16th June, 9 a.m.
To the heigh-ho belltoll of a near-bychurch tower he dragged his stepladder up the Mount of Stairs, stopped, looked over the banisters and cried in a loud voice:
‘How many coats d’yiz want on this?’
The women following closely behind raised their eyes to the off-white Heavens and intoned, ‘Two!’
‘Father, forgive them!’ he murmured, ‘They know well what they do!’
Following the nothing-new Nine o’clock News the plummyvoice of a radio rabbi declared it a day of remembrance for another Jew who had wandered and wondered.
‘An’ me always thinkin’ it was called Uselessis!’ mused the reluctant Michaelangelo. Meanwhile plummyvoice vox-popped passers-by with the following enquiry: ‘And how will you spend Bloomsday?’
The replies were lies.
‘Breakfast at Bewley’s!’
‘Visiting the Tower!’
‘Going to a reading!’
‘Paintin’ a bloodyceilin’!’ Michaelangelo snapped as he dug an ignorant screwdriver under the rim of a paint tin.
The levered lid flip-flapped in fright, made an inch-perfect side-on landing then went roly-polydown the stairs leaving a snailtrail of white emulsion in its wake.
Rocks! Wandering or otherwise!
The hoofless hush of the morning milkfloat was long gone bythe time he cleaned up and got back to the ladder again. From the stairwell he was witchwatched byPruneface (his mustard-gas mother-in-law) who had just taken cartons of cowjuice in off the door-step. At the same time the radio told of another old hag involved in delivering milk. Hearing some fella called Haines dreamed of shooting a panther the thought struck the painter that maybe he could shoot Pruneface and claim he was sleepwalking. Damned good defence. Myclient is a somnambulist and a great shot, yer Honour.
‘Ye missed a bit!’ Pope Pruneface called up to Missedabit Michaelangelo.
‘Effyewanit!’ the master craftsman muttered to the mute ceiling.
‘When will ye be finished?’ Pope Pruneface the Pachyderm pushed pushily.
‘When Igets t’ the other side!’ he hissed and slapping up a goodsup sent a dolloping snot of brilliant white pigeonshit dive-bombing down on Pruneface.
‘Careful, ye eegit, it’s like a shaggin’ snowstorm down here!’
But Missedabit Michaelangelo minded not and moved on from Creation to Cain as by bathdoor, beddoor and boxdoor he brushed whitening to snow-blind that tedious tundra measuring thirteen bythirty.
With plentyto do, and all dayto do it, he resolved to observe the holyday if not in body at least in spirit. Which reminded him he’d forgotten to buy turps. A few brush-strokes later the airways avowed that some youngfella called Stephen saw eternity stretch out before him and Missedabit, as he reconnoitred the remainder of the unpainted ceiling, sighed and said: ‘Jaysus, I know how ‘e felt!’
Pitpatpainting he had to admit this Bloom fella was one royal tulip. There he was sleeping arse to tip with his missus while knowing that some fella called Blazes Boylan was regularly doing the needful. At the same time the same Bloom was sending love letters t’ some youngwan beyond in Dolphin’s Barn. Distracted by this odd set up, Missedabit carelessly mushmashed a brushful, up, over, across and back. He dribbled, saw the dribble and moved quickly to save it. He did.
Then he saw that a treacherous jet black bristle had stuck itself to the whiteness.
As he pick-picked at the stuckstrand he reflected again on Bloom’s odd agenda regarding the opposite sex. He had to admit a ripple of sympathy for the man as he himself fancied the bit of stuff who ran the dispatch department in the factory where he worked. Oh, happy the man who would be as far up her as he was from her at that moment, suspended as he was, spinning with the tumbling world, floating weightless between the hall carpet and the all-swallowing Black Hole of the attic door.
Bluerinse by Blackdye i.e. Pruneface and daughter (wife to Michaelangelo) came to the bottom of the stairs and played a game of verbal Ping-Pong.
Pruneface. ‘It needs another coat!’
Wife. ‘D’ya think so?’
Pruneface. ‘Yea, defenee!’
Wife. ‘Yer man in the shop said the two ‘id do!’
Pruneface. ‘Naw, three, defenee. Ye can still see the streaks!’
Pruneface prevailed and Blackdye, backed up by Mammy, called a second encore from Missedabit who for the third time was sent wearily wandering ladderward again. A man in search of a purewhite ceiling.
