What Laffarty Spoke About When He Spoke About Love by Niall Bourke

Love Child

Love Child

Photo by Laura Kiselevach

‘What Laffarty Spoke About When He Spoke About Love’ by Niall Bourke


Rats With Pickaxes

In all the brochures about Oz they tell ya about kangaroos and boomerangs and Bondi feckin beach but what they don’t tell ya about is manky great-big hangovers, huge ones that crawl up from the inside of ya like some sort of demented sea slug and ate ya up with spasms of sweaty panic.

The start of the bus journey from Brisbane to Sydney wasn’t too bad, sure we were still half soused from the night before, but after a few hours I started gettin it fairly bad. I was sittin there with my eyes closed pretendin to be asleep with a film of gluey sweat coated on to me and breathin like a dog with its head stuck out a car window. But if I was bad I wasn’t in the ha’penny place next to Laffarty. Laffarty didn’t go in for moderation. In fact the only type of moderation Laffarty ever went in for was the moderation of moderation itself, everythin else was done to excess. Includin hangovers.

I looked over at him and where once he’d been sittin now sat some kinda pale-grey ball of fidgetry, he’d gone into some sort of trance and was mumblin away to himself and every so often I’d hear him mutter ‘good be to Jeeesus’ before he’d start off on another round of convulsive shiverin and whatever dark place I’d been sent to now seemed light and airy enough compared to the seventh circle of hell that Laffarty was now writhin around.

I’d eventually managed to doze off when I was clattered awake by the belt of a rucksack and I looked up to see Laffarty harin down the bus, his backpack jigglin from side to side so that it was catchin on everyone’s head like a stick bein run across the bars of a fence as he passed down the aisle. I wasn’t sure where he was headed but I could tell by the head of steam he was buildin up that he wasn’t comin back so I grabbed my own bag and belted on after him, xylophonin everyone another clip in the ear as I went for good measure.

As the bus pulled off in a haze of exhaust fumes we sat on our bags, Laffarty with his head between his knees gulpin down the presents of humid air as if he’d just emerged from a prolonged stint at the bottom of a mucky lake.

“Jaysus Laffarty”, I said, “what is aytin you?”

“Fuck Redser, I had ta get off. There were rats runnin around down the end of me seat.”


“Yeah,” he said, “massive fuckers, with big mad teeth. Wavin pickaxes at me.”

“Rats?” I said. “With feckin pickaxes?”

“Yeah,” he said, “the feckin scumbags.”

We both sat motionless in the heat, drippin beads of beery travel-sweat onto our backpacks and readin the sign that said ‘Sydney’.

Except it didn’t say ‘Sydney’.

It said ‘Coffs Harbour’.

Now where the feck was that?


Pink Hairy Snouts

Now I told ya before that Laffarty was mad for young wans – or ould wans or any type of wans for that matter. His brain was a room (a fairly small one) and in each the four walls of this room were doors, wooden doors with gaps at the bottom I imagine, and the pink, hairy snout of sex was always snufflin away under the doors and tryin to get in. If he wanted to think about anythin else, and I mean anythin at all, it took an intense effort on his behalf. He had to first mentally lock and bar all the doors and then he had to keep runnin from one door to the other to check they were secure, usin the thin sweepin brush of his resolve to bayt off the snufflin smutmuzzles that were pokin under the gaps and tryin to wriggle inside.

After about five minutes of this he was invariably exhausted and so he’d just give up and throw all the doors wide open and welcome in whatever maraudin creatures that might come waltzin on through. A lot of people woulda said he was obsessed with sex I guess, but Laffarty would have seen it different himself. He woulda said he was more dedicated to it, a bit like studyin the racin form in the run up to the Grand National. But whether it was obsession or dedication that didn’t change the fact that thinkin about it was usually as far as he ever got.

You see, whenever he saw a young wan he’d stop stock still and the two ears would prick up on him and there he’d be, champin his teeth and with ahead on him like your dog when its bein all rapey won’t stop tryin to ride your auntie’s leg while your ould pair can only look on in mortification. But, the thing was, because of the depths of Laffarty’s desperations he usually never got what he was after. He was kinda stuck. The one thing he wanted more than anythin was the one thing he just couldn’t get because of the size of his desires. And the less he got of it the more his wantins grew, and so the chances of him ever gettin anythin at all dwindled off down to disappearin.


