Except from The Last Ring of Skellig Michael.
A dilapidated porta-cabin stood beside an entrance to a compound that held a dozen or so caravans. It bore little resemblance to the luxurious forecourt displayed on the Internet. Unsure of where to go, James sidled over to the gate. About to enter, a roar halted him in his tracks.
“Hey! Old man, where do you think you are going?”
Mobile phone in one hand, a cigar in the other, a salesman leaned against the doorjamb of the cabin. A bright red, shiny kerchief peeped from the breast pocket of his cheap suit. Above his wrinkled forehead, perched his crowning glory, the blackest, most shapeless toupee that ever carpeted a head. Eyes darting from the rusty car to James, he shook his head.
James ambled towards the cabin. “Do ya sell second-hand rugs?”
“God save me from smart-ass bogtrotters. Are ya blind as well as stupid? I sell caravans, not wheelchairs to geriatrics.”
James raced forward, grabbed the man’s arm and stood on his foot. “Move, and I’ll break your scrawny limb. Shall we begin this conversation again? Something along the lines of, good morning, sir, may I be of assistance?”
All his weight pressing down on the salesman’s foot, the reek of fear and cheap aftershave offending his better nature, he looked deep into the watery eyes of the erstwhile purveyor of luxury caravans. Stepping back, he released his grip, folded his arms and waited.
Hopping on one foot, cursing loudly, the man wiped sweat from his forehead with the kerchief and stuffed it back in his pocket. A fleeting moment of bravery crossing his brow, he clenched his fists. James’ growl confirmed the man a coward.
“Jaysus! No need to lose your bleedin temper or box the head off me. Danny Doyle, what can I do ya for?
“Your website is misleading.”
Danny groaned. “’Tis a relic of better days, before I lost the wife, the beamer, and the hair on me head. The bollocks from the revenue, as ignorant as a bag of arses he was, shut me down. That garage owner, next door, bought it from the receiver. Slogged me guts out, and that oil-monkey gets it for the price of a feckin bag of chips. Bastards! I haven’t as much as a pot to piss in.”
“Keep your hair on, Danny. Seeing as you are such a pleasant fellow, I might yet buy the best caravan you have, preferably new. By the way, I’m James Brennan.”
“C’mon, me auld flower, I’ve just the one for ya.”
Keeping a safe distance between himself and James, Danny led him into the compound and halted at the only newish caravan in his possession.
“Isn’t she a beaut? Repossessed after a chancer paid me with a rubber cheque. It’s the newest second-hand caravan on the planet. Me knuckles still hurt from the thumping I gave the dope.”
“Is that so?” James said. On examining the bodywork, he pointed to a few scratches.
“Four berth, twin axle, all mod cons included, luxury on wheels,” Danny said, as he opened the door and hurriedly ushered James inside.
James launched himself onto one of the beds. A little perturbed his feet reached beyond the end, he found it to be comfortable. He gazed about and nodded. The interior of the caravan seemed spacious and clean.
“How much? If your price offends me, I’ll replace your toupee with your scrotum. Comprende?”
Danny winced and rubbed his groin.
“A bargain at twenty-sev….” He shuffled his feet and wiped his brow. “Eighteen grand,” he whimpered.
“Sixteen and a half. Any less and I’d be better off laying in the scratcher all bleedin day.”
James pulled a wad of cash from his pocket, counted out five-grand, scribbled his mobile number and name on one of the notes, and shoved it into Danny’s outstretched hand.
“I’ll pay the balance when you deliver it to Castlebridge, Co. Kildare. Be there before three p.m. or spend the rest of your life peeing like a woman. Get directions to the old Protestant schoolhouse. Wait there for me.” Huh! Old man my arse.