Anto Underpants, Yer Man of Bleach
We’re chatting. Man to man. Man to woman. Woman to woman. Woman to man. Orders of fresh Guinness tip-tap on the bar in regulated beats.
Laughs. Conversation. Another round. Banter. Lights flicker. The murmur in the crowded bar room reaches a crescendo. Calling time. Nobody cares. Someone asks me a question by way of a gambit. “Yes, it’s going well, thanks. I’m kept busy …” I draw a fresh pint towards my puckering lips. I’m listening to her, my friend’s wife, but oddly, I am unable to hear her words. Something warped unexpectedly emerges from out the background envelope and distorts reality. I am aware of the sharp sounds of the steel shutters being drawn down across the front door to signify the imminent closure of the pub. The all-too familiar rattling steel has an unusually high level of volume that jumps out and seizes my attention. Then I watch her lips take the shape of a triangular waveform as a tremor crosses her face sharply because suddenly, WHAM! BOOSH! Shh-ddTINKLE!
The hard rain of shattered glass drowns out her voice. The ancient walls of the hostelry resound with a standing wave that penetrates through to my inner ear, followed by a stunned silence in the bar room lasting for an extended deathly moment. I gaze up at the walls. The entire building resonates as if someone had hit it with a giant shovel. After an indeterminate amount of time, I notice my pint suspended mid-air in front of me, tilted slightly, my knuckles white.
With all due aplomb, within a second or two I suppose, having been so rudely interrupted, urgent chatter returns, this time focused on the topic of the mystery noise. What could it be? “Did somebody drop a tray?”
My hand is trembling. (After a medicinal sip) I reset the Guinness on the counter. I dread to think (I dread to drink!) What if one of our gentlemen bartenders has been crushed coming up from the basement bearing a tray of glasses, tumbling back down the ladder to his glassy doom? Then I realise that in all the years I’m coming here, I have never seen them use a tray for anything behind the bar. I don’t suppose they keep their pint glasses in the basement either. But what the hell was it?
Somebody is pointing so I look out the window to the street outside. There is the answer, spun out all over the road. Out for the count, three of Dublin’s finest Olympic athletes slumped, hanging out of the broken windows of a battered Honda Civic. White but crumpletely compled. The car looks like a pub just hit it. Mystery solved.
The stench of vapourised car and concrete strikes me like Irish cordite
After another sleuthy sup, I decide ever so rash to dash out the side door to the street in order to investigate, wherein an eerie silence prevails. The stench of vaporised car and concrete strikes me like Irish cordite. I’m mildly surprised to find not one person follows me from the bar. There I stand, alone, staring at this strange, silent scene, too nervous to approach the wreckage.
The two athletes slumped out the front side windows look like they might just be dead. The one in the back is out for the count but he’s breathing heavily. That seatbelt will leave a mark, but, at least he was clever enough to have it on. The small car stopped sideways across the road and has the appearance of being hit every which way. It is blocking the road in front of me, so I’m standing downstream of the blockade on the side street of a four-way junction, outside the corner pub, on my own. All around is silent and poorly lit. For a moment, nothing moves.
Naturally, I am concerned for the young tracksuited men in the vehicle who are obviously injured. I don’t myself posses any training or any useful skills for a situation such as this and I’m well aware that if I myself try to help, I would only do some further damage. There is only one thing I can do — communicate. I wrap my hand around the phone in my pocket. Thumb wavering, briefly I rehearse the directions the emergency dispatcher will need and holding the phone shakily, punch in the first digit ‘9’.
A cop car screeches to a halt. Another ‘9’. Four more cop cars appear as if from nowhere. I look confusedly at my phone, trying to understand its strange new powers. When I even begin to dial for emergency assistance, emergency assistance appears! WTF? The light on my phone goes dim as my futility becomes clear. I don’t bother to complete the 999 call. Help is at hand. Maybe, maybe a little too much help.
Sixteen cop cars. Thirty two. More. I had no idea there were so many cop cars in Dublin, all arriving here, now, at the exact same moment. The shapeless yellow anoraks of uniformed policemen spring from innumerable panda cars and fill up the street in seconds. A chopper beats the night sky above, unseen.
