Authors: Patrick McCabe
Suddenly – I took out my handkerchief – it was as if the window display had become fiercely, insanely alive! The wailing sound of out-of-tune guitars and thundering, palpitating
percussion somehow seemed to mingle with a primitive, hysterical laughter that filled the entire street! A redhead in a leopardskin bikini and curves in all the right places leered after me as I
fell towards Louie’s.
As I sat there in the corner banquette I had it all figured out, and for the first time saw the game my so-called ‘beloved wife’ was playing. A game called ‘Larry Bunyan
– sucker’! By the time the last shot went down, everything was clear and I could have hugged my buddy Walter Skelly. How could I have been so foolish? I asked myself. Why couldn’t
I have seen that all he had wanted to do was warn me! How many times had I seen that look on Cora’s face? That pouting mouth, the slightly narrowed eyes that somehow you couldn’t trust?
And had taken it – for love! The Big Kisser! Had taken it to mean ‘Yes! I love you, Larry Bunyan! No matter what anyone else thinks, I love every inch of you!’ when, all along,
every time she put her hand to her breast and spoke in those mock-dramatic tones was: ‘I’m fooling you up to the two eyes but you’re too blind to see, Bunyan! Bunyan, the poor
fool! Why, he doesn’t have enough to stick a stamp!’
As the sedan turned into the curving driveway and cruised towards our neat little white frame house with its wide yard and two palm trees, I had never felt so good in my life! Boy, did I owe
Walter a favour! I owed him now and hell I was gonna pay him back first thing tomorrow with a bottle of Louie’s best bourbon!
When I had put a certain little matter to bed once and for all, that is.
To bed once and for all!
I decided to play it cool, just like nothing had happened. I hung up my coat in the hallway and tossed my hat onto the stand, just like always. Then I called out, ‘Cora?
You home, honey?’ and smiled when I heard her reply: ‘Yes, dear. I’m in the kitchen.’ Boy, you really had to hand it to women. One minute they’re jitterbugging in some
basement dive, fooling around with every two-bit dipso and loser musician, next they’re coming on like the sweetest little angel you’ve ever set your peepers on. But Cora – she
was something special! Standing there in her cute little rubber gloves and that dandy little gingham apron – why, she was just about the last person on earth you’d ever figure for a
hophead or sex freak.
‘So – how have you been, honey?’ pulling off my tie and freshening up a little in the kitchenette.
‘Oh, you know, dear,’ she smiled, ‘the usual. Went up the town, got things for the dinner. Paid the gas bill. Nothing special.’
No, nothing special, I thought, as I wiped my face with the towel, just a little ‘exotic dancing’ and a handful of reefers with your sleazeball friends, a little bit of
‘twisting’ with some dubious photographer and his beatnik pals, sure, why the hell not, go right ahead – get out of your minds! Flap your arms and shake your beehive heads to some
crazy trashy instrumental rock! After all – it’s nothing special, is it? No, ha ha! Nothing much special ever happens in the Go-Go Lounge, does it? Does it, Cora?
Cora Myers who used to be my wife!
Not that I said it, of course. Not yet! I might be dumb like Pop said but I sure wasn’t gonna blow my wad straight away! Oh no. I was gonna let her have all the rope she needed. Besides, I
was curious to see just how long she could keep her little charade going.
‘So – how are they?’ she said with a smile would make dead roses bloom.
‘What? How’s what?’ I said, kind of taken aback by the sudden realization of just how beautiful my wife was – them sparkling blue eyes, blonde hair, finely chiselled
features – quite aristocratic – and foolishly almost blowing my cover.
‘The chops, of course!’ she said, gliding towards the kitchenette and humming to herself as she stacked the crockery on the draining board.
‘The chops! Why – they’re fine!’ I called out. ‘Matter of fact – they’re just about the damned tastiest chops I’ve ever had, in this house or
anywhere else, Cora!’
‘I’m glad!’ she said, and continued humming – just a soft, regular tune, just about as far from ‘Beat Girl’ or ‘Bachelor Party Bunny’ as it was
possible to get and showed you just how clever little Miss Cora Myers could be! It was difficult at that moment not to dump the chops on the floor right where I sat and get it all over with there
and then. To cry: ‘Why! What has gone wrong! Why all of a sudden are you behaving like this! Maybe it is true! Maybe I don’t have enough to stick a stamp but you could have told me!
After all we’ve been through, Cora, you could have told me! You didn’t have to go running off – there! Where to after this?
The Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks
Nightmare Rampage of the Hellcats
? Cora! You hear me – Cora Myers?’
