about stand up. I looked at him and barked: ‘I can’t believe you’d say such a thing! You – of all people, Walter! Why,
you oughta be ashamed of yourself!’ He tried his best to apologize but I had already turned away for I wanted to hear no more. ‘Get your hands off me!’ I snapped and I completed
my journey back to the office alone.

But all that afternoon, I couldn’t get his words out of my mind. By three thirty, I could stand it no longer. I strode out of my office and stood in his doorway clutching a bottle of ink.
‘Walter!’ I snapped, and just as he raised his head, I shot the contents of it directly into his face. Before he had time to respond, I was already gone. I knew now why Skelly had tried
to poison my mind against Cora. Sure I did – because ever since we’d moved to town, he’d had his eye on her like every other man in this two-bit backwater. I swore to myself that
if he ever came near her I would kill him stone dead. With a .357 Magnum I’d put a hole in his head big enough to sleep in. ‘You hear that, Skelly!’ I snarled at the mirror in the
restroom.

If only I’d known then one tenth of what I know now, I would have seen that Walter was only trying to help me. That he was doing what any friend would have considered his duty. But I was
blind. Blind! I only had eyes for Cora and she knew that. She’d known it all along.

That night, as I left the office, I had a few more words with Walter Skelly. I told him long as I lived I never wanted to see him again. ‘You got that, Skelly?’ I growled and flipped
a thumb and forefinger at the brim of my hat. He started into saying something about Cora but before he got too far I stopped him and told him that if he was figuring on finding another ink bottle
heading his way then that was fine by me; and maybe a smack in the mush for good measure.

I didn’t know it, of course, but that was the last opportunity I was to have to do anything about the tragic chain of events about to be set in motion. And now, it was already too
late.

As I drove home, I turned the events of the day over in my mind. Even the
thought
of what Walter had done was enough to sicken me right to my stomach. Sure, I knew Cora was a pretty gal
and that there were guys in Barntrosna who had wanted me dead when I married her. But to stoop that low, to try and poison a guy’s mind against his own wife? The more I thought about it, the
more I thought: Walter Skelly is a very sick man.

That was what jealousy had done to him, you see – like ’em all! Hell, even the day we got married, they couldn’t let up. Grown men crying! Crying because she’d married me
– Larry Bunyan. Who would ever have believed it? The sweetest doll the town had ever seen and what does she do – hooks up with Bunyan! Poor old Larry! Who sits behind his desk all day
threading paper clips!

But that was where they had got it wrong, you see! Way wrong! No sir, we Bunyans don’t spend our lives threading paper clips. We spend it just like Pop Bunyan did, working our fingernails
to the quick building up an insurance firm second to none in this country so that a man can take care of gals like Cora Myers the way they oughta be taken care of – jewels, mink coats, you
name it! ‘Larry,’ she said to me that night by the pool out in Sandlefoot, ‘I love you! I want to have your children!’ If only she’d known the effect those coupla
words had! Why, I guess I must have grown about ten feet tall right there and then! I could see old Pop standing in front of me, puffing on his pipe and resting his hand on my shoulder, saying:
‘You see, son? You
have
amounted to something, after all! Son – let me say something! Hell, am I proud of you! Proud, my boy!’

You see, Cora, I want you to know the truth. Fact is, me and Pop – we didn’t get along so well when I was a kid. I guess you could say I had disappointed him and which was why he
used to meet me coming home from school and say: ‘Well, son! What dumbfool thing you do in school today, you goddam useless hobo?’ All I wanted was one chance to prove myself –
that was all I wanted. And that night in Sandlefoot when you said you loved me and wanted to marry me, why, I felt like tossing my hat across the water and shouting: ‘How do you like that,
Father! Weren’t expecting that, were you, you grizzled old windbag! Ha ha ha!’

Just like the rest of them hadn’t! And, boy, did they go half-mad! Now that I had something they’d never get their greasy paws on! Because Cora Myers – small-town beauty,
swimsuit model – she belonged to Larry Bunyan now!

Or so I thought. Before the words of Walter Skelly started clinging to my skin like black shining beetles. They say a thought can grow in a man’s mind until it becomes an obsession; a tiny
grain of salt swell and grow until it fills up a room. They’re right.

I had my mind made up. I was going to buy the largest bunch of flowers I could lay my hands on, fling the door open and rush into that house, calling: ‘Cora! Stop everything! Put the
goddam ironing down! We are going out on the town!’

It had seemed like just about the simplest thing in this world.

Quite what happened that night is still not clear to me. All I can say for sure is that somewhere between the Golden Noodle and the shop where I bought the flowers, something unpredictable
happened – a kinda shifting of the psychological axis, maybe you could call it. With the result that as I was returning to the sedan, I found myself thinking: ‘What if what Walter says
is true?’ Perhaps if I hadn’t been standing directly outside the newsagents the whole thing might never have happened. But I was, staring through its plate-glass window, in fact, at a
stack of magazines, some of which had been robbed of their colour through age, others glossily vivid and – I’ve got to say it – startling in their directness! One of them in
particular caught my eye, depicting the heavily made-up figure of a woman holding aloft a cigarette, her head turned towards me as its trailing smoke curled about her slender white neck, like a
scarf of softest silk. And, just underneath, almost defiantly stamped in bold black type: L
OVE
WAS
C
HEAP
; L
IFE
WAS
H
IGH
!

It was the lopsided grin on her face, I reckon. Somehow it reminded me of a look that Cora had given me during one of our, I got to admit it, now regular rows. Then there was the blonde –
a coiffured lynx in pink knee-high boots and matching spangled swimsuit rolling her eyes at a sweating, skirtless drummer shrouded in cigarette smoke. And across her forehead, in dribbling crimson,
the words:
Hot Nights at the Go-Go
Lounge!

BOOK: Mondo Desperado
11.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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