179. Macnas - 4/27/2005 1:58:45 PM
Guns for McBride.
There’s cattle in the next field, lowing as they become aware of the 3 men standing against the nearby hedge. They’ve moved a concrete water trough to one side and are looking into a plastic lined pit that it had been siting on top of.
McBride squats to pull out an assault rifle, covered in yet more plastic. When he strips this away, it is sticky with the manufacturers cosmoline grease, cold to the touch. There is some words spoken but before anything more can be said, a van appears at the end of the long lane that leads to the field, and McBride has thrown the rifle back into the pit. He looks up to see the two men he was talking with have started running. He turns and scrambles over the hedge, tearing himself on wire and briars. He sprints past the cows that stop calling and look at him in mute curiosity.
He hurdles a low gate and is running, running. He finally enters a forestry block, and emerges on a main road. He made his way home, and quickly packed a bag.
The phone rang, and he let it ring. After two more calls he finally answers. The voice on the line tells him what he already knows, and confirms that he has to do what he is already doing.
The first I hear of it is when I get a call from him, asking me to meet him in an obscure “old mans” pub on the outskirts of town. I get there early, and find myself waiting for him. It was always the way, McBride would be late for his own funeral, and had been that way for as long as I’d known him.
I met him at school, both of us taking the same woodwork class. We had a bit in common, his older brother was a carpenter, mine a cabinet maker. Both of us country boys too.
He was a fantastic carpenter, able to make any joint as neat and tight as any professional could. Some people have it, that talent to create and coordinate with their hands. It was of course, wasted on McBride, as while he would be interested in something at the start, his passion for it would soon fade and he had more unfinished work than anyone else in his wood locker.
This lack of focus was a trademark. We fooled around with the idea of forming a band, but it died off when he never turned up for a bit of practise. We were going to fix up an old car, just to have something to go about in. Kyboshed due to lack of interest. Still, throughout these and many other small things we remained firm friends.
180. Macnas - 4/27/2005 1:59:32 PM
We left school early, both of us at 16. I got some mad fit and signed up as an army apprentice. He hung around, doing some work with his brothers firm and dabbling in the music scene. I finally lost track of him 4 years later, when my apprenticeship was up and I volunteered for Lebanon. When I got back home just over a year later, He had disappeared to London., and I was not to hear from him for another 5 years.
I was in town with some friends who were back home for christmas. We were drinking in the Round House bar, when one of them got up, and said he was going to score some cannabis. About 15 minutes later he walked through the door, with none other than McBride following 30 seconds behind him. After the deal was concluded, I said goodnight to my friends and took up with him. We spent a few hours going over the past, both of us with that warm feeling you get, when you start a conversation with a friend you haven’t seen in years, picking things up as if it had only been yesterday.
He had worked the building sites for a few years, going between the Isle of Dogs to the massive dockland projects. He took up a band while he was there, and managed them for a while. They had some moderate success on the live circuit, and it gave him a taste for the business. He admitted he didn’t have the talent for management that he first thought he had, and ended up doing some DJ work and some studio engineering.
When we got to the more recent past, he became very vague about things, but however vague he was being, it still couldn’t hide the fact that he was here, back in town, and in the drug trade.
McBride finally said he had to go, and after we swapped numbers he left the bar. I stayed on for one more before closing time. The barman, who I knew quite well, gave me my pint, took my money and as he was giving me my change, said “you know yer man so yeah?” I nodded as I drank from the glass. “you know what he does so?” I nodded again. “Well boy, you better pick a better class of friend, he’s making a name for himself this past few months”.
I finished my pint, and told the barman to keep his opinions to himself. He just shrugged and said “I know that, I’m just telling you what I know, for your sake, seeing as I know you and all, otherwise I wouldn’t open my mouth”. I said fair enough, left the pub and made my way home.
A week went by, when out of the blue McBride calls, and we arrange to meet later that night. We go to a very busy pub, and from then onto a club. The entire night long, he’s dealing. Not just cannabis, but any hard drug as well. I feel very much out of my depth and hugely uncomfortable, looking around me for the law to swoop at any moment. I’m not enjoying myself and near the end of the night I tell him that I’ve had enough of this and that I didn’t come out to watch him deal the whole night long. I leave him in the club and get out as fast as I can.
