Tuesdays are quiet in Sorrento’s. Kev is sitting in his car, scrolling and waiting for deliveries. Since his brother Paul was sent away, Kev’s become obsessed with finding the Facebook pages of criminals. Recently, he found the page of a young man in custody for the killing of an elderly woman in North Tipperary. Before that, he’d been fixated on the page of a man who’d killed his parents, then turned the gun on himself. If the pages aren’t set to private, Kev can read all the comments. He uses a fake profile. His first comment was meek: dirty scumbag. He got ten ‘likes’. He became more confident and got fifty ‘likes’ once, for a long comment under the profile picture of a man in Donegal who’d killed his wife with a hammer, then tried to make it look like a burglary. In the picture the man is wearing boots and goggles, holding aloft his county flag and smiling on top of a snowy mountain. Kev was drunk when he wrote the comment: Id love for u to be in front of me right now, the hack of ya, ya scaldy lookin mutt. Id blow ur fat head clean off ur shoulders with a belt of something u evil sick twisted cunt.
Kev gets a one-ring missed call and shifts into the chipper, under the hatch, to the back heater, where the delivery orders are kept. The address is on the bottom of the receipt and he types it into Google Maps and heads off. The two staff members, Francesca and Bernardo, are watching the Nine O’Clock News. Paolo is the owner, but doesn’t work Tuesdays. Kev’s been on since six and this is his fourth delivery. He listens to the radio on his rounds and will, sometimes, text in a request for his mam. She worries about him, out delivering. He’ll occasionally put a request in for Paul. Kev hasn’t visited him in a month so isn’t sure if he hears them. They used to listen to the radio together and send in fake requests.
Before Paul got put away, he and Kev had been working on their own version of Cluedo, with six local characters. The board is currently half-finished. Paul wants Kev to keep going but Kev lost heart doing it alone and hasn’t touched it in five months. The last character they did was their neighbour, Brendan Burke, a retired plumber back living with his elderly mother after his marriage broke down. Burke is bald, active and sprightly. He cycles everywhere. The brothers had him strangling the victim, Molly Flynn, with his bike lock.
Couples in apartment blocks are the worst for tipping. Their food usually goes a bit cold by the time Kev gets up the stairs or the lift. They’ve no problem complaining or leaving reviews on websites. Rushed families are good, they’ll throw any money at you just to shut the kids up. Tuesdays are mostly couples and bachelors. There’s usually one or two curveballs, but none so far tonight. Kev only officially does three days, but Paolo doesn’t care who works. The drivers have a Whatsapp group, where shifts are swapped. Kev is always up for being out of the house. Last week, he worked nearly forty hours. The chipper closes at midnight Sunday to Thursday and at half-one Friday and Saturday. He drives his mam’s Micra for the deliveries.The car is sun-bleached with different shades of red. His mam doesn’t drive anymore and there are scrapes and small dents all over the bumper and side doors from where she used to hit it off the front gate.
Kev is just back and scrolling when Mark from the Village Take-Away pulls in beside him. The windows come down.
‘Story Kev, busy?’
‘Fuck all, four so far, yourself?’
‘Grand, just did a couple in their thirties, that apartment block near the M50. 16” pizza and a bag of chips each, fucking slobs.’
‘Three quid. Money to burn these cunts.’
Mark is a fitness freak who despises fast food, but more so, despises the people who order it. His fiancée is pregnant and he’s working two jobs to save money. His goal is to be a personal trainer. Between orders, Mark does squats, lunges and stretches. Kev’s never seen him in a jacket or jumper, and his t-shirts are at least a size too small for him. He keeps a wrist strengthener beside him and flexes throughout his shift. Kev is tolerant, but wary of Mark. He’s an old friend of Paul’s and used to spend a lot of time in their house.
‘That’s where this country’s at,’ Mark continues. ‘Do you think in Haiti they’ve gobshites delivering food to cunts in high-rises?’
‘I don’t know, man, I doubt it.’
Mark’s sister volunteered in Haiti for three months last year and he hasn’t stopped talking about it since. Kev stays scrolling.
‘Who’s it today?’ Mark asks.
‘Your man who killed the Polish lad outside the nightclub in Donegal Town.’
‘I heard about that.’
‘Have a look.’
