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Here Are the Young Men

Rob Doyle
Lilliput Press


 If it's not broken - I chanted silently in rhythm to our steps - then break it. If it's broken, don't fix it. If it's fixed, break it again, break it more, wreck it. Wreck everything, and for no reason whatsoever ... We came to a stop.

Cocker drained his can of Coke and threw it on the ground. It rattled for a bit and then was still. We looked at it, the empty can. A breeze blew in across the grey stones of the beach, gusting the can a few feet along the seafront walkway.

'Give us a light,' I said.

Cocker lit my cigarette. Then he pulled up his hood and shivered. 'Poppers would be good,' he said. I didn't respond.

He drew on his cigarette. After a moment he said again, 'ltd be good if we had some poppers.' 'But we don't,' I replied. He said nothing.

Those two tall, red and white towers were on the horizon, kind of hazy in the cold morning light. There was some sun but it was a greyish day. I didn't mind. I liked grey days. So did Cocker. He told me that once, while we were on top of the hill in Killiney, looking out at the sea. Fucking freezing up there, it'd been. We'd had poppers that time, and two daddy-naggins of a type of vodka called 'The Count: Big Force!' that we'd bought at an offo out there but I'd never seen again.

'What do ye want to do?' said Cocker after a while. 'Yer ma.'

We walked along the seafront a little, though not because we were going anywhere. It was the force of inertia that moved us. That was a concept I'd picked up in one of Mr Ryan's science classes. It was sort of poetic.

The wind was picking up again, not that strong but cold, bracing. I shivered, pulled my bomber jacket close around my neck, focusing my eyes on the warm glowing dot of ember and ash at the end of my cigarette, lovely against the grey, like a telly in a window down some rainy street.

'There's nothin to do,' I muttered. But there was a sudden gust and my words were lost. It was better that way, I reckoned. What use was there in drawing attention to these things?

The red and white towers loomed in the distance. The Poolbeg Towers, wasn't that what they were called? I didn't even know what they were for.

'What are the towers for?' I asked Cocker.

'What towers?'

'The fuckin Poolbeg Towers. The two towers up there in front of ye. What are they for?'

'Industry, maybe,' said Cocker vaguely, looking elsewhere.

A while later he said, 'So here we are then, our first taste of freedom.' He gave a low whistle.

I'd thought I'd be more excited. We'd finished the last exam of our Leaving Cert, and now school, Irish, physics, and all the rest of it was behind us for good. I just craved a packet of crisps — salt and vinegar…