“Doon as in moon but with a capital D. I’d very much like you to call me Doon. And you are?“
His handshake is much firmer than she expects. There might be an exception to one of the empirically established rules in her personal rulebook. She excuses herself, eager to add a note about this in the blue section of her notepad right away.
“Norma will do for now. Don’t go anywhere, please, I’ll be right back,” she says and walks away briskly dragging her large black leather bag with her.
“Toilet’s the only place where he can’t see me,” she mumbles under her breath. Rule number one is that things tend to go terribly wrong whenever someone discovers her rulebook. Paddy’s cat got run over by Jimmie’s big blue tractor.
That would never have happened had he not found her little book in her socks drawer the day before. “There is no rule that says that white cats can’t have brown eyes,” he yelled at her.
“Can’t stand people yelling at me,” she hisses as she walks into the Ladies, “She’s a dead cat now, if that’s not proof that they can’t then I don’t know what will be.”
“Are you alright, my love?”
A reflex swing of her handbag arm knocks the woman unconscious. “Fine, you nosy bitch, I’m fine,” she spits at the motionless figure, “Didn’t hear you come up behind me. That makes you a spy. If it’s that man Doon who sent you spying after me, then it’s just as well you’re out cold now.”
“And I’m not your love, you crow.” Her steel capped foot connects with the woman’s left hip. “Can’t leave you lying there jamming the door. Next girl that comes in here will trip over you and scream her head off. Can’t have that now, can we?”
She doesn’t even have to lift the woman to fold her away in the square cubicle that is marked for use by either wheelchair users or babies that need their nappies changed. The black and white tiles are slithery and it doesn’t take more than a few kicks and she’s out of sight.
“Out of sight, out of mind. It’ll take you a while to come back around and until you do nobody is going to find you here.”
The Black Crow’s Feet isn’t the kind of pub where you’d be likely to visit in a wheelchair or with a baby. An arthritic dog wouldn’t stand a chance of walking in here off the street either. He wouldn’t be able to make it up the six steep steps to the door.
Cold stone steps they are, lethal they are. Nothing to hold on to as you climb them, no railings. And they’re always wet, too, of course. The breaks between showers never long enough to let the sun dry them off. No ramps for wheelchairs or prams either side of the entrance.
You open the door, relieved that you haven’t taken a fall on the way up, only to find that you’re now going to have to walk down seven steps. Shiny polished wooden ones, in a half circle, the first six steps shallow ones as though made for dwarves which you don’t expect and you can’t see properly either in this dim light, and then the last one so high that most first time visitors stumble into the group of regulars between the foot of the steps and the bar knocking the pint glasses out of their hands and end up having to buy the lads a round.
“Darwin’s Pit would be a much more suitable name for this place. It surely is survival of the fittest around here, isn’t it my love,” she sneers over in the direction of the cubicle in which the unconscious woman lies, “and redheads really shouldn’t wear red.”
That’s one of the first rules the woman who calls herself Norma today made a note of in the red section of her notepad last September, after little Jason got attacked by Jimmie’s German Shepherd Warren over wearing a Man United T-shirt. Jason very nearly died and lost half of his right leg, and Jimmie is still crying over having had to shoot Warren who’d been a lamb of a dog up until that fateful day.
As yet, she hasn’t come across any exceptions to that red rule. Red is the most dangerous colour there is unless you were to reign it in by wearing a black jacket or a grey cardigan over your red top. Important not to get distracted now, red does that, very distracting red is.
She is resisting the urge to shake her head, spit at the mirror and lick the shape of a cross onto its surface. Sorry state of affairs it is when an Irish farmer’s son would be named Jason. Whatever is wrong with Padraig these days?
She wonders if the man who wants her to call him Doon is in actual fact a Padraig. He’d be just about the right age still to have been given a sensible name. That and brown or green eyes would go with the firm handshake and the warm but dry palm. Doon’s sky blue eyes should have given him a limp handshake, one of those handshakes that would coat her palm with a film of cold sweat after just the lightest of touches.
She wipes her palm against her thigh. The sleek coolness of the fabric a reminder now of what she must do. The tips of her fingers find the silky surface of her notepad in the depths of her handbag. Her middle finger traces the threaded lines of the cross which is embossed on the cover of the notepad. Blue thread on black silk. Stitched it on herself. Important to use your middle finger she knows, top to bottom then left to right. Once out of the bag, place the tip of your tongue on the intersection and think blue, concentrate on blue.
“Possible exception to blue handshake rule – Doon,” she writes into the margin on page 7 of the blue section, “Wants to be called Doon, so likely not his real name. Possibility that fake name suspends rule but basic rule still holds? Need to find out his real name, call him by it and see if that will change his handshake to what it should be.”
(c) Ash N. Finn, 2016