Tales from the Lower Dargle Road – Jem Naylor

View of the Dargle Bridge and the Lower Dargle Road

‘There is too much turmoil in this fucking world,’ Jem Naylor said and put down his knife and fork on the table. He rose with studied politeness, walked out of the kitchen, leaving the bawling twins and his eldest son punching Asumpta, who was screaming in protest. Molly Naylor picked a well chewed dummy off the floor and plunged it into the yowling gob of one of the twins.

‘That’s it,’ she yelled, ‘off to the pub when things get difficult. Leave it all to me. It’s not as if you brought a happersworth into this …’ Jem slammed the front door so hard that the whole house shook. Absolute silence settled on the kitchen for a split second but the blessed moment passed and Jem could hear the racket resume more lustily than ever as he walked down the street..

He tilted his trilby slightly over his right eye. Humphry Bogart did something similar, not that Jem wanted to copy Humphry Bogart. No, Jem was better looking than Bogie any day of the week.

The saucy Mrs Byrne was leaning on the jamb of her halldoor, enjoying a smoke after tea.

‘Howya Jem. Goin’ down for a few stiffners?’

‘Wouldn’t need them where you’re concerned Jackie.’

‘Maybe not Jem, but you might need St John’s Ambulance afterwards.’

‘Ah let me take you away from all this, Jackie.’ Jem made a theatrical sweep of his arm taking in the small grey street of terraced houses.

‘And where would you take me Jem?’ Jackie drew deeply on her cigarette and leaning back blew a plume of smoke up into the evening air.

‘The city of young lovers, Paris.’

‘Twenty years ago since you were young, Jem Naylor. And as for lover well …’ Jackie scoffed and took another drag on her cigarette.

‘I’ll prove it any time you want Jackie, day or night.’

‘In your dreams, Jem.’ she laughed.

Jem shrugged his shoulders, adjusted the collar of his jacket with deft little lift and pull on his lapels and then tipped the brim of his hat with the forefinger of his right hand.

‘Don’t know what you’re missin’ mam.’

‘Get over yourself, Jem.’

Jem smiled. Smashing bit of stuff, all the same. Wouldn’t mind at all. What she sees in that dozy bollix Danny O’Toole. Not his looks or personality, that’s for sure. He began to whistle China Doll. Hope there’s a bit of a sing-song tonight.

It was a warm evening with a pleasant breeze blowing off the Dargle River and Jem decided he would walk through the park  and along the riverside path. He slid his hand into his right hand trouser pocket and felt the crisp little bundle of fivers. Pity I didn’t have a few more bob on. Could’ve cleaned up. Still, twenty five’s not bad. And there was me ready to hand over a full tenner and she spoils it. Well, she can whistle for it now. Still, the nippers need a few bits and bobs. Ah we’ll see.

‘Mr Naylor, Mr Naylor, a minute of your time.’ Jem groaned  raised his eyes skywards; then turned smiling to face a pancake faced woman with a scarlet complexion who was shuffling after him as fast as her flat feet would allow.

‘C’mon Trigger.’ She was dragging a pug-faced mongrel behind her. “It’s not on, Mr. Naylor, your Seany has me driven mad with his football banging mornin, noon and night against me wall. I’m going to get guard Murphy’

‘He’ll do sweet feck all Mrs Bailey. I’ll sort Seany out when I get home.’

‘That’s what you said last week, and the week before.’

‘Mrs Bailey, it will be done and dusted before the night is out. You have my word. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve some business to attend to.’ Jem tipped his hat and walked away. Cantankerous aul bitch.

‘Business?’ Mrs Bailey said. ‘Did you ever hear the likes Trigger? Business me arse. The man’s never done a decent days work in his whole life. C’mon, Mick will home for his dinner shortly. Business?’  Mrs Bailey and Trigger waddled towards the park exit.

Meeting Mrs Bailey dampened Jem’s  bouyant mood for a while ’til he put his hand in his pocket again and felt the nice little wad of notes. Fuck her, not that anyone would. The only banging she’ll get is Seaney’s football against her precious wall.

As he rounded the Bridge he spotted Gerry Molloy and Francie Martin leaning over the bridge wall, staring intently into the Dargle  River below. They were both wearing their poleroid sunglasses.

‘How’s the men. Anything stirrin.’

‘A few runnin alright Jem,’  said Francie.

‘Well I’m good for one lads. Don’t forget me now.’

‘See you in the bookies tomorrow morning,’ Gerry said without diverting his gaze from the river below.

‘Oh bollocks, here’s Sweeney,’ Francie whispered softly from the corner of his mouth and then shouted out, ‘Howya Guard Sweeney.’

‘I’m off lads,’ said Jem. ‘Guard, you want to watch that pair, they’re an awful pair of gangsters.’ Jem tipped his hat and headed up towards the Royal Starlight.

‘Thanks a bunch Jem,’ Francie shouted after him, ‘Thanks a bunch.’