Kev shows Mark a picture of a young man at a music festival, the band on stage, a cigarette in his lips, arms in the air, outstretched in a state of victory, as if he’d just completed a race.
‘What’re the rabble saying?’
‘The usual. Bring your Vaseline with you buddy, you’re gonna need it.’
‘You are one fucked-up cookie, my friend.’
‘It passes the time.’
‘There’re better ways,’ Mark says. ‘Smoke in a bit?’
‘Yeah, wait till Tsunami gets here.’
As a mark of respect, Kev never looks at the pages of the victims. When Paul was sent to jail, he gave Kev his passwords to deactivate his accounts. It took Kev a week to do it. He wanted to see the level of abuse Paul got. Currently, Kev is caught up in a two-day argument on the page of a Mayo woman who killed her husband. The papers reported years of domestic violence from the husband, but she’s been attacked online. The comments on her page are predictable: Burn in hell u sick cunt. You’ll get what’s coming to you in the next life. Kev’s comment, which started the argument, was: This woman was clearly a victim herself, we need more resources to help the most vulnerable. He was happy with that one and had retyped it a few times to get down exactly what he wanted to say. He hadn’t responded in a day, not since he was accused of excusing the woman’s actions and was called a potential kiddy killer.
Tsunami Jack arrives at half-nine and jogs over to the lads. After the 2004 tsunami, Jack put on a high-vis and, with an I.D. badge pinned to his vest and handmade signs on buckets, went around pubs in town collecting for an unnamed charity, until an off-duty Garda questioned him and had him pulled in. The money was donated to a real charity and he was let go with a caution. He spends his summer evenings in the bookies. Once the last race finishes, he hangs around the village, talking to the smokers or delivery drivers. Jack worked as the cellar-man in the Laurels before it shut last year. He lives half a kilometre away and lost his licence six months ago, when he drove from his house to the village after a few cans. Jack is thirty-five, ten years older than Kev, two older than Mark. He rubs his hands before resting an elbow on each car.
‘Story lads, busy?’
‘Fuck all going, Jack,’ Mark says.
Kev drops the phone and scans the street.
‘Smoke, Kev?’ Mark asks.
‘Yeah, fuck it, no one’s around.’
Mark pre-rolls all his joints, four one-skinners, and keeps them in a small case under the seat. He’s paranoid about the Gardaí stopping him. His joints are always the weakest and he keeps multiple packets of mints and chewing gum in his glovebox. Jack loves the dirty delivery stories Mark regales him with—lonely single mothers giving him phone numbers and invitations to slip back later. Kev gets propositions and invitations too, but he’s never followed any of them up. Not even tempted. Even when it’s raining he wouldn’t step into a house. He always keeps the car running and acts like he’s busier than he is. Kev and Jack know Mark calls into houses after he’s finished, and they’ve heard him on the phone, lying to his fiancée about how busy the night is.
Jack passes the joint from window to window. Molly Flynn and her cocker spaniel walk by. She’s late fifties, with wild scraggly hair. She walks her dog without a lead. She has thick red cheeks, permanently embarrassed, and waves over without really looking.
‘Have you gone there, Jack?’ Mark asks.
‘Once, New Year’s Eve a few years back.’
‘This cunt’d get up on a wet Monday morning.’
Mark looks over to Kev, who has his head down and dug into his phone.
‘You and that fucking phone, man,’ Mark says.
‘What?’ Kev asks, a dazed look in his eye.
‘Yeah, she’s our neighbour. Look, this lad in Donegal is getting dog’s abuse.’
Kev shows them a series of messages. Jack squints to read the text.
‘Vicious stuff. Are you posting?’ Jack asks.
‘Not this one. Trying to take a break.’
‘Why do you look up that stuff Kev?’ Jack asks. ‘Do you not think it’s a bit gruesome?’
‘A little, maybe, but it helps.’
‘With what?’ Mark asks.
‘The papers tell you fuck all.’
‘How’s Paul?’ Jack asks and Mark perks up.
‘We haven’t talked in a bit. We had a row about mam,’ Kev says.
‘Yeah?’ Jack says.
‘He’s worried about her slipping and is giving me grief. I’m letting him cool off for a while.’
‘I was talking to him a couple of weeks ago,’ Mark says, ‘gave him a fitness programme. The cunt lives in the gym.’
