If I had a hammer

Working from home. In the Eighties you would have just been called unemployed.

So there I am, working from home. I happen to be on a break, watching television. The doorbell rings and whoever rung it is keen. I hear the sliding door slide across and there’s a bang on the hall door.

It’s the man who lives three doors down. We’ve never spoken before and he doesn’t introduce himself. He just says: “Have you got a hammer?”

The house three doors down is a council house. Two people live in it, this man, and a blind man. This man shouts abruptly sometimes as he walks down the road. Sometimes he really hollers. Mostly, you can’t make out what he’s hollering, but sometimes you can make it out – a string of curses at no one or nothing in particular. You hear him shouting in his back yard, too.

It hardly bears mulling over what this says about Ireland – that the health services would make a blind man share a house with an abrupt shouter.

Here he is in front of me, asking for a hammer. We have one but I tell him we don’t. “Where can I get one?” he asks. I tell him I don’t know. We stand there for a minute in the sunlight.  It could be the last beautiful day before winter kicks in.

He asks me about the neighbours on my other side. Old women. Probably don’t have hammers.

So he goes off.

I wanted to ask him what it was for but I’ve taken to being discrete. I go back to work.

A thumping noise. The window is flat so I can’t see across to where the sound is coming from. I need a bay window. I know it’s him so I go downstairs, open the hall door. He’s in his front garden beating one of his bins with a brush. You know those big, plastic black bins that get collected once a fortnight. The brush breaks. The head comes off. He tries to fix it. Is this what he needed the hammer for? He goes into his house and comes out with a bread knife, starts trying to cut the bin up.

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