My phone arm drops to my side. I’m further confused as hell because, the Peelers, and there’s enough of them, aren’t exactly rushing in to help the poor driver and his passengers who are out for the count. None of them approach the injured youths in the car. Instead, they orbit. They’re all standing off, like they’re waiting for something, or they know something is going to happen.
Then, things take a menacing turn. I see it in the face of a youthful uniformed Garda as he glances nervously towards a dark saloon car which rolls up very slowly towards the Honda from the perpendicular street to my point of view. My heart pops into my gob as I immediately see a weapon protruding from the window, pointing towards the unconscious people in the Civic. A big, long string of misery in his early 30s with cropped red hair wearing a “Garda” bib steps out of the saloon car slowly and points his revolver at the unconscious kids in the vehicle. He stalks about, brandishing his weapon, saying to the bucks: “Have ye any guns in the car, lads?” The poor gobshites are out cold, can’t answer.
He moves slowly and deliberately, like a malevolent stick insect. Dumbfounded though I be, “Danger!” is the word that springs to mind. By now, I understand why nobody followed me out from the pub. I thought they were being callous but now I realise they were all being wise. It’s quite clear that if and when the shooting starts, I’m the only sorry son of a bitch for miles around that can enter and win the competition for the Dead Innocent Bystander Of The Year Award, so, with those odds in mind and knowing my luck generally, I decide it is time to make myself scarce. Besides, my work here is done and I have a pint inside. But, just as I start to retreat, I hear the bolt slide shut on the inside of the pub door, trapping me outside. The lads in the pub are looking out at this unfolding drama with me as a bit-player in it with bemused expressions. One of my friends is chuckling and he raises a glass to me, grinning mockingly as the window blind descends, blue flashing lights reflecting in the darkened pane.
Redhead Robo-guard stalks the driver. “Keep calm”, he commands, tremulously. Just who is he talking to, I wonder? The obliterated ones with their knuckles dragging on the road? They could NOT be any calmer. If they were any more relaxed they would be and very soon will be, because it’s taking so long to get medical attention, dead. As far as I can see, the only ones who need to calm down are the agitated cop poking around with a revolver and the extra-agitated me.
Perhaps he should check they are breathing before interrogating them
“Have ye got anything in the car?” No response. Perhaps he should check they are breathing before interrogating them. Unless they are all playing a cunning game of possum and any second now, they will jump out and hose the place down with automatic weapons and hand grenades.
I watch discreetly as slowly, Redhead Robo-guard revolves around the wreck, Smith andWesson arm outstretched. The absurdity strikes me that, as bizarre as this scene is, I’m in the most ridiculous situation of all, standing in the middle of the street, pint-less, an innocent victim in the making, all retreat routes blocked except one, with nowhere to go and nothing to do.
I weigh up my options. Getting to the locked pub door means coming closer towards the weaponised robot. Not the direction of choice. Stealthily and, never turning my back, I retreat into the darkness to take cover in a doorway a safer distance away, all the while keeping my eyes fixed upon the scene. The meat-head policeman is busy ordering the half-dead driver to stay motionless, who duly obliges with not so much as a twitch.
Eventually, having ascertained the likelihood that these boys are going to shoot their way out of this wreck is rather low, the ginger gun slinger gives the nod and the yellow jackets swarm all over the car. He’s from the Special Branch and has a weapon, a bib and wears plain clothes. They’re the Not So Special Branch and wear funny hats.
The tension lifts. I overhear a taxi driver moaning about how he was driving his jalopy through the junction when the Civic shot off of the Barber Hill and tipped the back of him, at which point, the speeding Honda lost control and spun into the corner pillar of the pub just as last orders were being served, which explains the origins of the tinnitus I’m currently suffering from. Radios erupt with chatter and being surplus to requirements and whilst they are all distracted, I approach the pub again. Someone is watching out for me because the iron bolt slides back and the door swings open to welcome me in. By now, my pint is on the turn so I grab it quick. Situation defused, the volume of voices is at a new high. Facts are spooling in faster than anyone could make them up as we get one last chance to order a final round before 11.30pm overtakes us all.
