A Circular Economy
Staring out the window
waiting for your call, the Queen
of the circular economy,
my favourite client.
A balance-sheet of murdered dreams,
bitter pith stuck in teeth.
Your self-esteem balloons backwards,
next door’s snowman melts upon the lawn.
Clock ticks its rhythm of if onlys,
this, that and the other
hadn’t happened or, at least,
not quite then. I wind it again.
A year ago they feted you
now a contagion of noes,
neighbour chucks stones at our hedge,
doesn’t care what’s there.
I can’t wedge the pieces in a way
that stops them toppling.
I have no answer for you –
is that why you don’t call?
Garret did what he was told, he walked out closed the door, counted to ten and then knocked before going back into Bob’s office. “Now”, said Bob, “what’s’ the problem this time Garret?” Bob had christened him gloomy Garret but hadn’t told anyone as it would be unbecoming of the managing director. Garret had a letter in his hand and thrust it dramatically on the desk in from of Bob, “read this” he said. Bob started to read aloud, “Notice of Summary Judgement”, “sure it’s just more legal nonsense” he said, “put it with all the others, by the time anything actually gets to court I’ll be retired”. Bob wasn’t far wrong, they had had lots of legal letters over the previous 12 months and his policy of ignoring them seemed to be working, anyhow he was getting close to retirement – “just two more years” he thought, and he would be free of the Magic Roundabout Company.
“This is different” said Garret, “we can’t ignore this one. A Summary Judgement means they will get an order this week and then if we don’t pay they can close us down”. “nonsense” said Bob, just get the lawyer fellow, Justin, is it? He can make them adjourn it and it will go away!”. Bob was a born optimist, unlike Garret who explained again, “Look, either we pay it or we’re out of business and we can’t pay because we have no money so what should we do?”. Bob was used to doom and gloom from Garret, “you aren’t giving me great options here Garret, are you? Call a meeting, get Teddy and Sam up here now”. Teddy was the Operations Director, the girls in accounts thought he was cuddly like a teddy bear but Garret thought he was a bungler who had caused a lot of the problems in the company by not delivering on time or by making roundabouts that didn’t spin properly. Sam was the sales director, “sneaky Sam” Garret called him because he always seemed to have some hidden agenda or some scheme going on that no one else knew about, Garret didn’t trust him.
“Should I get the nice sandwiches from Crusty’s?” Garret asked, he loved their sandwiches and couldn’t really afford them except when he could get the company to pay because they were for Board meetings. Bob looked over his glasses at Garret “you want to buy posh sandwiches when we can’t afford to pay our bills, what kind of a finance director are you?” Garret got out of the room fast and went to find Sam and Teddy to bring them back for the meeting.
“Okay” said Bob, “we have a situation, a Summary Judgement situation. Garret you explain.” Garret explained the position and made it clear that if they couldn’t find a solution they would out of business very soon. Bob asked for ideas. “What about having a big sale” said Sam, “big adverts in the papers and on the internet and get loads of sales, that would get tons of money”. Garret sighed and looked disgustedly at Sam, “you do know it takes us six months to make each roundabout and our customers are local authorities, what would be the point of having a sale?”. Sam looked a bit embarrassed, he realised his idea wasn’t so brilliant after all. Teddy thought he would suggest something to take the pressure off Sam, “if we use cheaper parts and less bearings in our roundabouts, I’d say we would save lots of money and then we could pay the bill”, he looked pleased at having made a valuable contribution but shut up when he saw Bob throw his eyes up to heaven and the others shake their heads.
“Does anyone know anything about this “Balls Bearings Company who are looking for the judgement?” asked Bob. “I know John Balls” said Teddy, my daughter is friends with his daughter and is going to her birthday party on Saturday”. Bob had an idea and asked for John Balls number.
Bob came back into the meeting room after making his call, he was beaming. “Well, that’s sorted” he said. “But how?” asked Garret. Bob explained, “I’ve promised him a roundabout in his back garden, to be delivered before his daughter’s birthday. We will give him our display model, it needs to be replaced anyway. He has agreed to knock ten grand off our bill and give us six months to settle it”. “we are saved…for now!”
He explained that John Balls hadn’t wanted to put them out of business, “in the roundabout business, what goes around comes around” he had said. Yes “a circular economy” Bob replied.