Paul got ten years. He used a weight on his father’s head while he was sleeping. Their mam was in the spare room and Paul waited until her sobbing had stopped and his dad’s drunken snores started. His face was crushed so badly they couldn’t have an open coffin. Paul didn’t run away. He sat and smoked and let his mam scream and ring the Gardaí. Kev never saw the body. It all happened quickly and the house has been quiet since. During the day, Kev makes sure he’s out from nine. He tells his mam he’s looking for a job or going to interviews, but usually he’ll just drive to Viewpoint and sleep until lunchtime, then go home to eat. He goes to the gym until evening, comes back for dinner, before napping and going to work. His mam has moved into Paul’s room. The master bedroom has been completely emptied—right down to the curtains, not a hanger in the press, the carpet stripped. She hoovers the house every day, top to bottom. All pictures of his dad have been removed. Kev is thinking of going away but he hasn’t built up the courage to tell his mam yet.
The night passes. There is only one order between ten and twelve. Jack stays with Kev, chain-smoking in the passenger seat. Jack knows the estates well and helps Kev with directions and hard-to-find houses when Google Maps lets him down. Before closing, a big order comes in—the last of the night, a house in Mountain View Rise. They’ve ordered twelve bags of chips and six battered sausages. Because the stock is being cleared, five onion rings and two battered burgers are thrown in for free. Kev returns the float and gets paid for the night: six hours makes thirty-six, two euro for each delivery makes twelve, a tenner for petrol plus tips leaves him with €64.50. They give him his dinner: a 16” pizza and chips. He takes two half-pints of milk. In the car, he gives Jack the food and a carton of milk. Jack digs in like a ravenous dog. Mark pulls up as Kev is about to leave. He looks at the hefty bag on the back seat.
‘Who the fuck is that for?’
‘A gaff party in the Rise.’
‘Whose name’s on it?’
‘That’s Fran Doyle’s little sister.’
‘He’s a fucking dope. I’ll spin up with yis, see the skirt.’
‘Nah leave it, Mark.’
‘Fuck it man, something to do, isn’t it?’
They drive together towards the mountains. Kev is a slow and conscientious driver and keeps checking his mirrors, annoyed by how close Mark is. The Rise is the last estate before the suburbs give way to the motorway and then the wide stretch of gorse, farms and mountain paths. Paul went to school with Fran Doyle; they were friends for a while. Fran is another character in Paul and Kev’s Cluedo. He’s a trainee chef and they have him killing Molly with a frying pan. The driveway is full, so Kev parks a little away from the house. He zips up his jacket and takes the three bags up the drive. The front door is open. Two baby-faced lads are smoking in the doorway. He waits as the lads call, then scream Gemma’s name. Mark is parked across from the house, like an undercover Garda, with his lights and engine switched off. Kev looks at his own car but can’t make out Jack. Gemma appears, tipsy but in control. She’s thin and pale, barefooted and wearing a black jumpsuit. Three of her drunker friends surround her and try to pay, pulling money from Kev’s hands and replacing it with their own. They are all three to four years younger than him and he remembers some of the faces from school. He knows all of them through Facebook. Kev wavers at the door as they argue. He ends up with a clean tenner in tips, plus change. As they are about to go, Kev says:
‘I threw in some extras for ya, a couple of onion rings and two battered burgers.’
‘Nice one man, you’re a legend,’ one of the lads replies.
Kev asks him if Fran is about. The lad goes in. A minute later, Fran appears, heavyset in a blue hoody. Kev hasn’t talked to him in person since the funeral. They shake hands. Fran asks after Paul. There’s movement behind Kev and he turns to see Mark strolling towards the house, pushing his shoulders back and forth and bouncing his head, as if to some music only he can hear. He taps the bonnets of the two cars in the driveway. He pats Kev on the back and looks into the open door of the house.
‘Story Fran, session, is it?’
‘Something like that, Mark.’
Kev updates Fran about Paul but Mark keeps butting in and finishing his sentences.
‘You should see the cunt man, he’s gotten massive.’
Kev sees Mark gearing up for something and knows he’s itching to go inside. Fran looks nervous and Kev glances towards the car. He can’t see Jack for the darkness, but wishes he were here beside him.