The Rollin Maul

Now Laffarty was nothin if not methodical. He loved a system. That’s probably why he was good at maths. Or maybe he loved a system because he was good at maths, it was hard to tell. But, whatever the way of it, he loved an ould formula and that applied to chattin up young wans as much as anythin else. We’d tried to tell him to just be himself. Women aren’t aliens we’d said to him, they’re just like lads, really, except with tits. Just be yourself.

But this didn’t wash with Laffarty at all. To him women were aliens. He’d been to the Christian Brothers school since he was four, he had no sisters and his only mates were meself and Shiner and Wrong Way – all lads. The only woman he actually knew was his mother and she was actually fairly manly. So, because of this, Laffarty was utterly convinced that there was some mystical and elusive realm that women inhabited, a realm that he couldn’t quite find or gain access to because he didn’t know the magic password. If only he had the password. Oh why wouldn’t someone just bloody tell him the password?

“Sure I’d not even ride me if I came over and started chattin myself up,” he’d replied to us, “I‘m not that bleedin stupid. Sure why am I gonna try and be meself when I can be someone more interstin?”

So he’d stuck to his systems. He adopted his first system when we were in our last year at school, when he employed what we’d taken to callin the rollin maul. Basically, he’d buy eight pints of Guinness with whiskey chasers and retire to the corner of the night club. In the corner he’d stay for the whole night, ferretted away in the grubbiness, until about two o’clock, half an hour before the lights a come on and everyone’d hafta stand up for the national anthem, and then with a drunken war cry this mouldy octopus type yoke would burst forth from the dinginess and proceed to rove dirty, great molesty circles of the dance floor, tryin to get off with anything with a pulse.

We’d asked him about this once and he just shrugged and said sure if you fire enough shite at the wall eventually some of it will stick. But it didn’t stick. Not for him anyways. It just meant that every weekend we got to laugh on from the balcony as we watched him wearin grooves into the dance floor by tracin out his dismal laps of grabby dejection.

Well, when he had (fruitlessly) exhausted that particular approach he moved on to what we called his questionin period. This was a technique handed down to him by his brother by all accounts. His brother, Shep Laffarty, had sworn blind that it was fool proof, that it was so simple that it would work for any ould eejit, even an eejit with a face as gammy as Laffarty’s.

How it worked was this. Basically the idea was to repeat the last word a young wan said to ya back to her, but with a question mark. So like if you were talkin to a young wan, she’d go ‘I’m from Cork’ and you’d go ‘Cork?’ and she’d go ‘Yeah, the city’ and you’d go ‘The city?’ and she’d go ‘Well, just outside actually, it’s handy for work’ and you’d go ‘For work?’ and she’d go ‘Yeah, I’m workin in the bank’ and you’d go ‘The bank?’ and she’d go ‘Yeah, on Patrick Street’ and then you’d be away in a hack because in no time at all she’d be starkers in the sac with ya. So this system was fool proof. But it sure wasn’t Laffarty proof.

Laffarty had the first bit down fairly good and he’d usually get to the above point in the conversation. But then he’d come unstuck because he hadn’t quite twigged it yet but the same thing would always happen and it’d derail him somethin rotten. She’d ask him a question.

“So what do you do?” she’d say.

Now this would really throw poor Laffarty off kilter and you’d see him start to wobble like a bicycle goin up a hill that was losin its hard won momentum.

“Me?’ he’d say ‘Do?”

“Yeah,” she’d say, “what do you do?” and he’d just look at her as puzzled as fuck before tryin one last vain attempt to salvage somethin from the train wreck that was now unfoldin before his eyes.

“What. Do I. Do?” he’d say. And then he’d just stare at her, watchin as the unnatural winds of his silence would blow ripples across the bewilderins of her face.

“O. K. Freakboy” she’d say at last, before spinnin on her heels and disappearin agonisinly off back to that magical and elusive realm that Laffarty supposed was where women hung out, spendin all their time vindictively makin up passwords that they told to everyone else but him. 



We were lookin out for a hostel, walkin down the wide street in Coffs Harbour that linked the bus station and what seemed to be the main bit of town, when an apple of understandin hit Laffarty smack square in the forehead, like that Greek lad that discovered gravity when he jumped into the bath. Laffarty stopped dead and I walked into the back of him, his rucksack catchin me a belt in the face for the second time that mornin.

“Envelopes!” He said.

I had no idea what he was witterin on about.

“What?” I said

“Envelopes! That’s it! Why didn’t I see it before?”