Story was, the cops had car-chased the car-crashed goons all the way in from Drunkardstown on a 10-mile tear through lots of heavily populated city areas as part of their unwinnable war on drugs shtick. The shiny happy people in the Civic finally lost control of the vehicle and pretty much ploughed straight in through the door of our crowded little local on a Saturday night as Rusty the barman was attending to the shutters. Just as he was so doing, he saw the car approach at speed and lose control. Rusty snapped the steel shutters down instinctively and they dented as the car bounced off the pillars of the pub a split second later, but it didn’t hit him. He had a close last (but thankfully not final) call, although the shutters will have to be replaced, clearly.
We raise the blind again for a better look. They scuzzbuckets in the vehicle are coming to, slowly. They all had their seatbelts on, lucky lads. Cops’ve been searching them for ages without too much concern. The Dublin Fire Brigade paramedics arrive to lift the bucks out — they seem not at all impressed with the cops’ antics as they get to work. Drawing admiring looks from the few women in the bar, the firemen laconically peel the incapacitated athletes out of their Honda and lob them on to trolleys and into the ambulance. Those rescue dudes are true professionals and it’s reassuring to watch them operate. I just hope one day they never have to rescue me. The ladies watch them assiduously.
The Special Branch detectives swagger about
The Special Branch detectives swagger about, sitting on the hood of their car and shit, surveying the mess they’ve made, revelling in the chaos like the Dukes of Hazardous, shining their cocks for the benefit of the Detective Inspector who has arrived to command the scene. He is an angry-looking bastard-ugly arsehole with skanky greased hair sticking to his malformed head. His hands tucked into his sheepskin jacket like he’s on the Sweeney Todd 1970s TV British cop show. He shouts at the uniforms to get a move on. Barks at them, snarling at each and every one of them while smiling benignly at his lanky Special ones. I feel a bit sorry for the prats-in-hats because this is the kind of behaviour they have to put up with in their job on a nightly basis from their ranking colleagues.
The DI is nattering with the armed hotshot detectives. Tall, thin, almost twin gingers, undercover gear on, sporty looking, they are definitely of a type, like Kilkenny hurlers. I’m surprised at how well they blend in as exceptionally tall civilians despite their overtly-red short-cropped hair. Their costumer is talented. Apart from one detail that no Dublin policeman’s tradecraft has ever cracked — they wear white shoes which are spotlessly white. It’s an instant giveaway. White shoes are covered in muck, we all know that. The only people with clean white shoes in Dublin are undercover cops.
“They should have shot them. There’s enough of them.”
I have just enough time to call one last pint for the ditch and ring some friends to gossip about what I’m seeing. Georgie the drunk customer drives a van. He spits in my ear while I’m at the bar, his night almost ruined by the enforced pauses in the flow of drink. “They should have shot them. There’s enough of them. Fucking pricks.”
Outside, a workman arrives driving a loader and tows the broken Honda. A contractor sweeps up the glass. All very efficacious and speedily implemented. For once in my life, I’m impressed with the cops’ operations. They really know how to clean up a mess of their own making and hide the evidence. Until, that is, when, early, which, according to the “book”, is actually on time, a short while later, the bar closes and we get kicked out by midnight. Back to full-bore general resentment on that point alone.
You can understand the bar manager doesn’t want to take any late-pint chances with 95% of the Dublin Metropolitan Area Division North’s policemen standing outside, adrenaline coursing through their veins. The tonic-haired dickhead is still there barking crowd control orders at the prats-in-hats, unnecessarily, I feel. But, he’s having a good night really, I can tell.
Ejected, dissatisfied, we stumble across the icy delta of broken windscreen glass at the exit.
Toys for big boys, is all that is
The whole operation from the moment the cops chase the car through the door of the pub and they are all gone takes about 45 minutes. Would they ever f**k off, I wonder, with their stupid cop games? Someone could get hurt — seriously, lads. Cop yourselves on. You assholes could have killed someone, with your car chasing hi-jinks. You and your squad cars, choppers, pistols and vans. Toys for big boys, is all that is.
Later that morning, beyond the witching and all other hours, in the silent layover before dawn, a sweeping sound flows down the road. There is nobody around to hear it except the rummaging fox. A man wearing a tracksuit bottoms and a Dublin jersey operates a brush and pan in the wee hours, working around the outside of the battered pub. He fetches the tiny particulars that the police left behind as they thundered through the district like Mad Max and drops them into a bucket, carefully collecting the broken reminders that demonstrate that nobody around here gives a shit — parts of car, bits of pub, a discarded top, the endless cigarette butts and sweet wrappers.