181. Macnas - 4/27/2005 2:00:25 PM
Three days later I’m back in the Round House, doing the crossword and keeping myself to myself. The barman wandered down to my table and sat across from me. I was about to ask him what he wanted when he leaned close to me and said in a low quiet voice “I don’t want any more dealing in here, so once you’re done, you’d better leave, and don’t be back, alright?”
I looked at him with my mouth open, to say I was shocked would have been the understatement of the year.
I asked him what the hell he was talking about. “You were working with McBride the other night, doing protection for him, you were seen, so don’t deny it”. I put down my paper and told him that yes, I was out with McBride, but I wasn’t working with him or for him, and that he should know better than to suspect me of it. He sat back and looked at me for a bit, then said “alright, I’ll take your word. But don’t bring him in here, I don’t want anything to do with him or the like of him, ok?”
Nodding, I went back to my crossword, or at least pretending to. I was fast coming to the realisation that McBride had been using me, and I had been too stupid to realise it. When I thought of it, it made some sense. I pictured it, the two of us in the club, McBride doing his work, and a big guy next to him, scanning the room continuously. I called him later that night, and asked him straight out had he been using me as dumb muscle that night. He pissed around for a while before he admitted it. It then dawned on me that he must have told someone that I was working with him, and of course he had.
I tore strips off him over the ’phone. I threatened him within an inch of his life, and told him if he ever came near me again I would tear his fucking head off. He apologised over and over, and said that he had been getting some pressure from someone, and was nervous of being out on his own. He sounded so genuinely scared that I was torn between wanting to help him and wanting to beat him. I finally told him that we should keep our distance, and that while I felt for him, I would not be used like that ever again.
I kept as best tabs on him as I could over the next year, while not actually seeing him in person. From what I could glean he was now a major dealer, and was attracting a lot of heat from all quarters.
I sat mulling on all of this while I waited on him, late as usual. Finally, 20 minutes later, he arrived.
He sat down and started to talk, but couldn’t. His face scrunched up and he hung his head as he sat, with a beer mat soaking up his tears as they dripped onto the table.
182. Macnas - 4/27/2005 2:02:05 PM
He had taken up with some rough characters, and got further and further into the drug trade. He went from dealing smoke to speed, then to cocaine and heroin. Guns became a matter of course and after a bad deal had left him short, he had taken a lead from an ex-IRA man who knew where some arms were dumped. If he could sort it out, he could make some big money selling them on to another gang of drug dealers who were also in the INLA. McBride arranged the deal and set it up. It all went wrong and he was lucky to get away with his life.
The ex-IRA man was actually far from ex. He had used McBride to draw out the INLA men and catch them in the act. Now McBride had to leave, and quickly. He begged me to help him, this one last time. What could I say?
I went out into the carpark and waited for 15 minutes. He came out and got into the car. I drove out onto the road and got onto the main road to Waterford. I drove through the night and waited with him in the car for the ferry port to open. I didn’t say a word to him as he got out of the car and went to the ticket office. I watched him board, waited for the ferry to pull away, then went for some breakfast.
After I got home, I saw a news item where two suspected INLA men had been found shot to death and dumped at the side of the road just out of town. I made some calls myself, trying to find out from my own contacts (republican family history and all that) if I myself was in any danger. But I was clear, and breathed easier for knowing it. I never heard from McBride again.
183. PelleNilsson - 4/27/2005 2:29:12 PM
A fine effort, Macnas, with a very genuine sound to it.
184. Magoseph - 4/27/2005 2:32:17 PM
It is frightening how close sometimes we can be near dire danger to ourselves by renewing old acquaintances--good story, Mac, thank you.
185. Macnas - 4/27/2005 2:42:49 PM
Thank you Pelle, and you Mago.
It might sound genuine, because it is very true. I changed names and places a bit, and also condensed time a little. But other than that, it happened as it reads.
186. alistairconnor - 4/27/2005 3:12:07 PM
Gobsmacked. There's only one thing to say to that...
... where's the sex?
187. Macnas - 4/27/2005 3:21:55 PM
I know the story isn't all that exciting alistair, but you'll have to sort your own self out I'm afraid.
188. alistairconnor - 4/27/2005 3:33:32 PM
No, it was very atmospheric, very moving. And well-constructed : there is palpable danger, the prospect of the IRA turning up before the boat leaves.
And an interesting echo of my own, fictional story. We're always someone else's mug.
The perfect bodyguard : too dumb to realise he's doing a great job, just by sitting there looking dangerous. Marvellous.
