A Wee Bit of a Farce.
Joe paused outside the kitchen door, his brain floundering to catch up with his ears.
His stomach dropped and the shopping bags he'd been carrying clattered to the ground.
Face flushed scarlet with anger, Joe McCool stood outside the door. His wee granddaughter's voice bounced around inside his skull...words he'd never wanted to hear from Erin in a million years.
"For the Love of God, James! Just stick the feckin' thing in, will ya? They'll be home soon! "
Ever since he'd heard Erin was going out with Deirdre Mallon's wee nephew, he'd been on his guard. Joe knew as well as anyone what young fellas were like, regardless of whether they were of the Irish variation or the English variation (or some mixture of both of the above!)...and this meant trouble.
"A'right there, Da?", Mary asked from the front door, eyes immediately falling upon the discarded groceries and glowering at him accordingly. "Ach, where're d'ya think yer goin' with my shoppin'—"
Shaking his head vehemently, Joe cut her off mid-sentence. Finger on his lips, he gestured furiously towards the kitchen door.
Mary frowned, not too happy about being silenced by her Da like she was some misbehaving wee'un. Either way though, her concern was well and truly peaked by the look of pure horror on his face.
Approaching the door, the voice of a characteristically hesitant James Maguire filled her ears...
"Are you sure, Erin? I don't want to—you know, damage anything."
"Yer not goin' to damage anythin'! Just wiggle it around a wee bit."
"Christ, that's a tight squeeze."
"Oh shite...I think yer stuck!"
Mary gasped, mouth dropping open almost comically.
Blessing herself, the scenes at A&E (bad enough for anyone in a five mile radius to require an exorcism!) were already running rampant through her head.
Sweet sufferin' Jesus, what would the neighbours say?
"God help us and save us!"
Mary Quinn couldn't believe it!
—or maybe she could...
Better than anyone, Mary knew her daughter. Erin was as impulsive as they came, as stubborn as a mule and (more often than not) lead heart before head.
Gerry would say she was her Mammy's girl...Mary would hear none of it.
James, she'd had a bit more faith in. Her daughter's wee English boyfriend was a good boy, one who'd successfully wriggled his way into Mary Quinn's heart somewhere between complimenting her spectacular choice in hat and missing his robot convention to take Erin to prom.
Wasn't he supposed to be the sensible one?
"Maybe I should back up a little?"
"No wait, Love. I think yer doin' grand. Shove it in a bit farther."
"That wee prick!", Joe thundered, veins popping and nostrils flaring in anger.
The sight of her father fit to explode reminded Mary of a very different scene, one that had played out nearly twenty years earlier. Not that she'd be discussing that...
Oblivious to his daughter's musings, Joe had every intention of cutting butt across the street to Jim's and making off with his trusty 'oul hunting riffle. Wildly vicious polar bears, wee English fellas who couldn't keep it in their trousers...they were all the one to Joe McCool!
"I'm blamin' that husband of yours, Mary!", he insisted, never (even on his worst day!) able to resist a jab at his son-in-law's expense. "Never settin' any ground rules! Practically lettin' the wee'uns run amok around here, he is!"
Mary scowled, springing to her husband's defence. Erin and James would be getting a good firm talking to in a few minutes and they'd have absolutely no one to blame for it but themselves.
"Slow down there, Da...leave Gerry outta this!"
Appearing just in the nick of time, Gerry Quinn materialised at the front door, armed with the last of the shopping bags. He eyed his wife and father-in-law in confusion. "What in the name of God are ye still doin' out in the hall?"
Joe whirled around to face Gerry, the southern acting as a handy punching bag while he decided exactly what he'd be doing to scare the bejaysus out of the young fella doing God knows what in their kitchen.
A wee bit of threatening...some mild bodily harm. No bother!
"We're doin' what you should've been doin' months ago, ya useless Free State Fucker!...I'm goin' gettin' Jim's huntin' riffle."
Ears reddening as they generally did when he was angry, Gerry bravely put himself between the door and his trigger happy father-in-law.