I heard mother’s footsteps approaching, getting louder. They were the footsteps of a mother who knew where she was going and what she wanted there. I flew from my perch on the ladder, and into the hallway pulling the door closed behind me, just in time to crash into her. I am knocked back and on the first breath that becomes available I address this immovable object.
'No, No, you can’t go in yet,' I spurt.
'What? I want to know how you’re getting on in there,' she says with an intent that indicates she might very well go through me.
'I... I... I’m not finished,' I’m stammering again for the first time in two years.
'I didn’t expect you to be finished,' and I know from her certainty she has been calculating times.
'I want it to be a surprise,' and I exhale the words trying not to betray my desperation in keeping her from the room with its one freshly painted wall. She twists her mouth to the left, with her eyes turning right, the way she does when weighing up whether she is buying a dummy.
'Ok,' she says, each letter lasting a full minute, 'I’ll be back in an hour.'
Hours earlier my mother had spread out the old newspapers, covering the whole floor. She even laid the papers out the hall, as far as the back door.
'You understand the job?'she said.
'And remember the price of that paint. If you spill it you’ll be paying for the rest of your life.'
I hadn’t a notion of spilling anything, but ‘Pussy Willow’, as the paint was called, had started making me nervous. As if the stakes weren’t high enough already.
'Here’s the deal,' she had said before going on to spell out the small print.
'You get this room painted, that’s two, maybe three coats, and clean up everything after you. Then you can book your seat on the bus to the Connaught final, in Tuam Stadium on Sunday. You’ll have the money in your pocket to cover the lot. Now get going, because time is money, and money makes everything go round’
It was time for the throw in, and mother had clearly marked the pitch. Anything she thought important enough not to get ruined is covered, which doesn’t include my hands. I hinted that a pair of gloves might not go astray.
'Don’t mind your gloves. You won’t have a proper feel for the brush with gloves.'
I didn’t say anything but I’m thinking, I won’t get to feel the soft hand of Sal Moore in mine this evening either, if I have pussy willow all around my fingernails. Mothers don’t realise there are bigger things to think of than the proper feel of a brush for a lad that turned fourteen on his last birthday.
She finally leaves; the ball is in, and the game is on. She had shown me how to cut in with a small brush at the junction between roof and ceiling, without making a mess, and it was here I would start. It was when I reached over the dresser, from my precarious stance on the small stepladder, that I saw the page from the ‘Mayo News’ special sports supplement for the Connaught Final. This page carried a picture and a report on the team that had beaten Galway ten years previously. I had read the first column when I realised I should be painting. Then I realised I had been pressing the brush against the glass of the dresser while engrossed in my reading.
I rushed to get the damp cloth she had left in case of such an accident. It is boring and time consuming removing paint from the three leaves of a glass inlaid shamrock, and near impossible to clean around the strings of a harp which some fool of a glass worker had inlaid in a fancy fashion. Still, I am in the first quarter with time on my side. No sooner was I reaching over that foolishly decorated dresser again, than my eye is caught by the black and white team photo. I carefully match each name to the player in the picture although I was only five when the game was played. I finish this poor waste of my time only to find that the streaks of paint I had casually applied to the wall had dried in a pattern not unlike the strings of the harp I had earlier cleaned from the glass. The thick lumps are as stubborn in their refusal to flatten as the hair on your head after getting out of bed.
I know I am against the clock, but an image of Joe Corcoran, carried on page two, fetching a ball from the very sky’s above, set me racing across the room, followed by a leap high in the air. Except in my mind I had not travelled the length of the room but forty yards of Tuam Stadium. I was on the fifty, the ball firmly in my hands, having been fetched from way above the reach of the great Mattie NcDonagh. I swung, kicking the ball over the bar, the crowd roaring, but sadly upended the bucket of water I had recently fetched from the well, and flooded the goalmouth.As I dry up the goalmouth I can feel time ticking away. In fact that point was scored going into the last quarter.
Then I felt the circular economy grind to a halt, as I heard my mother return. I had bought extra time but knew the game would not be won in injury time. After our sideline discussion, I hadrushed up the steps so fast that I almost fell and that was when the idea took hold. What if a heartless mother was to find her first born son on the floor not knowing was he dead or alive? There would need to be a short interval where she thought he was dead, followed by the relief of realising he was only unconscious, with at worst a bit of brain damage? No, I decided not unconscious, just stunned, or otherwise I might end up in hospital and ruin every chance of getting to Tuam Stadium on Sunday.
