Tuesday 17 September 2019

Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: 'I'm drugged to the gills... I fell off a swing'


Illustration by Ben Hickey
Illustration by Ben Hickey
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

I'm drugged to the gills. It's a long story. But it's not, really.

I fell off a swing.

Actually, that's not true. I got walloped by the swing when I was hammering the instructions to the wall.

Let me explain.

We used to have a swing in the back garden. But there were no kids left in the house and none of the local TDs seemed to be interested in using it. The swing stood all alone out there, like some sort of instrument of torture. Or a bright red gallows. So I dismantled the thing and brought it to one of the son's houses. And it's been there for years, out the back. It's a bit lopsided from use, but it's grand. The grandkids and their pals have got great mileage out of it.

But then the son's wife's mother - she works in a solicitor's office; she cleans it. Anyway, she comes charging into their house, after work.

- Get instructions up for proper use of the swing - quick!

She'd noticed that the office desks were covered in photographs of swings and definitions of swings, and photographs of legs and arms in casts, bruised chins and shoulders, and photocopied Facebook pages of men and women dancing, cycling, running, weight-lifting, scuba-diving and getting hammered. In 1985 there were moving statues all over the country but this year it's the swings that are moving.

So, just to be on the safe side, the son writes out one simple instruction: DON'T BE F***IN' STUPID, and has it laminated. I arrive just when he's going out with the hammer and I offer to do the job because - those who know me already know this - I love hammering.

I'm going into detail because the same detail was used in evidence against me. By one of my granddaughters.

So, anyway, I'm just about to give the nail one last whack, when the swing hits me in the back. I've a cracked rib and I drop the hammer on my foot and hit my head off the wall when I'm bending down to pick it up, and then I can't straighten up again because of the fractured rib.

I decide not to sue the granddaughter and the owners of the swing, even though the granddaughter admits that she did it on purpose. Her argument is that the fault lies entirely with me, because I was standing in close proximity to the swing with my back to it, thereby ignoring the instructions I was attaching - illegally, she says - to the wall. She also argues that the swing is, in fact, mine because there is no documentary evidence to prove that there'd been a formal handover from me to her parents. She tells me this in the car on the way to Beaumont A&E. I'm actually doubled up in the boot because I can't sit in the passenger seat.

The child is nine. She's adorable - she really is - and absolutely terrifying.

Anyway, there are no hard feelings, even though I've become the Hunchback of Notre Dame, just when there's no Notre Dame.

- The bells! The bells! Where are the f***in' bells?!

I'm redundant and out of my tree.

- The bells, the bells!

- Stop that, Charlie, will you, says the wife.

She was mildly amused the first time I called her Esmeralda. But she seems to have grown tired of the role.

- Have you taken your pills?

She's become Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

- I'm not sure, I tell her.

- What d'you mean?

- The drugs, I tell her. - They've left me a bit vague. You look familiar, by the way. Have we met before?

- You're gas.

- I'm serious.

I'm not good with prescription drugs. I hate having to take any pills and tablets; they make me nervous. Guinness is my drug of choice and even if it was available in tablet form I'd still be wanting it in a glass.

But I've made a discovery. I'm surrounded by pharmacists. Every woman I know, including the one I seem to be married to, has a semi-secret cache of prescription drugs.

My sister-in-law asks me what I'm on.

I'm on the couch, in fact. I've been on it for four days and nights.

I lean over - it's agony, drugs or no drugs - and pick up the box.

- Difene, I read.

- What mg?

- Wha' wha'?

In seconds, the wife and her sisters and another woman who I think might be my sister - but as far as I remember I don't have any sisters. But anyway, they're comparing drugs, taking them out of their bags, from behind their ears, from inside their bras. It's like a Tupperware party for middle-aged junkies.

- The bells, the bells!

They're ignoring me.

I see my sister grabbing my Difene and slipping it into her handbag. But I don't have a sister!

- The bells!

Irish Independent

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