On mounting the Hill of Golgotha for a third time he took his brush in his hand and bracing himself on his six-stepped scaffold cried to God in a loud voice why Pruneface never trained as a piano tuner, then she’d see neither ceiling nor streaks. As his crucified cries echoed through the world of the womanweary a gentle breeze rippled rather than ripped the box-room curtains while the sky grew dark but then rain was forecast and Pruneface came to the bottom of the stairs, raised Wayne-like her walking stick and drawled: ‘Truly it was some gobshite me daughter married!’
Him and the job almost finished. Arseholed and addled he wiped and wobbled, dipped and dabbled, dribbled and doubled back to make sure that this time he would be certified streakless. However, by that hour muddleminded Michaelangelo was suffering from the prolonged effects of weightlessness yet at the same time, gravitational pull not to mention the ‘G’ forces set up by his semi-elliptical orbit between the points of the Polar ice-caps. His distress was further compounded by a severe case of dehydration due to the absence of a couple of million cc’s of say-goodness-say-Guinness from his bloodstream. His condition deteriorated even further when some bleedin’ sadist read an extract about this gang in a pub and they callin’ balls o’ malt and wine o’ the land. Oh, cruelty wasn’t in it then true as he was stuck on that ladder didn’t they mention you-know-who sayin’ he couldn’t take a drink but he’d have a cigar which confirmed his belief that his brother-in-law had been this way before and that cute hoors are hereditary.
The work-a-day whitener is weary. Weary of the whiteworld. Whiteworld weary. The phew-it’s-strong paintpong combined with his pintlessness precipitates psychosis on the part of the painter. What? In other words, he’s hallucinating! First he sees a black cat, a familiar of Witch Pruneface, languish in a tray of wet soot then slowly creep up the hallwall and pad upside-down across the sheer white of the newpainted ceiling, Catfollowing, dressed in sheer black lingerie, comes the youngwan from the dispatch department who slithers sensuously across the snowscene spreading the pusspadded blackjack using a tiddlytrowel of peacocks feathers. She in tum is followed by Pruneface De Broomstick (a long-dead Huguenot harridan) who ascends bum-on-broom carrying a tray of new-pulled pints. Oh, woe is the wobblywatcher as she tips up the tumblers and washes all in landwine, the black blood of barley sluicing the spreadsludge to a sootyscape of streaks. He shrieks. Freaks. Falling. Calling:
‘I need a drinnnkkk!’
Midnight and beyond. Roll home he does and by Jingo he rolls home rolypoly. Blowin’ for tugs. At the garden gate he shays, ‘G’nite, shleep well an’ shee yiz shoon!’ to two sheebeen shipmates who shupport each other port by shtarboard. His attempts to get key into lock are frustrated by the unpredictable movement of lock, key and or arm or any combination of all three. By supporting right hand in the cup of left hand he guides the saw-toothed penile projectile into the lubricated ( three-in-one) labia of the lock.
The door opens. He falls flat on his face into the hall.
Obeying his own instruction he manages (not literally) to shit upright. Pushes door closed behind him. Door slams.
‘Sssshhh, I shaid !’
He forgets his key is still in lock. It will be discovered by the milkman in the later a.m. causing a domestic upheaval of seven on the Richter scale.
By the light of a nearby streetlamp he sees a shadow ghosting in the hall mirror. He leans close into the ghost and says;
‘We keppit! Me an’ me mates! Boomsbleedinday! Ah, the end a’ that radio readin’ was massive. A sholiloquy show it wuz!’
The image of Bloom’s odd sleeping arrangements flashes into his mind. He ponders it for moment then a plan forms in beer-befuddled brain.
‘Naaaw!’ he says. ‘It’d nevver work!’
All the same he consults the ghost.
‘Whaddya think? Jays, it’s be gash! Wuddinit?’
The ghost offers no opinion so he makes his way carefully up to the landing where he sneaks past the boxroom Basilica of Pruneface the Painful, ( wake her and he’d never hear the end of it). In their bedroom, in their bed, his wife, a head and shoal of curlerfish trapped in a hairnet. He strips. Nude now he peels back the bedclothes, lengthwise, like a banana. Be the light ‘iv the shilvery he eases up her nightdress until two blubberwhite arsecheeks beckon the bornagain Bloomite. Nose to her nook and knees to her neck he discards his dentures and nuzzles in nearer. He pulls the bedclothes over and is soon womanwarm and woozy. Snoozywoozy. Nuzzling nearer the wombweep. Weary. He is. Wombwishingly weary. Whitewearyworld. Whiteworldweary. Really … he is … quite … white … weary.
‘Iiii iichaaaaaaachh !’