‘Stall it, Kev,’ Mark half-orders, as he sees Kev’s body shift away from the house. Kev looks at Mark’s bald head—a shiny globe, full of veins and tension. Kev can feel the cold and knows Mark must too. The windows are full of gawkers and Mark is asking Fran if he has any weed or smokes. Mark has moved closer to him. Fran peeks back at his front door constantly. Mark keeps smacking his palm with his fingers, a one-handed clap.
‘C’mon Mark, leave them at it, they’re just chilling out,’ Kev says.
Mark lunges at Fran, feints and shadow boxes on the spot.
‘Cause ya can’t, ya won’t,’ Mark shouts and laughs loudly.
‘What does that mean?’ Fran asks.
‘You were always a dope, Doyler,’ Mark says, watching Fran flinch.
‘Here,’ Fran says and moves into the doorway.
Kev is in the middle now, staring at Mark.
‘Leave it man, that’s how things start,’ Kev says.
‘Nothing’s starting,’ Mark replies, looking around him. ‘Saps.’
Mark walks off and with the sole of his shoe kicks the door of a car. Kev turns and shakes his head at Fran, tells him he’s sorry and that he’ll see him again. They shake hands. As Kev walks away, he hears the door being locked and bolted. At the car, Mark is leaning in the passenger window, telling Jack what happened, giving a stretched out, exaggerated version of events.
‘We go for a smoke, lads?’ Mark asks while rubbing his hands.
Jack looks at Kev.
‘I’m going home. I’m wrecked,’ Kev says.
‘You want a lift, Jack?’
‘No, I’m grand with Kev, cheers Mark.’
‘Fuck yis, ya saps. Go off and ride each other if you like.’
Mark gets no reply and sniffs the air around him.
‘See ya tomorrow, Kev.’
‘Yeah Mark, tomorrow.’
Mark spits on the ground and turns towards his car. Kev speeds out of the estate. He’s in too high a gear for the windy roads. Jack looks frightened. Kev hasn’t spoken since he left the driveway.
‘You up for a smoke, Jack? Sorry, I never asked.’
‘Course man, whatever you’re doing.’
There is no traffic and Kev uses his full beamers.
‘Maybe you should slow down, Kev,’ Jack says, holding onto his seat. ‘You seem a little tense.’
‘I know man, he’s full of it. I think he’s back on the bag.’
They arrive at Viewpoint with only one other car there, parked at the far end of the car park, its lights off, but with a faint glow of something being smoked. Below, Dublin is bathed in orange. Every time they’re here, Jack tries to position himself, to find his house or street among the jumble of lights. He gets excited and likes to cross the road to the fields and sit on the low wall. Kev never leaves the car except to piss. He rolls a joint while listening to the radio: soft jazz, movie soundtracks and sean-nós songs. He takes his time, mixing the weed and tobacco, flipping the joint carefully, expertly. He opens the sun-roof and both the passenger and driver’s windows. A cool breeze enters, which wakes and stuns him. Kev picks up his phone and goes to his drafts folder. He rereads the message he’s been writing all night. As if he can smell the weed, Jack comes back in, panting.
‘You wouldn’t wanna walk too far out there, man. I’m telling you, dark as fuck,’ Jacks says.
‘Things turn very quickly, that’s all I know.’
‘You could be anywhere.’
‘You feelin’ better?’
The word better hits Kev and he looks at Jack, exhales upwards and passes him the joint.
‘Yeah man, thanks for asking. I’m working on a message for this lad in Donegal.’
‘The little skinny prick?’
Kev nods. ‘I wrote it earlier and am thinking of posting it, listen: *If you are found guilty of this barbaric crime you should spend the rest of your life in a grey claustrophobic cell reflecting on your lack of humanity towards that poor lad. May God console that lad’s family and friends and your family also because you have broken their hearts too. *What do ya think of that?’
‘It’s something man, it’s really something. Is there any milk left? I’m all cotton mouth.’
Kev passes his unopened milk and Jack downs it in two gulps. The orange lights flicker and dance across the city. The other car speeds out of the car park. The night behind them is pitch black, away up towards the Old Military Road. They finish the joint in silence, no cars pass and the radio is so low as to be inaudible. When the joint is finished, Jack feels uneasy and slightly nervous. He sniffs the air and looks around him. Kev has his eyes closed and is leaning back in his seat.
‘What are we gonna do now?’
‘I’ve no fucking idea, man. Not a clue.’