THERE’S a car half-blocking the entrance to the Andytown News. It’s a black Fiesta with a southern registration and there’s nobody in it. Squinter immediately thinks ‘car bomb’, which kind of dates him. Then he remembers it’s 2014 and he thinks ‘stolen’.
But no. Along come a couple, one a middle-aged jogger in running gear and a baseball cap, the other a younger woman, who proceeds to the driver’s door and gets in. Squinter continues on his planned dander up the hill.
A couple of minutes later, Squinter hears the slap, slap of running feet from behind and the runner slowly overtakes him, making his way laboriously up the steep gradient. But the guy doesn’t continue on up the mountain; instead he takes a sharp right and crosses the road to the hedgerow on the citybound side, shuffles his feet, fiddles with his shorts and begins to take a leak. It’s late afternoon on a sunny September Wednesday.
Presently the runner gives himself a shake, adjusts his shorts, recrosses the road and resumes his ascent of the hill. Squinter, who by now is ahead of him again, engages him in conversation as he draws near. Well, engages him in conversation is one of putting it – giving him an earful is another. Squinter won’t lie, there were profanities involved and the voice was raised more than a little. The nature of his intervention, for the sake of discretion, is herewith paraphrased: “Are you in complete control of your mental faculties? Should you really be urinating in broad daylight on a busy road near the entrance to a housing estate? Are you in the habit of doing that near your own front door?”
It’s fair to say that the bloke is somewhat taken aback. He stops and raises both hands in a conciliatory gesture and, in what to Squinter’s ears is an educated south County Dublin accent, says: “I know, I’m sorry, I was caught short.” Squinter’s not having it, and he lets him know. “I tried to hide myself as best I could,” he comes back. “I went into the hedge.” Well, he actually stood at the hedge rather than disappear into it – and why slashing into a hedge is any more acceptable than slashing on to a wall, say, or a fence, he doesn’t say.
Then comes the clincher. With his arms now outstretched as if in surrender, he says: “Look, I’m sorry. And your concern for the local community is to be
admired.” Squinter considers him for a couple of seconds, trying to establish whether this man is being serious or whether he’s quite literally taking the piss. His gaze is frank and steady, there doesn’t appear to be any hint of sarcasm in his voice. Then he extends his right hand for a shake, but before Squinter can tell him where to put it, car horns begin sounding loudly nearby. The black Fiesta has pulled up at the entrance to Hawthorn, blocking half the entrance, just as it had five minutes earlier at the Andytown News. The jogger starts jogging again and in seconds he’s at the car. Opening the passenger door, he turns and gives Squinter a cheery wave before climbing in. The black Fiesta drives off, up towards the mountain, leaving Squinter standing stock-still on the pavement wondering if someone had slipped crystal meth into the cup of tea he’d had ten minutes earlier.