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The Scum Gentry Alternative Arts and Media.
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The Pearly Fence - Short Story by Eoghan McGrath

Seagulls woke Simon just before he saw his son get mashed into the windscreen. It was 6am. He mashed the bedside table until he found the bottle. Empty. He had known that. In the bathroom he masturbated again, and inspected the line of scarred tissue up his left side. Chicks love scars. He smiled at himself then licked some of the moss from his front teeth. The stiffness in his back eased a bit as the shower got hot, and he thrust his hips out slowly getting a few cracks more than average. Doesn’t matter if the place is a kip so long as the shower is good. Like a penny in a poo-pile, it was a quality shower.

The lady in the pharmacy went to get her manager. “Can’t sell you these I’m afraid”. Simon knew for a fact the manager did coke. Bastard.

Simon’s boss was the fat neck-bearded nephew of an old Galway hurler who had no medals but whose name marked a framed hurl which hung beside the nutritional info posters. Were this anywhere other than Supermacs on Cross Street, that kind of pedigree would barely get him a small fries, much less a cushy managerial position. Simon’s boss also bore an uncanny resemblance to the villain from Space Jam. Simon’s fantasies of sticking the antique hurl up his boss’ fat arse had naturally led him to nickname the man “Golly Bar”. That particular morning Simon was too far gone even for pocket scraping, and Golly Bar had taken exception to the column of drool Simon had allowed to flow unchecked from the corner of his mouth over the side of his register.

“Take a good hard look at yourself like.”

Simon’s face was almost charred-looking in places. He had sores around his mouth and his right eye was taking half a second to catch up with his left. He washed and dried his face as best he could in the soap-water-air combo machine but his head didn’t fit properly, so he had to dry himself off with toilet paper. Bits of it stuck to his face like little grey stamps.

The schedule for bathroom checks was posted on the back of the bathroom door. A tissue stamp floated down to camouflage into the wet floor. It was Sunday morning and he knew too well the fetid amalgamation of shit, piss, and vomit that would be slathered across each cubicle. The middle cubicle also had a man in it.

The occupant of the stall was wearing a mismatch tracksuit with the sleeves pulled up revealing a landscape of veins and scabbed skin. Simon’s left foot twitched instinctively toward the bathroom door. He had to run and get help at once. It wouldn’t do to have a junkie die when it was his day for bathroom checks. But taking a last look over his shoulder Simon saw that without any doubt, the man was dead. He was young. Near enough Simon’s age. He probably had a child, probably dead too. Leaning into the cubicle a bit Simon saw that the man’s mouth was crusted with stale foam, and scanning his arms he saw a minefield of puncture marks. The pity which usually plunged from his collarbones into his stomach at the sight of death, even upon passing the carcasses of badgers honeycombed with tyre-tracks, did not materialise. He stood there for a minute pouting his lips sort of nodding to himself. He considered the man. He didn’t know how long he stood there nor how long they had been smiling at each other when pocket-borne smelling salts pulled him back and he went to fetch Golly Bar.

* * *

Meanwhile in Heaven, another man, one Michael “Mutt” Cawley, was pacing along by the pearly fence which proceeds in an infinite continuum outward from the pearly gates. Dispassionate looters had raided his shop on North Earl Street during the Rising, and all Mutt remembered was a sharp pain in his chest, the sensation of breathlessness, then the transcending light of those same gates.

Mutt hadn’t married because “fuck dat”, and was happy because heaven was filled with an infinity of beautiful and available Women. Now, an infinity of beautiful Women sounds like a dream come true for most guys, and Mutt took full advantage of it, at least to begin with. The problem is, once you’ve slept with, or masturbated to a girl of infinite beauty and virtue you can’t really top it. The mental vault where wank-fuel is kept becomes overcrowded with faces of equal appeal and leads to a stagnation of the carnal senses. Plus, Jesus kept referring to everyone as brothers and sisters which just made things weird.

Mutt had worked his whole life and hated the idea of the afterlife being an eternal retirement. Accordingly God had fitted him with a nice, easy-to-manage shop which made a steady profit. Mutt didn’t buy anything with his earnings however because he just had to wish for stuff and stuff would appear. The days of chasing knackers away from the veggies were gone. However, Mutt, the roguish salesman leaping out of bed with ideas for promotions and charming old ladies into buying more tights, also belonged to the previous life. He had the quickest wit in North Dublin, but he was far from there now. In Heaven everything he said was witty. He had come to realise that when everyone laughs at every joke, humour ceases to exist.

Mutt felt completely unrooted in Heaven. In North Earl Street you had to fit or else you simply couldn’t be there, and it was hard to have a sense of belonging in a place that was not only timeless but nowhere and everywhere simultaneously. It was this sort of vague non-definition of heaven that Mutt disliked. It could be infinitely small, packed somewhere between the burgeoning subatomics of the ice under Mars for example, or colossal like a vast sphere encasing a multiverse. He hadn’t figured this all out for himself either. One day he had simply wanted to know and so he knew. The uncertainty itself was a fact, but it really didn’t matter anyway. Big or small, “infinity is fucking infinity God damnit”, and that’s all there was to it. Mutt’s resentment of it all was as inconsequential as piss in the Ocean. Somewhere in the coming eternity he was going to feel every emotion in every single way, billions and billions of times over. He would amass such experience that any torment or triumph would be faced with equal lucidity and indifference. Like humour, infinity was also the death of experience.

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