Standing on the street, back a few feet from it, I took it all in. Somehow, it looked smaller, seedier than when I had last seen it. Of course, it was eleven years ago, and I was a man now, not an eleven year old boy. It seemed the paint was wearing off the sign over the doorway, and also the paint on the door itself was chipping off.
Pulling open the door, I entered, looking around as I did. My eyes watered a bit, getting used to the dimmer light inside the pub. Glancing over at the bar, I saw old Dooley standing there, polishing the glasses and pouring a pint for one of the early customers. There were only a few in there at that time of the morning.
I walked over to the bar and put my foot on the rail, as though I were going to order a drink, leaning my arms on the bar, and looked Dooley in the eyes. His face was somewhat florid, apparently from drinking his own stuff for too many years. Or, maybe he drank some that was better quality than his own; only he knew for sure.
Dooley looked at me and his face blanched.
"Who are you, boyo? What do you want? Would you like to order a drink?"
I was enjoying this. "Who do you think I am, Dooley? Oh, yeah, I know you from long ago. You are the one who sold my old man drinks every time he had some money in his pocket."
You see, I had filled out physically working on the farm, and moreso, after going into the service, so I was what the ladies would have called "a hunk".
"You, you're an O'Hanlon, aren't you? You're Seamus' kid that used to run errands for Rafferty all those years ago. I kind a' wondered what had happened to you."
His attitude changed then and he said, "My, goodness, it's great to see you, boy! You're lookin' mighty fit! How about a drink on the house?"
He was practically falling all over himself to ingratiate himself to me.
"No, thanks, Dooley. I do want to know if you have any answers about what happened to my Da, after he got into that fight here in the bar. Like, how did he wind up dead so soon after? Who was he fighting with? Did they gang up on him? Did it happen here?"
"Well, ya see, it happened like this, best I can remember. Your pa got ta arguin' with this other fella that was a regular, too, over whether he actually went to that game er not. Each of them swearin' the other was wrong, and then your pa, who was a real hot head, ya know, pulled out his knife and so did the other guy. They were going at it tooth n' nail, till finally your pa got him in the gut, both of em wore out. Then your pa took off runnin' and that's the last I saw of him, alive that is."
"You mean you saw him after he was killed? Where did that happen?"
"You mean the police didn't tell you where he was found?"
"No, just that he had been beaten to death."
"Ah, I see. Well, it seemed that he was beaten to death because he owed money to Rafferty, what used to hang around here. Rafferty had him killed, and apparently used the fight to make it look like it was because of the fight. I didn't know about it until about five years ago, when Rafferty was dying. I reckon he was trying to clear his conscience before he kicked off."
"Where was he found, then?"
"Over by the river, in some old cardboard boxes that are used by the homeless. Seemed he was hiding out over there."
Well, at last I had my answers, not that they made me feel any better, but it did kind of close that chapter of my life. I bade him good bye and then left, anxious to get on my way to the address I was carrying in my pocket.
(To be continued)