189. Macnas - 4/27/2005 3:59:26 PM
You know, I could have made things more dramatic. But I think it's only someone like le Carre can make waiting in a car dramatic.
190. PelleNilsson - 4/27/2005 4:45:27 PM
There must be more where that came from. Looks like you had an interesting youth.
191. Macnas - 4/27/2005 4:58:50 PM
When I look back, I suppose, I had some interesting times.
As for writing about them, I find it hard to write about awkward or dangerous events. The story above was difficult, I'd started it when alistair first proposed this thread, and finished it in 10 minutes this morning. I usually take 15 minutes tops to write anything.
I guess I prefer writing about, I don't know, happy stuff.
192. NuPlanetOne - 4/27/2005 5:10:47 PM
Thank you all for that enthusiastic reception. Really, it is very encouraging. And Alistair, I can think of several scenarios within a restaurant setting that easily could include sex and violence. For instance, the homicidal serial rapist that by day routinely disembowels whole tuna carcasses, live crustaceans, any number of game and fowl and deftly carves them into that night’s tempting entrees. You would not believe the blood and gore that splashes about during the gutting and cleaning of a whole tuna. The largest one I have attempted alone was a Yellowtail that weighed about 95 pounds. I also assisted in cleaning an Atlantic Big Eye that weighed in at close to 200 pounds. And it is not your normal filleting. There are two strips per side and to cut them out properly requires at least a brief look into the animal’s anatomy, where to teach one to clean a whole salmon might easily be accomplished by a simple demonstration. Two cuts per side, but with the tuna, beheading the thing in and of itself requires or is facilitated by power tools, or at least the ability to butcher it with the head on. I found it harder to work with a headless corpse, but harvesting the cheek steaks was easier because it held the fish quiet while I sliced out its face. Now couldn’t you just imagine building a plot around the secret life of this particular homicidal prep-cook. Hmmmmmm…….
Macnas, I suspected that your story depicted an actual account of a personal experience. It was an excellent narrative. I think that all it is missing to become a wonderful piece of fiction is perhaps some embellishment from other matters of intrigue of which I feel you have been witness to, or, I can’t help but suspect, participated in. Non-criminal of course. But in describing in an exaggerated way the pieces you know about that underground process, I think would even keep Alistair turning the page.
193. Magoseph - 4/27/2005 5:28:41 PM
But in describing in an exaggerated way the pieces you know about that underground process, I think would even keep Alistair turning the page.
Did you do that with your work, Nu?—it didn’t sound to me as you did. It sounded like a real life experience about a experience you have lived.
194. PelleNilsson - 4/27/2005 6:59:25 PM
NU - I forgot to express my appreciation of your piece. I really was good with an acute sense of presence.
195. judithathome - 4/27/2005 7:16:48 PM
Mac, excellent story...left me wanting more. And it doesn't need sex at all; it was intense enough as it was!
196. NuPlanetOne - 4/28/2005 2:50:13 AM
Magoseph…..touché. One story and there I am offering advice.
197. alistairconnor - 4/28/2005 8:46:25 AM
Don't be shy about that, Nu... I wish we would offer each other more advice and criticism. Praise and encouragement are the easy parts. (I know that the small amount of feedback I received while writing Gisèle, mainly from Pelle and Macnas, was immensely helpful.)
I agree that Macnas can easily flesh out his bare narrative with authentic, fictionalised detail, to give a very powerful result, because the story itself already works very well. It's sort of the opposite extreme from your own story, where the wealth of detail, atmosphere and character are almost overpowering, but we don't have a story... yet. (It would function very well as the first chapter of a story in which José, Fabiano, the produce guy and others would feature... Also, the big advantage of the restaurant setting is that you can introduce anyone you want as a diner... )
In general, I suppose, it's only by mastering the depiction of what we know intimately, that we win the right to extrapolate, interpolate and invent. And that is which enables us to build a coherent story (for those of us who aren't lucky enough to have the story fall, fully-formed, in our lap, like Macnas).
Also, Nu, as a poet I think you are likely to have insights that may escape the rest of us, concerning the process of distilling something universal out of our intimate experience. Which is my declared theme for this thread.
198. Magoseph - 4/28/2005 12:52:49 PM
A List Of Fallacious Arguments
II think that maybe this link belongs here, Ali, but I may be wrong...so you do what's necessayry.
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