The dad driving the buggy was drenched. The baby inside was just about dry.
But for how long? A small lake formed on the hood of the buggy but at least the soaked dad was near enough home.
The buggy was a fine weather conveyance, a sporty hatchback, easy to lift up the cliff walk in Ballybunion.
The flowery, faded colours of the old buggy were a contrast to the alternate grey and black-blue of the moody December sky.
If there was an NCT for buggies it would have been scrapped a long time ago.
The dad wore a light, cheap coat. The rain resistance was about two minutes and, man, was this rain. Torrential drops as big as sliotars fell in blobs. The nearby automatic car wash was drier.
But he was airy was the dad as he made his way to the shelter of the garage forecourt.
He wasn’t a bad lad. Got into a bit of trouble when he was younger. Nothing too serious. I forget what it was but there were no drugs involved.
The smart drug sellers are good at market research. They usually target lads like the Wet Dad when they are in their teens.
There wouldn’t have been much money at home and his own dad was long gone. The leaving was about the best thing he ever did for his kids.
The Wet Dad drove a bike without brakes when he wasn’t on the buggy. Mostly on the footpath. He was good natured and moved off the street on to the road whenever an old person passed by. There was always a big salute and he was known to be very good to the neighbours.
Joe Brolly is a criminal law barrister, as well as a football pundit and an All Ireland winner.
Joe said to Tommy Tiernan the other night, on a repeat, that poverty is the cause of crime.
He is so right. I know there are millions from impoverished backgrounds who did very well in life but if you are born poor, the odds are stacked against you from the very start.
The Wet Dad had it tough enough growing up but he managed to avoid getting involved with the drug boys around town.
Here’s how they recruit their operatives. First is to get them into smoking a joint. It’s a case of: “Don’t worry, you can pay me back later on.” The target is made to feel one of the lads. Jokes are cracked. Next is: “Do you know that bit of cash you owe me, would you ever drop this to Johnny? Thanks and the weed will be on the house.”
If the kid refuses, the dealer ups the price of the entry level joint immediately to a sum that gets the kid worried out of his brain.
That’s how they do it. That’s how they suck in the kids. The Wet Dad said no. He told me so.
The Wet Dad did do a bit of work from time to time, when there was work going. His choice of work was limited. He wasn’t lazy. It was just that his mam never did his lessons with him when he was a kid, just as her mom didn’t do her homework. The teachers did their best but education is a team game. Education gives you choices.
He played football and was just one of the lads. There were no airs and graces allowed in the sports clubs. We were all the one under that jersey. At least on the teams I played with or coached, we were all the one. I hope so.
I might refine that a little. Graces were allowed, but airs were forbidden.
It’s only when the kids hit 18, the school pals shoot ahead. College, the loan of the car, pocket money.
The Wet Dad was still their pal but the gap was widening.
The Wet Dad would have seen the bus pull out of The Square every Sunday night for the colleges, while he was arsing around town on the bike with no brakes. The Wet Dad was smart but he never stood a chance.
The baby was a little dote. Pretty like her mom. The Wet Dad was good fun. He was always in good form. His partner enjoyed, him, I’d say. The pregnancy wasn’t planned, I would think. They were too young but they had their own place. The social helped with the rent. But they were too young. Again I’m only guessing, but was he out walking in the rain because there was trouble at home? It is so tough on young moms and dads.
The Wet Dad worked for one of The Men in Black. He was off the books. Called in when he was needed. The bit of extra Johnny Cash came in handy. The social was a help, but was nowhere near enough when it came to fun money or emergency money.
I ran from the car in to the garage shop. I was cranky enough. Our pub was closed and is going to be closed until well into next year.
I’m not sure what I was angry over or who I was angry with. Looking back now I may have been angry over me and with me.
I made more mistakes than most. The Wet Dad should have been given my place. He was more worthy.
The sky had turned purple black and that was where I was. The expression pathetic fallacy came back to me from Mr Given, our English teacher. Pathetic Billy, I was thinking.
I queued up inside the shop, 2 x 2 metres away from the Wet Dad.
“ Is there a two for two on the lollies today?” he joked.
He had to go deep into his pocket. There was more brown money than silver.
The two metres rule is necessary but the distancing stops us trying to do nice things quietly. I was hoping he had enough for the lolly and wouldn’t be embarrassed.
I was on my way to the warm car in my Alpine coat that was tested on Everest.
The Wet Dad pulled up the collar of the summer jacket as if that would save him from the rain. There was no offering him a lift. Covid rules rule us.
“Desperate day,” I say.
“It could be worser, Billy,” replied the Wet Dad, with a big smile.
I laughed for ages in the car. Not at the Wet Dad, but from the kick I got from his take on life.
Lucky Billy started up the car. “It could be worser,” I said again and again, aloud, alive oh.
I passed the the Wet Dad. He was bent over the top of the buggy, talking away to his little girl, as the two of them sped off for home.