He sat there, on his stool by the fire, his shoulders hunched his arms folded protectively, one hand cupping the old briar pipe he was puffing. He twisted on his stool as I entered the house, slowly, the stiffness of old age showing, his slippered feet taking tiny steps as he circled cannily towards me, steadying himself warily with his stick. I sat down on the bench by the window and my roving eyes slewed briefly towards the lassie at the far side of the kitchen. He returned to face the fire.
“Do you know me?” I asked teasingly. Restless watery eyes paused. He looked me square in the eye and lifted the pipe from his mouth.
“I know yu well, yu boy yu, … yu have the features of yur grandfather, …… an manys the Fair Day I spent with John Joe, God rest ‘im.”
He replaced the pipe and recommenced puffing.
“How are yu keeping anyway Paddy?” I enquired caringly. He didn’t answer.
“You may shout, he’s a bit deaf at times,” volunteered the lassie with an encouraging smile as she washed down the dresser. I repeated the question, louder. He hunched his shoulders defensively and lifted the pipe from his mouth, a web of spittle forming in the cavity as he motioned to speak.
“I’m still here!” he replied, loud and testily. He spat forcefully into the open fire, the spittle blistering odiously on the red-hot turf.
“What age are yu now, Paddy?” I enquired keeping up the conversation, yet distracted by the voluptuous figure of the female, her beautiful red hair, her endearing smile, and her tantalising blue eyes.
His lips puckered meditatively for a moment before answering.
“I’m in my ……… eighty-fifth year,” he boasted his right hand rising shakily from the stick and brushing futilely the meagre hair across his cratered waxen skull.
“Would yu tak a bottle of stout Paddy?” says I, opening the neck of the brown paper bag.
“Aye! … I wud in soul,” says he. He straightened up in euphoric anticipation. Setting his stick to rest against his bony thigh his features developed an expression of childish innocence. I opened the bottle and the froth emerged like a great brown slug. He reached hastily for the bottle, his hand trembling, his eyes glowing like a child expecting sweets. The knotted hand closed tightly on the bottle. “Good luck to yu!” says he and he raised the bottle to his mouth. Distended lips encapsulated the rising slug and he supped the froth, noisily.
“That’s a fine bottle of stout,” says he, holding the bottle at arms length, squinting to read the label, the brown stain of porter running guileless down his unshaven chin.
“Well yur sticking the times rightly,” I commented stealing a glance towards the granddaughter.
“ Aye! …… I am that…. I canne complain,” he replied nonchantly, then lowering his head back he shook the dregs into his toothless mouth and smacked his puckered lips appreciatively. I glanced across the room and our eyes locked, beautiful smiling blue eyes.
“You’ll have another Paddy,” says I reaching into the brown paper bag. We talked in loud voices for a while, Paddy, his loosened tongue rambling, my eyes savouring his beautiful grand-daughter, she, teasing me in her own subtle way yet lending nothing to the conversation but her ears.
“Yur a lucky man Paddy to have such a fine lassie to look after yu.”
“Aye! …. Anne’s a grand girl, … she comes over of a Saturday to clean the place, …… aye a grand girl.”
A slight flush of embarrassment rose to her delicate cheeks and I smiled supportively. Paddy raised the empty bottle and supped the last ostentatiously. I crumbled the paper bag in like fashion.
“Ah! ….. I’ve taken all your stout,” he mumbled, his heavy tongue lethargic.
“Not at’ll Paddy! …… sur I enjoyed the craic!”
The conversation eased and I watched old Paddy’s eyes go heavy. He waved precariously on the wooden stool and I reached forward to support the feeble body.
“Maybe yu’d like to lie down Paddy,” says I caringly, “the heat of that fire’s putting you to sleep.” He slewed his face mechanically in my direction. Vacant eyes stared from their gaunt sockets. He arose, steadied himself briefly and then shuffled flaccidly towards the low room door, grunting in gasps as he went.
