Harold woke to the miserable dark modernity as he did every morning, scrubbed the flakes from between his toes, stuck out his tongue, it was crimson, and stood lugubriously underneath the shower to wash the sin from his bones lest it seep out any more into the limpid air, affecting the iced horizons of the day. He was to be hosting a dinner party that night for his sister Susan and his brother in law, her husband, Patrick, and his apprentice in An Post who he had been courting, somewhat painfully, for the previous nine months. Susan was a solicitor, her practice on Baggot Street, and mainly specialized in contract law, none of which pertains any great relevance to this story nor prevailed any meaning upon Harold’s life – they were brother and sister, long since orphaned and occasions such as these were contrived. Harold did not like anything that was contrived. His brother in law was a pallid, intellectually abject man with little interest in anything other than railways; he was the chief executive of Iarnrod Eireann, and his ponderous, sagging features resembled exactly that of a tired rusty old locomotive. Suffice it to say Harold did not look forward to this evening with any particular excitement.

He had to figure out something to cook. He walked into Mount Merrion and sought meat. He had read on his iPad earlier that there was something redolent about swordfish so he though he’d give that a go. Into the butchers with him, with his skull bleeding and a hangover that’d sear paint from the side of a barge he began to purse his lips in a manner which suggested he was about to form a sentence. The Butcher, Ray, regarded him with his patented stupefaction. “The Swordfish, Ray. How much?” Pressing his fingers into the meaty flank of the beast in mildly lascivious fashion, Ray proudly evaluated the specimen, much in the way a horticulturist would present a corpulent radish at a provincial fair. “29.99 for the lot Har, Sword and all!” “I’ll take him”, Harold demurred, knowing how much this dish would impress Seamus and indeed cause Susan to privately lament her own culinary awfulness. The last time she invited him all she could muster was a painfully gooey carbonara with a side salad better suited to a rabbit than a human. He remembered thinking that the mushrooms she had presented had the texture, when chewed, of an ear. He’d show them. He’d colonize their minds with his ravishing starter of contempt, and later hopefully cop off with Seamus after copious amounts of after dinner liqeurs.

Harold was chief accountant with An Post and August was a somnolent time of year, work wise, not to mention the dearth in activity given the incremental rise of digital mail, a reality he welcomed (even expedited) given the infinite tedium of physical, human, postal accounting. Machines would replace Howard and he was absolutely okay with that. The inevitable arduousness of December in An Post was silently impending so Harold allowed himself nip in for a quick pint in the Merrion Inn. Harold despised the innumerable lodgings to be done around the time of Christmas, a time which Harold dreaded both on a professional and personal level. Day time drinking had become a way to ameliorate this burgeoning angst.

Wearing the facial expression of somebody burdened by their own sentience, crossing merrion road with sword snouted beast underarm, Harold made for the Inn. Ray had wrapped the Swordfish in what seemed like a very luxurious fine paper, diaphanous, yet not leaking, Harold saw no problem with nipping in for a pint, leaving the swordfish on the stool next to him. This was perfectly ordinary behaviour. And Harold did nip in, and good on him listening to the music of Lady Gaga on his iPhone while simultaneously reading about a bone broth recipe and the gory details of events in unfolding in Palestine. “I will cook that bone broth for Seamus and I”, he mused.

He glanced at his iPhone, necked the last of his O’Hara’s. 18:30. Still no word from Seamus. Or Susan. He didn’t particularly want Susan to make contact. But Seamus, he’d normally have been on by now and Harold was feeling coarsely randy. He swiped through Seamus’ facebook gallery and felt a mild, twitching arousal in his groin. An old woman glared at him from a corner cubicle. This made Harold feel analysed and judged. Was this old lady some kind of suburban oracle? Could she see through him and see the dirty thoughts he had about Seamus? Did she know of the indifference he felt towards his sister and even humanity itself? Could she even, help him? Maybe this strange old lady who was glaring at him with pupils smouldering could guide him in his pursuit of Seamus the adorable debutante? He thought it best that he leave and at once as thoughts of Seamus stammered through his mind. Paralysed by deep lust and emotion, the weight of Harold’s love for Seamus enchained him and indeed caused him to struggle to maintain his poise when crossing the junction at Ailesbury Road.

Over stimulated by the nip of ripe Irish ale and flushed by the penetrating glare of this strange mystic, Harold went home worried and began preparing the meal. Asparagus, potato dauphinoise and a beetroot, kale and quinoa salad to go with the Swordfish, he thought. He would dissect the beast and present it on narrow skewers and provide his guests with a variety of condiments to go with. Susan would complain about the condiments, he knew she would, sourly. He’d prepared himself for that inevitable quarrel. Now, for the beast! But as Harold turned about, expecting to see the Swordfish lying there wrapped in the diaphanous sheets Raymond had so kindly swathed the formidable marine olympian within, much to his dismay on the granite worktop there lay only his iPad – marooned, useless and inedible. The Swordfish was gone! The suburban oracle. She must have noticed he’d vanished without it. He would go to her and retrieve the Swordfish from her and beseech her counsel, but first he must rescue his beautiful dead fish.

Swordfish – a comic tragedy in three acts. Keep an eye out for act II ! PD

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