As I sat there I could hear it all plain as day. See myself standing right there in front of her, pulling no punches as I said it loud and clear. But it wasn’t the only
thing I could see. I could see her too. Miss Cora ‘I swear I’m not a man-eater’ Myers, with her arms outspread and her innocent eyes, going: ‘Larry, I don’t know what
you’re talking about! Have you been drinking, Larry Bunyan? Because I don’t understand a word you’re saying!’
I figured on those last coupla words snapping me like a dry twig.
‘No! Sure you don’t!’ I’d snap as I smacked my fist down on the table.
‘Honey! I don’t understand!’ she’d say with, sure as hell, that old trembling hand placed against her throat, those same old mock-dramatic tones!
‘No – sure you don’t! And you don’t slip out of this house every day just as soon as you get me gone, either! You don’t climb into your figure-hugging pants and hit
the club in your dragster to meet your so-called “with-it” friends? Just who in the hell do you think you are, Cora? Mamie Van Doren? Go on then – laugh! Laugh at him, the
mutthead of a husband who hasn’t the faintest idea what you’ve been up to! Except that’s where you’re wrong, baby! Sure, I’m a mutthead, a mutthead who happens to be
lucky enough to have a good friend by the name of Walter Skelly who put me on to you just before it was too late. Surprised, huh? Thought you might be! Yeah, your little wheeze has been rumbled,
Cora baby! And now the whole world’s gonna know it – and you know why? Because I’m gonna see that they do! This time around, Larry Bunyan’s through taking it! I’m
gonna show you and I’m gonna show them! Hey! Hello there! I’m Larry Bunyan – I don’t have enough to stick a stamp! But what I do have is a little self-respect! You listening
to me, drop-out wife?’
It was the greatest feeling in the world thinking it all through for myself that way and as I wiped my mouth with the napkin, I looked right over at her and smiled.
‘Cora,’ I said, ‘I could have eaten that dinner and ten more like it.’
‘My, but you’re in good humour today, Larry,’ she smiled as she removed the plate, ‘it’s not often you say that to me.’
‘I guess it isn’t,’ I said, ‘not that it would make a lotta difference either way for most likely you’d be too hopped out of your head to hear it anyway.’ The
words were outa my mouth before I knew it – I coulda cheered, goddamit!
‘What?’ she responded, in, of course – mock-dramatic tones!
‘Oh, come now, Cora,’ I said, before she got a chance to get into her stride, ‘there’s no need for all that!’
Her trembling hand stroked her throat as I continued.
‘You might be good at making dinners but when it comes to acting – well, you might be good! But you’re not
good! Not that good at all, babe!’
‘What . . .’ she began, twisting a corner of her apron, ‘what on earth are you talking about?’
I spread my legs on the chair and faced her squarely, stabbing the air uncompromisingly – I had come so far, now I was prepared to go all the way – with my rock-steady
‘You know what your problem was, baby? You want to know what you did wrong? You got careless, honey! Started flying so high you thought you were so far up no one could touch you! One too
many reefers, I guess! Thought Mutthead wouldn’t notice? Well, you were wrong, Cora Myers! Way wrong!’
‘Wrong about what?’ she said – them blue eyes beginning to fill up now! – still keeping up her Little Miss Lost-in-the-forest act. ‘Larry – what is wrong with
you? How long were you in Louie’s? Larry – for God’s sake! What are you
? What is wrong with you?’
I stood up and ran my hands through my thickly Brylcreemed hair. I sighed and looked down at the toes of my brogues. I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe she was going to
go through with it to the bitter end.
‘Wrong?’ I said, as I yanked her to me. ‘I’ll tell you what’s wrong! Wrong is two little babies sleeping upstairs while their mother sneaks out to some godforsaken
sleazehole to feed her habit; wrong is popping Quaaludes and shovelling gin like it’s going out of fashion! Wrong is clinging silk and red lips pouted for kissing! Sax players and brown
bosoms throbbing with love! Wrong? I’ll tell you what’s wrong! Not giving a damn about the things that keep you straight in this world – the things you’re supposed to care
about! That’s what wrong is – two babies with a mother who’s a hopped-up swimsuit model in some squalid pit of sexual depravity!’
There were tears in her eyes now, so many she could have washed the floor with them right there and then.
‘But Larry!’ she cried, she implored, fixing me with them big blue eyes – the old turn-him-to-mush trick! ‘We don’t have any kids! We can’t have –
because of . . . you know why, Larry!’
She broke off and turned away, thrusting her knuckles into her mouth. I flung the chair aside and spun her around.
‘Go on then, say it!’ I challenged her. ‘Why? Because I don’t have enough to stick a stamp! Ain’t that right, Cora?’
‘No!’ she brazenly lied, ‘it’s not true, Larry!’
