'Craic' by Alex Reece Abbott

Under Dublin’s gunmetal sky, O’Connell Street heaves, Saturday shoppers, sightseers,
hens and stags, out for the craic.
Mary side-steps another metal wall of street barriers. Tram works have turned the city
into Beirut. Rugby pilgrims stream to Lansdowne, clutching their plastic glasses of dark,
holy water.
Hunting for an espresso, she escapes down a cobbled side street, away from the pounding radios, gridlocked cars, and relentless hawkers plugging sightseeing tours around the city.
And, the skinny, scabby kids, brittle and wired, who haunt the Liffey’s quays.

Mary cranes to see the hold-up.
In Daniel O’Connell’s shadow, Garda are impassive, armed Vader-men, black from
toe to top. No escape. Mingling plainclothes officers mutter into headsets. Blue lights from armoured vehicles tint the shopper’s faces.
The 1916 Trail.
The Guinness Tour.
That Abbey play.
Wasn’t it going to be grand?
The crowd parts faster than the Red Sea. Suddenly, it’s a re-run: August 1969, sprawled with her sister, watching war on the grainy television news again.
Jittering, high on the chase, a gang scarper Belfast-style, hurling abuse and rocks over their shoulders. In uniform sagging track-pants and grimy trainers, sporting dark hoodies over beanied skulls, scarves dragged across pale faces, the boys are barely incognito.

When the roadblock clears, Mary heads for her hotel. On the bridge, a grubby girl huddles on a cardboard square. Her fraying baseball cap sports a flame-haired laughing leprechaun. Waving his shillelagh, he’s dancing a jig around a crooked row of shamrocks.
The girl studies Mary through pinprick pupils, shaking her polystyrene cup. It makes a feeble jingle.
Best not encourage her dependencies.
Mary is embraced by a blast of warm air in the hotel foyer. Keen for coffee and her room, she takes the lift. Then it hits her. Her sister would have found the girl a pound. Or more.

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