It’s midnight by the Heineken clock and I’m eating a McDonald’s at the base of the O’Connell monument when I hear somebody cursing and muttering above me, and who do I see climbing down from the top of the monument but Daniel O’Connell himself. He’s made it most of the way but he’s hesitating about jumping the last few feet.
“Just do it, Dan. It’s not far,” says I. “Make sure you bend your knees when you land.”
He makes the sign of the cross and he jumps, his cloak flying out behind him like your oul fella dressed up as Batman. Two paving slabs crack noisily under his feet like they’ve been struck by twin bronze sledgehammers, which I guess they kind of have been. Out of nowhere, an image flashes through my mind of stone tablets, smashed to pieces by some old man at the foot of a mountain. Charlton Heston, I think.
“Jaysus,” says he. “Did yiz have to put me so high?”
I crane my neck to look up at the empty pedestal. He uses the distraction to rob a few chips from my McDonald’s and he shoves them in his mouth with a grunt of satisfaction.
“These’re good,” says he, chewing. “I suppose the famine’s over, is it?”
“The potato famine? Yeah, a while ago, now.” I hand him the bag of chips.
“That’s good,” says he. “Glad to hear it.”
He turns three hundred and sixty degrees to get a good look at the place while I finish my Chicken Royale. He picks another chip out of the bag and waves it in the general direction of Starbucks, Burger King, Eddie Rockets, McDonald’s, and the other Starbucks.
“Am I still on Sackville Street?” says he. “It looks a bit different.”
“Same street,” says I. “But it’s O’Connell Street now.”
“O’Connell Street?” I notice a bit of a smile. He nods at the huge metal spire in the distance. “And what’s that? The O’Connell Spike? Daniel O’Connell’s Needle, something like that?”
“The Millenium Spire.”
“The Millenium? You mean, built in the year 2000?” He raises his eyebrows.
“Well, 2003. It was a bit delayed.”
He mulls this over for a bit and then he asks “And where’s Nelson? Yiz moved him somewhere?”
“Um, yeah, he was moved alright.”
“Proper order,” says he, frowning. “Didn’t like him looking down on me. One-handed gobshite. Could feel his beady eye on….” At this, he puts his hand on the back of his neck and wrinkles his nose, disgusted, like, and says “What the..?”
“Here,” says I, and gave him a wad of napkins.
He wipes the bird s**t from his head and neck and then he scrunches up the McDonald’s bag and uses it to finish the job.
“Seagulls,” he mutters. “They’ve lost the run of themselves.”
It’s late and I’m too cold and too drunk for conversation, so I stand. I only came down this end of the street to get away from that big English bollox, Jim Larkin. “Listen, Dan, I won’t keep you, gotta be making tracks.”
“Yeah.” He lets out a sigh and glances up at his pedestal. “No worries.”
He stretches his arms to get ready for the climb but then he grimaces and looks closely at his left elbow. He angles it for better light. The grimace turns into a frown. He sticks his index finger into a small round hole in his bicep and into another hole in his forearm.
“What’s the meaning of this?” says he. “Bullet holes? What have you muppets been up to?”
I back away. “Yeah, about that, Dan. I’d love to stay and chat, but…”