I was still none the wiser. I was just goin to walk off without humourin him to be honest because I was a bit thick with him that we weren’t still on a bus to Sydney, but when he turned around to me and put his hand on my shoulder I melted a bit. He had a quare look on his face, like the look that me ould lad had the time that he had called me into the kitchen to tell me that he’d heard what teenagers were at these days and I better not be takin any of that hash stuff that was goin around.

“What the fuck has got into you?” I said.

“I have it. It’s simple. Instead of just repeatin the last thing a wan says to me, which is just plain stupid-“

“-that’s the only sensible thing you’ve said all mornin-”

“-well Instead of that I’m just goin to ask the next wan I meet what is her favourite type of envelope.”

I couldn’t believe what I was actually hearin here.

“And why in the name of god would you do that?” I said.

“Cos when she says ’What?’ I’ll say ‘yeah, cos I hate brown ones with plastic windows in them, cos like they’re always bills-”

“-or court summonses-”

“-yeah, or court summonses. And then I’ll say ‘But I really like handwritten, manila envelopes.”

I was at this stage convinced that the maggots of his hangover were finally after borin a few serious holes into his brain.

“Mafeckinwhatta?” I said.

“Manila. The ould one was always makin me paint her bedroom, like, so I know all about the different colours. Manila means you’re cultured but sensitive. And then I’ll ask them about their favourite type of envelope again.”

I was impressively appalled by the absurd level of thought that had gone into this.

“And just what exactly do you think these invisible wans will actually say when you ask them about these hypothetical envelopes?”

“Who cares,” Laffarty said, “they’ll probably say they like pink ones with flowers on them or some shite. It’s not like I’m actually goin to listen to them or anythin. But it won’t matter, cos by then I’ll have shnared em.”

I chewed it over. It tasted cold and porridgy.

“What if they don’t actually have a favourite type of envelope?” I said.

“Well there, Redser, is the real beauty of it. If they don’t have a favourite type of envelope then I know straight from the off that they’re no craic. And everyone knows that borin wans that are no craic ones are frigids.”

He beamed.

I was silent a while. There was a certain logic to it alright, but it was the same kind of logic that drives people to go drinkin in order to stave off a hangover.

“Ah you’re daft,” I said, “that’ll never work. They’ll just straight up see that you’re some kinda creepy sex panther.”

“Which I am.”

“Which you are,” I agreed. And then I started off down the road again to find a hostel, hummin a catchy tune that I’d heard on the radio a bit earlier as I went. Or maybe not a hostel. Maybe an insane asylum to house whatever depraved, hungover golem that had just bodysnatched Laffarty and was now followin me around and warblin on about tryin to ride young wans with the help of handwritten envelopes.

But, that very night, sure didn’t ould ‘envelopes’ Laffarty only go and get himself his first ever girlfriend?

Right, yeah, ya got me. That last bit isn’t true. I was whistlin, not hummin. But everythin else happened just like I told it.


Did you like the story? Opinions? Praise? Please leave a comment below



Niall Bourke
Niall is 33. He is an English teacher who lives and working in London but is originally from Kilkenny, in Ireland. He is currently finishing an MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths University of London. He is working on a collection of poetry and a novella about two Irish backpackers mooching around Australia -concerned with sex, drink, desire, the drunken desire for sex and the sexy desire to get drunk. The previous Chapter of this novella – ‘The Closest We Got To The Sugarcane’ was published in issue 15 of Prole Magazine and he has had poetry published in Southbank Poetry Magazine and Three Drops from A Cauldron

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5 Responses to What Laffarty Spoke About When He Spoke About Love by Niall Bourke


    For what it’s worth I have ph.d english and creative writing state university of New York binghamton I found the story quick paced and enjoyable being Irish admit to bias for Irish writing old and new subscribed and look forward to reading more

    • Roadside

      Glad you enjoyed it Sheila. The very original style got me immediately when I read it and I had hoped others would appreciate it also.

  2. Good stuff, Naill. Makes me long for my young, stupid days. Young and stupid trumps old and stupid any day of the week. I would hang with these guys in a heartbeat.

  3. Niall

    Thanks Jeff. Oh the joys of being young and stupid. The lads are completely fictional of course, definitely not even remotley based on people I’ve met :)

  4. Niall

    And thanks Sheila – I have just seen your comment – very kind indeed. I am working on a few bits and hop to have more soon.

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