There was silence for a few minutes then Anne set down her cloth in the enamel basin and came across the kitchen floor, a frown of curiosity on her tender features. She stepped quietly into the low room, her head bobbing searchingly on her stretched neck. She returned and closed the door quietly, a clink of metal sounding as she released her thumb from the brass latch.
“There’s no flies on you, Gerry Quigley,” says she in a raised whisper, her eyes slitted in an amusing grin. I caught her tenderly as she passed and she dropped willingly on my knee.
“It’s just yu and mi and we have the whole afternoon to ourselves,” says I nodding towards the upper room.
“Get away a’ that with you!” she replied frivolously, shaking herself teasingly.
“Your a fine lassie Anne an sure what better way to spend an afternoon than in the company of yourself,” says I pulling a half-pint of whiskey from my inside pocket.
“I kept this for you an myself.”
“Ah! ….. get away a’ that! .. your only telling me that now my granddad’s in bed,” says she guardedly.
“Jasus! You hardly think I would waste good whiskey on oul Paddy,” says I caustically, “sur it wud be singin or fightin he’d be at if I gave him this.”
I removed the top and handed it to Anne. Hesitantly, a wavering grin of indecision on her face, she took the bottle, put it to her lips and swigged a few drams tentatively. Her neck and shoulders gave an involuntary shiver and as she swallowed, her face screwed up like a closed fist.
“Take a good sup Anne, it’ll do yu the power o’ good.”
I took the bottle and slaked my thirst greedily.
As the level in the bottle descended, her modesty receded. I pulled her closer, her plump breasts sandwiched passionately between our bodies. I felt the gentle heat of her warm buttocks upon my thighs. Her resolve weakened, we locked passionately.
“Let’s get more comfortable,” says I nodding towards the upper room.
“No! ..No! I’d be killed if my dad ever found out,” she mumbled followed by a burst of gigglish laughter. I gently covered her mouth smothering the ensuing childish guffaw. Holding each other for support we lurched unsteadily to the upper room and fell merrily on the bed.
“Gerry! Gerry! Wake up my granddads up, I heard him rattling the tongs in the kitchen.”
“Damn the drink!” I cursed as I walked home unsteadily, “an' bad scust to old Paddy and his forty winks.”
“Wha…whats wrong? I uttered in bewilderment, as I recollected my senses.
“My granddad’s up …. He’ll catch us on! What’ll we say we were doing in the bedroom? she exclaimed frantically, her hands trembling, her face pale.
“Catch us at what? I asked facetiously, a mule kicking my head, my throat parched, “sur we didn’t do anything, …we fell asleep.”
“Gerry! Please… get up quickly! ..You... you’ll have to go!” she stuttered in panic, “ you may get out the window.”
She quietly moved a small table and the widow sash squeaked as she raised the lower half.
“Is that you Anne?” came the feeble shout from the kitchen. We both froze!
“Yud better answer ‘im,” I whispered diffidently, my eyes searching for a hiding place should he venture down.
“Yes! ..it’s me, granddad, “I’m tidying the room.
A sense of urgency ensued and with Anne’s support, I eased my lower body out onto the gravel street.
“When will I see you again? I asked, my head and shoulders still protruding through the open window.
“Hurry up and get out!” she begged in exaggerated whispers, her clenched fists shaking with emotion.
“Not until I get a kiss and a date,” says I with pretentious confidence, my eye guardedly watching the room door. She stared momentarily at me, her cheeks pale, her hair dishevelled, and then she leaned forward and gave me a quick peck on the lips; the sour taste of whiskey on her breath.
“An' a date?”
“Oh you! … I’ll see you at the dance on Sunday night. You may comb that hair before you walk through the village, it’s sticking up everywhere, anyone would think you were only out of bed.”
“Ah! ….. but whose bed?” says I teasingly.
A flush of embarrassment rose in her gaunt feature as my words penetrated. I withdrew and the window closed with a squeak. She put her slim fingers to her lips and blew me a kiss.