A surgical mask covers his mouth and nose with a ski mask to protect his eyes as he hunkers down to wipe the streaks of plastic and rubber scorched on to the exterior walls, lathering the area with bleach and scrubbing it with a brush. His peak cap sports the Dublin castles crest and although his sky blue Dublin GAA jersey bears the number 12, he’s indistinguishable and unidentifiable. His white training shoes aren’t really all that white and he’s wearing household rubber gloves, heavy duty — yellow was the only colour available. The one thing that makes him stand out, once you get beyond the headgear, is the underpants. He wears a washed out pair of blue and white striped boxer shorts over his tracksuit bottoms, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
A drunken laggard flounces home and sees this stranger hard at work at this unusual hour.
- Story bud?
Story? Up de Dubs.
- Up de Dubs! State of yew and yer boxers? What’s going on hea-yir?
Ah yeah. State of the place. The pack of rats came trew here and after wrecking the gaff. Must have been hundreds of coppers ballsing the place up. Jaknowharimeen?
- Madness. State of de pub there?
Yeah I know. Chasing a few lads in a car chase they were. Nearly killed the barman working here they did when it crashed in de pub. The Branch were dere an’ all. Thought they was bleedin’ Steve McQueen so dey did.
Loike, bleedin’ Fast and Furious, jaknowharimeen?
- Ah yeah. Bleedin’ state of the place after dem. Fucking poxy bastards.
Poxy fuckers is right.
- Is dis your pub? Are yew in charge of cleaning irr hup? (hic)
No, jaysis. Not really, no. I just come out here now and again and give the lads in de Corpo a birr of a head start, jaknowharimeein? They’ve enough to be gettin’ on with trying to clean up the place after the weekend. Jaknow?
- Ya. I suppose you’re roight. Well, fair play to ye, bud. Well, I’ve had a long noight. I better go home to me bed. All the best, buddy.
All the best, bood.
Jaysis, youse’ll have your work cut out for yiz, pal. Cleaning up Dublin? It’s a bleedin’ kip!
- All the best. Hea-yir. Do you mind if I axe you a question before I go?
- Where you from?
- Ah yeah fair ‘nuff. Eh, where you going with yer underpants on the outside of your tracksuits?
It’s all part of the uniform, bood.
- Unifor-im? What unifor-im jameayin? Are you playing for the Dublin team or wha’?
No, not de Dubs. But I’m in a League alright. Something called the “League of Very Ordinary Gentlemen”. Few lads. A lady or two. We’re kinda like sorta vigilantes. We’re going to clean up this town. That’s our mission. Jaknowharimeein?
- Jaysis, youse’ll have your work cut out for yiz, pal. Cleaning up Dublin? It’s a bleedin’ kip! Place is a bleedin’ state the whole day long. Do you mind me askin’, what’s this your first name is?
- Anto? Anto wha’?
Thunderpants. Anto Thunderpants, The Man of Bleach, at your service. That’s my League name. Pleased to meet cha, bood.
- “Ant’ny Underpants, Yer Man of Bleach”, is it? Fair play, I’m Dekko and I drink Coors Loight. Aftershocks too. Sorry, bud, I’m a bit pissed, jaknowharImeein? I might not even be having this converstation for all I know.
Yeah. The Man of Bleach. The League of Very Ordinary Gentlemen is my crew. Watch out fer us. We’re going to clean up this town. Jaknowharimeein? That’s our mission, so it is.
- Fair fucks t’ya. Yous’ll have yer work cut out for youse but. State of de place. Bleedin’ durt everywhere. Burp! Smells a bit of piss the whole time. See ya, bood. Home to me bed. Hea-yir, ya don’t have any smokes do ye?
No, sorry buddy. Don’t smoke. See ya rafter.
- Hea-yir! Do you mind if I just take a quick slash here on this post box? Only I’m bleedin’ burstin’.
Yeah, go ahead bud. I’ve some Jeysis Fluid with me there. I’ll clean it up after.
- Ah, fair play. Cheers, bood. See ya rafter, roight?
See ya raafter.