‘Not true, huh?’ I laughed, for what else could I do now that it was all out in the open and I saw what had been behind that beautiful mask all along? Strange thing was, I felt like
a million dollars.
‘So – tell us, Cora! What are they like? These guys you’ve been hanging out with? These drummer friends of yours, huh? These – ha! – horn players!’
‘Horn players? Drummers? What are you talking about? Oh God! Oh God!’
‘I gotta hand it to you, Cora! You sure had me fooled! Hell, only for Walter you probably still would have! But now, well, I guess it doesn’t matter any more!’
I lit a cigarette and looked at her through the winding smoke.
‘I’m leaving you, Cora! And I’m taking the kids with me! I’m sorry, Cora – but it’s goodbye!’
Well, boy was I hot – flushed and out of sorts when I’d said my little piece, so I guess you can imagine how I felt when my little honey pie began to laugh. What could I do but shake
my head? I just stood there and stared at her as she laughed her pretty little head right off, thinking to myself just how crazy, when you get down to it, this old world really is.
‘Larry,’ she cried, throwing her arms around my neck, ‘you’re joking, of course! That’s what you’re doing, isn’t it? The whole thing is a silly joke!
And there I was – taking it all so seriously! Phew!’
Funny thing is, in a strange kinda way I wish it had been like that. To have been able to say to her: ‘Of course I’m joking, Cora, hon! Joking because you are the sweetest creature a
guy has ever had the good fortune to hold in his arms – chiselled features, blonde hair and blue eyes, curves in all the right places. Hell – what more could a man want?’
Yep, Cora Myers was a beautiful woman all right – sweetest doll you ever set your eyes on.
But for every silver fox, lounge lizard and lowdown jazz rat in town, not Larry Bunyan.
The dumbest thing of all was, when I told Walter the whole story he starts going all kinda funny – like he doesn’t know what I’m talking about or something!
But then, I guess that’s old Walter, ain’t it – he’s just that kinda guy. Even down to saying he’s never
of any place called the Go-Go Lounge!
I guess he reckons now it’s all over it’s just time to forget – just like with the ink that day it all started.
And sometimes when I see him smile – when I’m passing him a file maybe, or asking for a paper clip – I can read his thoughts just about as loud and clear as if they were my
own: ‘There he is – my buddy Larry Bunyan! The man who wouldn’t take it any more!’
Or when we’re sitting in Louie’s maybe, his eyes twinkling as he chews on what’s left of his waffles, looking over at me with a broad smile that sends out a simple message:
‘They said he hadn’t enough to stick a stamp – they were
Like he does every day when we leave on the dot of one thirty, crossing the square as I put my arm around his shoulders and give him the lowdown on Cora the day she realized once and for all
that I was on to her. My own best buddy – the guy I have to thank for everything! – staring at me with big wide eyes – almost as big as my ex-wife’s, I swear! – as he
hoarsely repeats (you wanna hear him!): ‘Hee hee! Sure she did! Sure, Larry, old pal! Oh but yes! Of course!’ climbing the stairs to our office where our names inscribed in regal gold
wait to greet us, through the open window then his giddy laughter pouring out into the square whilst I – to all intents and purposes a bachelor now, of course! – uncork the bourbon and,
carefree as any goddam bird, pace the office floor and begin my story anew, Walter’s eyebrows leaping as he rubs his hands and chuckles, helpless tears like small rivers coming rolling down
his pink and flaking cheeks.
Of all the boys in Barntrosna, Declan Coyningham was definitely the holiest. This was why all the other boys picked on him, of course. Because they were jealous. They
couldn’t bear to see him walk to church every morning with his missal and rosary beads tucked under his arm. They hated it, in fact, and were often to be heard saying to each other: ‘I
wouldn’t mind ripping that missal to bits. I wonder how our friend Mr Coyningham would like that!’ Declan knew they were saying bad things about him. But he forgave them. Forgave them,
and did so because he knew in his heart of hearts that they didn’t mean it. He often wondered if they had been born somewhere else would they have become prime ministers or rocket scientists.
He felt they would. Sadly, however, they weren’t born somewhere else – they were born in the Back Terrace, Barntrosna, and once that happened, your chances of becoming prime minister
were slim indeed. And no one knew it better than them. Which only resulted in a deepening of their hatred for Declan. They could not accept that just because he was born in a big house with a
garden, he could go around the town thinking he was ‘all the big fellow’, as Toots Agnew sourly put it. Toots, however, had misinterpreted Declan’s demeanour. Which found its
genesis not in any notion of superiority, but in a desire to do good by his fellow townspeople;
those who lived in the Backs.