It is with great pleasure to introduce Brendan Mac Evilly in this issue of Inkroci and to feature an extract of his story “Chauncey” – a Dublin story if ever there was one. We meet the eponymous hero in his daily moment of glory in the one of Dublin’s oldest and best-known public house and become inveigled into the bar as a spectator.
With a tongue-in-cheek humour that is reminiscent of the satirical writer and journalist Flann O’Brien, the author delivers a hilarious tale with a style and aplomb that belie the fact that this is his first published story.
Director of the Irish Writers Centre
A severe easterly shunts Chauncey in the door of The Long Hall. He gathers his great coat about his waist and legs and marches purposefully towards the two clocks—one set proudly into the Victorian partition, the other hanging dolefully from the dark wall adjacent.
It is the ninth pub of the day, and one of only two or three pubs he always visits, for matters pertaining to the ritual.
The barman is puzzled for a number of reasons; firstly, Chauncey is a good seventy seconds early. Secondly, he’s left out the opening move of his routine, he hasn’t tapped at the window to wait for the barman to beckon him in. Hence, his earliness. Now he’ll be seventy seconds a bag of nerves.
‘Sweet mother of…’ baulks one dumbfounded regular, ‘would you look at the time and he’s in already.’
‘Jays, he’s a bit premature today; we might draw a bit of jabber out of him yet,’ responds his neighbour. But no word from Chauncey. He paces up and down the bar, wearing away the carpet, eyes down, the odd bite of the nail.
Of the two clocks only one is working, the other being in permanent stasis.
Twice a day both clocks tell the correct time. Chauncey, by the mysterious inner machinations of his own timepiece, is daily drawn to observe this rite.
(At least daily, for was rumoured—and only twice doubtfully-substantiated— that the jangling mass of keys that hung from Chauncey’s hip unlocked the door to any number of pubs throughout the city. That he would, having read the obituaries, slink away from the bar and go in search of a convenient pub to doss down in. Chauncey, although not necessarily loved by barmen, was trusted and respected by publicans. Another ‘affiliate’, Charlie Chalk, owner of multiple pubs throughout Dublin city and environs, was alleged to have patronised Chauncey’s work. Some rumoured that they were stepbrothers. Others rumoured otherwise. Others again declined to rumour, but they thinly spread.)
Chaunce is still pacing. The reverent atmosphere in the bar catches the attention of others present.
‘How’s the Chaw?’ gives another patron. ‘What news from the big bad?’
Chauncey does not reply. He has pulled up to the clocks, his eyes oscillating hypnotically between their two faces. Twenty seconds left in it.
‘Oh, Jesus, would you stop,’ continues his non-conversant in mock reply to nothing at all, ‘sure you can’t trust those boys in Leinster House. Someone has to set things right, Chico—you might be just the man!’
‘Would ya whist!’ says the barman, Mr Garry (two r’s—as in Kasporov). This is a pub where the barmen are always tightly rigged out in black, the barman being the closest relative to the undertaker. Particularly so in a pub like this. Mr Garry is not taken by attempts at wit, except his own far superior efforts.
A Dublin pub in late-afternoon dusk-light is a solemn place, and the barman is the keeper of such solemnity. Particularly in the celebration of this daily sacrament. Particularly today.
Despite his unusually early entry, Chauncey is calmer than you’d expect, ever-focused on the clocks, as one moment draws nearer the other. With just fifteen seconds in the difference between the two, Chauncey’s left arm draws up by the face of the broken clock. The arm of the living clock draws closer and closer to its partner’s. With ten seconds to go a long, grey, waxen finger extends from his hand and hovers over the glass. Here we go.
‘E.T. phone home,’ gives another wit from the deep beyonds of the lounge, but nobody marks it.
Silence falls and silence reigns. Seven seconds. If the wives of the two cronies at the bar could see their husbands’ faces, never more serious. Focused. My god. Men who have seen this rite a hundred times or more, but today a holy mood pervades. Five… four… and though there could have been no more than six or seven people in the bar (and because the essence of story-telling is to spout an unacceptable but accepted lie), half of the Dublin pub scene have since claimed
to have been in The Long Hall that Tuesday afternoon (the other half claiming attendance at The Library Bar later that evening) on what was to be Chauncey’s last day (it is said) in the city.
Three… his eyelids flicker frantically. Two… and nobody passes air. One, his finger draws back like a cocked gun. Tock. For an instance, both clocks share the time and down hammers Chauncey’s finger on the face of the static clock.
Well? All who were present (and all who weren’t) swore to seeing some degree of motion. Some claim merely to have seen a single, minimalescent jerk-forward of the second hand (although it’s well known to tellers and hearers of this story that the broken clock in the Long Hall is without a second hand). It’s generally agreed that the room suffered a strong smell of incense.
Another theorist claims to have witnessed two full and furious rotations of the hour hand. This man, who’s since been put well outside of his mind by drink, and relies solely on his way with words and the benefactions of others for the continued feeding of his habit also claims, to this day, as a result of the rotation of the hands, to be living one full day in the future. He is generous with tips for horse races the following day (Throw Away in the 3:15) and football matches (United to win, Rovers draw). He is never wrong.
Of course, like the thousands of other times that Chauncey ‘touched the clocks’, nothing happened. The mood settled instantly and Chauncey was ushered out by a cry from the back of the room: ‘E.T. fuck off’. But it’s important for the sake of posterity and for the continuation of the story in the Dublin pub, that something did happen. And so it did.
(Incidentally, the so-called ‘touching of the clocks’, the only fixed and timed happening on Chauncey’s route, did The Long Hall a roaring late-afternoon trade—particularly on a Tuesday, and more particularly on the anniversary of the last touching—but all this, of course, only after Chauncey’s disappearance. What used to be a stalwart watering hole for the hardened pub-jockey is now replete with fauxcoholics and day-trippers. A new Dublin literary journal, The Touching of the Clocks, rose and fell in thirteen months sometime in the early naughties. It’s also been leaked that U2’s next album will be entitled ‘Touching the Clocks’. The above mentioned theorist will give you good odds).
Other names given Chaucey:
Reverential: The Holy Ghost (Chauncey is a great man for people claiming to have seen him when, in fact, they haven’t); Moses (of course, a great walker); Lazarus, Methuzelah (not very original here, a name most middle-aged Irish men respond to); Zacchaeus (Dubliners have always been hard on those tight with their scratch, though to be fair to Chaunce he never found much use for it); Peter (there was the time that one soused fool claimed to have seen Chauncey walking on water; it was later established that he was, in fact, standing in a shallow puddle, but the name enjoyed a period of fashionability); Bud (after Buddha, another great man for the walks).
So Chauncey is looking for Deasy. Deasy is a man who is enormous. At the time in question, while Chauncey is searching the streets, Deasy is sitting opposite a blank-faced gentleman named Anatoly Karpov. Karpov and Deasy go back years. Apparently. Unbeknownst to Chauncey, they’re just across the road in The Library Bar of the Central Hotel, a chessboard laid out on a low-set table between them. Karpov wets his lips between moves with a neat double vodka, the cool fucker. Deasy’s pint is going stale.
This extract from “Chauncey” is published with kind permission of The Stinging Fly. The full story appears in the current issue of the magazine (Issue 28 Volume Two/Summer 2014).
The Stinging Fly was established in Dublin in 1997 and aims to publish and promote the very best new Irish and international writing.