"Excuse me, Joe! Yer not goin' anywhere with a firearm!"
Joe's eyes narrowed dangerously at the blatant challenge of his authority. After all, the day when he was forced to listen to the complete and utter gobshite his daughter called a husband was the day Joe McCool was well and truly fucked!
Once again, he opened his mouth to argue; "Our wee Erin's in there doin' the four legged foxtrot with Kathy Maguire's little prick of a son and yer just sta—."
"But—", Gerry attempted to argue, face burning. As a man who couldn't even cope with the discussion of knickers, the current conversation was the last one of the world he was comfortable having with Joe.
"Don't you dare 'but' me, boy. I'll headbutt ya out the door!"
Completely ignoring the rest of his father in law's tirade, Gerry's eyes sought out and caught those of his wife. In a house as perpetually jam-packed as theirs, silent communication had become a necessary means of survival.
Gerry knew that look. He knew what Mary was asking of him. And by Christ if things were as bad as Joe was suggesting, there was no way in hell Gerry wanted to be at the other side of that door.
"Mary, don't look at me like that", Gerry returned, already reluctantly making his way over to her.
"She'll look at you whatever way she likes!", Joe barked.
Mary nodded somewhat triumphantly and she grasped Gerry's shoulder, bracing herself for whatever else they would hear. They pressed their ears to the kitchen door...
"D'ya know what? I still don't think that screw's in the right place."
"Of course it's in the right place. Everything looks perfectly sturdy."
Suddenly, the sounds of a loud crash filled the air, accompanied by the the hurried apologies of James and a rather colourful string of expletives from Erin.
"Ahh feck it! Is that what you call sturdy?"
Mary stepped back, completely confused, and made eye contact with her father. Steam still pouring out his ears, the poor man looked downright disgusted. Screw? Sturdy screws? So that's what the wee'uns were calling it nowadays! Absolutely mingin'!
Meanwhile a realisation of a completely different sort dawned upon Gerry. He whirled around to see the expressions plastered across the faces of Mary and Joe and couldn't help himself but burst out laughing.
Jesus Christ, was he relieved!
Gerry smiled teasingly, putting a comforting arm around a completely baffled Mary who still seemed to be expecting all manners of accidents. Joe just continued to look at him, glaring openly like he'd finally gone mad. The sight only made Gerry laugh all the more.
"Love, didn't you tell me yesterday to get the girls to put Anna's Christmas present together?"
Frowning, Mary nodded...the pieces still not quite clicking together.
"Aye Gerry, so I did."
Shaking his head in affection, Gerry threw open the kitchen door to reveal a fully clothed, slightly exasperated but completely innocent Erin and James.
The two teenagers sat together on the floor of the kitchen, wrestling with the frame of a half constructed playhouse. The instruction manual was halfway across the room, creativity taken precedence over logic hours earlier.
Erin looked up, scrambling to her feet at the sight of her parents and grandfather.
"Oh thank christ ye're home!", she huffed, sending the screwdriver in her hand hurdling across the floor. "I give up! Da, I don't care if yer payin' us! Wee'uns playhouses are well outside mine and James's skill-sets and that's that!"
"Don't worry about it, Love", Gerry reassured, nodding kindly to his daughter and her fella. "I'll help the two of ye later."
Marginally more composed than his girlfriend James smiled gratefully in Gerry's direction before raising a hand to wave at Mary and Joe.
Both were still totally red faced, jaws clenched and more than a wee bit shaken up by the whole misunderstanding. Surely enough, they'd never be talking about this ever ever again!
"Is everything okay, Mrs Quinn? Mr McCool?"
Mary nodded vaguely, the young English fella quickly falling back into her good graces.
"Aye, son. Everything's grand."
Gerry scarcely managed to supress a snort of laughter as Joe headed straight for the Christmas cupboard. Without so much as a 'hello', the older man strided past Erin and James, heart set on the bottle of Powers whiskey.
"By Christ, I need a drink!"