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1988: Fine Time

By the evening we were slaughtered again. The beach bar

we were in was packed with toasted yobs, and apparently

Daithi wasn’t happy, offering the occasional hint such as

prolonged bouts of weeping, shouting, and falling on the

floor. I knew how he felt; my scalp was sunburnt and tender

as hell. The more drunk we became, the more Daithi’s antics

became amusing. The booze was cheap and the general mood

so light that Tony was even allowed to make jokes about it all

being ‘Balearics’.

“I’m hungry,” complained Daithi.

The restaurant was in a small cove away from the main

drag, fishing boats within spitting distance of our quayside

table. Yellow lights swayed merrily above the thatched

canopy and a light wind eased away the last of the day’s heat

to make it fresh and clean for the morning.

Becky took my hand; for a second I’d been somewhere

else. Closing my eyes I gently tasted her olive oil fingers,

then kissed my way up her bare brown arm like a cartoon

French skunk to her taramasalata mouth. Tony and Hermione

stopped arguing about vegetarianism for a moment and

whistled, and even Daithi went “woooh.” We hadn’t really

shown our affections before; Herm looked wryly amused as

she lit a fag.

“Leave it out!”

“Pass the bucket!”

A waiter brought Tony’s lobster, sat on the plastic bottom

of its bucket with a gloomy aspect, as was its right. Tony was

winding Hermione up, smacking his lips and saying “mmm!”,

and Herm fell for it as usual. Becky looked offput and took

another look at the menu.

“Maybe I’ll go for the fish,” she said faintly.

“Coward,” replied Tony.

“No I’m not! I just don’t know if I’d like lobster. It doesn’t

look like it’s got much meat on its bones.”

“Lobsters don’t have bones,” I reminded her, “they’re


“I don’t know where the hell you get these useless bits of

information, Joe. Didn’t you say you left school at fourteen?”

I looked uneasily at Tony, who smiled knowingly.


“Following a torrid affair with your geography teacher.”

Tony laughed. “Really, Joe? I didn’t know you and

Melville were so close.”

“Oh fuck off,” I said through gritted teeth. “Are we having

this lobster or what?”

“Well, I am,” said Tony, “Can’t wait to sink me teeth into

the bastard.”

“Might be better if they cook it first,” I suggested, “bit hard

on the teeth old boy.”

“Do you know how they cook it?” said Hermione, lighting

a fag and looking witheringly from under her cap. Tony

shrugged. Hermione told him. Tony seemed crestfallen.

“You’re kidding.”

He looked into the bucket where the lobster waited

patiently, only its claws making any movement. “Poor little

bastard. Fights all its life on the floor of the sea then we come

along and boil it alive.”

“That’s life, I suppose,” said Hermione. She looked at

Daithi, who looked tearful again, and tried to change the

subject. “Would you like chips, Daithi?”

He shrugged miserably; I swigged San Miguel, warm and

flat; Tony looked green; Becky looked out to sea with that

infuriating wan-ness; Hermione stubbed out her fag

impatiently. “Well, I’m having calamari and salad, what’re

you all having?”

I looked round at the other tables, which were mostly

empty. The three aproned waiters at the kitchen door smoked

and joked. “Not many here, are there? Where’s all the fucking


“Language, Timothy,” reproached Tony, looking at Daithi.

He leaned over. “Know what we should do, Daithi?” Daithi

shrugged. “We should liberate the lobster. Why don’t we just

chuck it back into the sea and run for it?” Daithi giggled.

Tony looked at me. “What do you say?” I smiled. He

looked at Hermione, who nodded seriously, and at Becky,

who lit a fag and shrugged. She didn’t believe him, even

when he looked round for the waiters and picked up the


“Ready?” said Tony. I picked up Daithi, Herm grabbed his

pushchair handles. Tony tipped the bucket into the sea and we

ran, shouts behind us fading beneath our laughter.


*This is an extract of “Fire Horses” byM L Piggott.

“Fire Horses”: synopsis and quotes

“Fire Horses”: buy it here

ine Time (w Order)

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