It was our turn last Friday, so we had the wife’s gang in the house for the monthly nosebag. The craicwas good. It always is when Carmel’s husband, Paddy, is around. Carmel is the wife’s sister, so that makes Paddy my brother-in-law — I think. I’ve never been sure how these family rankings are worked out. But, anyway, when himself and Carmel walk into a room theylight up the place. Paddyhas one of those faces. It’s big and it moves. It’s like there are people in behind Paddy’s face trying to get out. When you’re talking to Paddy, you’re having a conversationwith more than a dozen Paddys.
I said it to Carmel once. — Jesus, Carmel, you’re a bloody bigamist. You’re married to 20 different men.
— I am, she answered, proudly.
Paddy only has two knees — they’re big too — and she patted one of them. Carmel’s a gas woman too. I’ll admit it: I fell in love with Carmel about two seconds before I decided to fall in love with her sister instead. And — just to be absolutely clear — I’ve been living happily ever after ever since. But anyway.
We’re all in the kitchen, around the table, as usual. There’s myself and the wife, Carmel and Paddy, the other sister, Dympna, and her new chap, whose name I refuse to remember. By the time we meet again, he’ll be gone. I can tell by the head on him, and I can tell by the head on her.
— Come here, I say to the wife afterwards, when we’re flinging the plates into the dishwasher. — Would Dympna not be happier with a girlfriend?
— You might be right, says the wife. I have to sit down for a minute. I might be wrong but I think the wife just said I might be right.
But anyway, before that, when the plates are still piled high with the wife’s speciality, Korma Coolock, and we’re scoffing away, Paddy coughs, apologises, and says he fully expects to be dead by Monday. — I’d better make a list, he says.
— Ah, no, I say. — Not another bucket list.
— No, says Paddy. — Calm down. He shows us all the face. — A f**k it list, he announces. — The s***e we’re going to stop doing before we die.
And that gets us all going, even Dympna’s nameless beau, who up to now has looked like he’s next in line for the electric chair. The wife gets a piece of paper and a biro. — Putting out the wheelies, she says and starts to write. — You never put a wheelie out in your life! I say. I’m happily outraged. — You told me you were colour-blind, I tell her. — Years ago. You said you couldn’t tell which was which.
— I’m putting this one down for you, pet, she says, and she winks at me.
— The healthy stuff, says Carmel. — Write that down. We’re all in agreement: we’ll stop eating the food that’s good for us.
— Unless we actually like it.
— Fair enough.
I’ve an idea. — Saying thanks to the bus driver, I say. — What’s wrong with saying thanks to the poor driver?
— Poor driver, me a**e, I say. — I’ve been saying thanks to that fella since they changed the shape of the buses, and he’s never said thanks to me. Not once.
— Shaving, says Paddy.
— Legs as well, says Carmel.
— Fair enough, says Paddy. — Equal opportunities.
We’ve only been working on the list for a few minutes and the wife’s already run out of paper. It’s going to be a long night. We’re shouting grievances that go right back to the early ’60s.
— Cleaning my room!
— Hang on, it’s our room!
That’s me and the wife, by the way. But we’re only messing — I think.
— Brushing the teeth.
— Your breath would stink, but.
— Brushing them twice a day.
— Agreed, says Paddy. — Waste of water. Think of the environment.
— Giving a s***e about the environment, I say.
— None of us give a s***e about the environment, says Carmel. — Do we? We all shake our heads.
— We won’t be including that one, so, says the wife. — It’s a battle we’ve already won. She puts a line through it. — Flossing.
— Can we move past personal hygiene, please? says the wife.
— I’ve one, says Dympna’s temporary male companion. We stare at him. It’s like the dog has suddenly spoken — and it’s not even your own dog.
— Go on ahead, Laurence, says the wife. He has a name, after all.
— Having to endure socially awkward situations, he says. The wife is adding it to the list before Carmel and then the rest of us burst out laughing — except Laurence.
— She’d be better off with a girl, I say to the wife, later. I’m at the sink, rinsing one of the pots.
— Is that you day-dreaming over there, Charlie? she says.