When Paddy Junior’s father died, the townspeople of Ballyhamsandwich lowered their chins slightly and cast many a sympathetic gaze upwards from beneath their furrowed eyebrows. Respect where it was due. Paddy Senior, (or Pabo as he was known in public spaces), was a fine man indeed. A weekend gambler and a friendly drunkard, he was usually (depending on how much of a cure he had taken in the morning) available to ferry various members of the under-13s to and from Saturday matches. Pabo’s car was a firm favourite due to its missing rear window and lack of seatbelts in the back. Great laughs were to be had trying to maintain an upright sitting position around particularly swerve-y corners and holding the big plastic sheet up against the window frame when it was raining.
Paddy Junior (or Pabo’s young fella as he was known in public spaces) had never been a member of the under-13s, despite spending many years belonging to that particular age group. A difficult birth had cursed him with an unnatural gait and a seemingly poor lung capacity. Pabo only had to light up a cigarette beside him for the chesty coughing to start. He was liked well enough though and the slightest physical achievement in the schoolyard brought praise from his teachers – “good man yourself; sure you’re a grand unfortunate boy.” The well-meaning educators even went so far as to quell the football related teasing at lunchtimes – “he envies you the use of your legs enough as it is lads, don’t make it worse for him. It’s not his fault that he’s crippled sure.” They were kinder after that and it continued for the rest of his schooldays. They wished him the best of luck and thumped his shoulders warmly when he left the town at the age of sixteen to go and find work.
A round of sincere handshakes greeted him after his father’s removal – “good man Paddy it’s great to see you.” They meant it too – sure wasn’t he always grand unfortunate lad and not a penny left for him after Pabo gambled the house away. “Is it up the pub for some sandwiches now?” somebody asked. “Yes at Hennessey’s” Paddy confirmed. “Can we give you and the mother a lift?” somebody else asked. “Ah no” said Paddy, “sure I have the car over the road there.” They watched him limp across the road, take his mother’s arm and usher her into the passenger seat of a car.
“Mother of God that’s a Mercedes” a shocked voice said as they waved him off down the road, “it’s a 2011-Reg!” “And Hennessey’s” another added, “the hotel!” “Who the fuck does he think he is?”