I would first rush the painting of the second wall; far better to have a mother face the near death of a hard working boy rather than a slobber of a son. She would be so relieved at been spared the expense of a funeral that she would surely spend the small outlay required to ensure his attendance at Tuam Stadium come Sunday. My mind is made up and even as my head paints the picture of my heroic near demise, Pussy Willow races across the wall at a fervent pace.
I decided I would fall from the ladder as I started the third wall. Of course I would not risk injury by falling from anywhere but lay myself on the ground, before kicking over the ladder, hoping that the racket would bring my mother running to learn of my fate. My mother did come running as I also gave out a desperate yelp like a kicked dog as I knocked over the ladder.
'The paint, the paint,' she is yelling as she enters the room and takes a leap over my mangled body on the floor. I come to at that precise moment and feeble was the voice that answered the leaping lady.
'I didn't spill the paint' is my plaintive dispatch from death row.
'I’ll spill your blood,' she says with passion, but not the kind of passion that will get me to Tuam stadium on Sunday, as she continues to roast my mangled body.
'How many times did I tell you not to fall off them steps?' she says, starting on her warm up routine.
'I’ll finish it myself. Take some feeding down to the hens, and don’t trip over one of them on the way you heedless amadáin.' She says this knowing it is a low tackle, since feeding the hens is a girl’s job.
There was nothing for it but to suffer a full recovery. No money would circulate from my efforts. As I splutter my way towards the yard I can hear the stream behind the sheds spill over the stones. It puts me in mind of the four fresh salmon my father placed in the submerged little crate that we use to keep our fish cool and fresh, with them safely away from the public eye. I had held the net with himself on the opposite bank in the early hours waiting for the salmon to run with the flowing tide.
'You’re alright,' the father would say, 'it’s not a sin, but it is again’ the law so be careful.'
Being careful meant been risen from my bed at five o’clock in the morning, taking the net from its hiding place to pull the river with my father. I was thinking hadn’t I earned a salmon for myself, and wouldn’t Michael Dearg like a fresh salmon? The same Michael Dearg that owned a motor car and never missed a Connaught Final. I picked the best of the four salmon from the submerged crate and put him in a plastic bag that said 10:10:20.
I was getting back to myself now and even left the bag aside for a minute in the top meadow, while I scored two crucial points for Mayo from way out on the wing. That left me warmed up nicely to make my case for a seat with Michael Dearg.
'Does your father know?' He inquired, eyeing me carefully. I didn’t blame him for showing caution, for wasn’t I a bit afraid of the father myself.
'No, this is a fine pollock my father gave me for helping,' I replied.
'I suppose she’s a pink pollock so?' And Michael Dearg winked with his reply.
He knew we were always told to say we had pollack, because killing pollock was not against the law, like salmon poaching.
'No point in admitting to a crime” the father would say.
‘He’s a Pollock anyways’ was my cautious reply.
‘That’s the main thing; gets us all off the hook, including the fish’
‘That’s right Michael, didn’t I take him off the hook myself abroad in the curragh?’ and this time I wink, both of us knowing the fish never suffered a hook in his life.
‘I suppose a man would be coughing up a few bob for the like of her,’ is Michael’s first shot in making a bargain.
‘I was hoping you might have a seat for me to the Connaught Final on Sunday’ and my heart quickens as I open up the play.
‘Does your mother know?’ He says this like a man would rather trample the eggshells under a hatching swan than risk offending my mother.
‘She said I could go if I found a seat,’ I lied, which is a sin but not against the law like snaffling a salmon.
‘That’s a bargain so,’ he says and spits on his hand before stretching it out. I slap the outstretched hand just like the men do after selling a bullock, and the deal is sealed.
‘Be down here at ten o’clock on Sunday morning. We’ll have the breakfast on the road, and seeing as you’ll be having another salmon for me before the summer is out, I’ll even pay for your ticket’
‘If I’m still alive,’ I say foolishly, but my mind is on the issue of returning to my mother on Sunday evening.
‘Ah now, my driving is not that bad,’ says Michael laughing, knowing his reputation as the worst driver in the parish. I laugh with him, happy that at least I didn’t draw his attention to the more likely cause of death at the hand of my mother late of a Sunday evening.