"Conas Atá Tú?"

The barman looked flustered as he put the tray full of drinks on a neighbouring table, and tried to figure out who had ordered what.

“Double vodka and Coke?”

Bernie stood up to give him a hand.

“Give that one to Sinead. There's a large white wine for Caitriona, and the gin and tonic is for your woman over there.”

He handed the gin and tonic to Saoirse.

“It's a double vodka and Coke for me too and . . . Mairead, are you the Fanta?”

Mairead nodded her head slowly.

Fuck off! What's that all about?”

Saoirse shot her a look that said “Bernie, not now!” She remembered the conversation they’d had about Mairead and her medication.

“Alright, whatever!”

Bernie gave a knowing look and a smile towards the barman's cute backside, as he retreated to the safety of the bar. The women raised their glasses, clinking them together, as Bernie intoned.

“Here’s to Lanza-fuckin-rotty!”

They cheered then, as people passing the bar looked at them in horror, perhaps realising that they were going to be stuck on the same flight as this lot for three and a half hours. Not to mention the fact that it was only half eight in the morning.

They'd had an early start, driving over to Lifford to pick up the McGonigle sisters, Saoirse and Mairead. Then back over the border to Strabane, and off down the Omagh Road towards Dublin Airport.

Caitriona was driving them. She was the sensible one, with a good steady job and a bit more experience of the world outside the north of Ireland. It had been her idea to go on holiday in the first place. A week in Lanzarote. It was expensive, right enough, especially for Sinead, as she had no job and two weans to feed, but they'd all chipped in and Caitriona had discreetly made up the difference.

It was going to be a great holiday. Just the five of them, just like old times. Well, Mairead wouldn't have been there during the old times, but Saoirse had insisted on bringing her.

“She's been wil' down in the dumps recently. The wee break will do her the world of good.”

As long as she paid her own way and chipped in for the hotel, the others didn't mind. Mairead was a wee bit odd and they didn’t really know her all that well, but they wanted Saoirse to be there. It wouldn't be the same without her, even if she was a goody two-shoes at times.

Bernie was the ringleader, of course. A big woman that people would describe as jolly and life and soul of the party. It was a reputation she enjoyed living up to.

They fell into a momentary silence as they sipped their drinks, each in their own personal world.

Eventually Saoirse spoke up.

“It's Aer Lingus, isn't it?”

“Aye.”

“Is that Irish?”

Bernie looked at Caitriona, since she knew the answer to every fucking question.

“Aye, I suppose so. I mean Aer is . . . well, and in some Asian cultures, Lingam . . .”

She looked around the group and thought “Maybe not!” Her explanation could get a bit complicated, and she didn't want to get this lot started. Not so early in the day, before they'd even boarded the flight!

She thought of another funny story she could tell them.

“Och, a wil' funny thing happened last time I was in Dublin Airport. You remember the time I was flying to America with Josie. You know, Danny's sister?”

They all nodded and looked at her with content expectation. Everybody loved Caitriona's stories, even if she did speak a bit posh sometimes, and used big words that they didn't always understand. And she said exactly and anyway a lot, like posh wans did.

Sinead looked at her with big eyes. She was feeling overwhelmed by the whole experience. She'd never been out of Ireland before. Life had been pretty hard over the last while, and she'd been struggling to make ends meet. It suddenly felt like she'd won the lotto, sitting in Dublin Airport, waiting for a flight to a warm country.

She'd left the weans with her mother for the week. She wondered how they were getting on. They'd be awake by now, crying for her, most likely. It had broken her heart to leave them behind and she'd nearly pulled out of the whole thing at the last minute, but her mother had told her to wise up!

“Sinead!”

Bernie snapped her fingers in front of her face. It was obvious that Sinead wasn't paying attention.

“For fuck's sake! Caitriona’s telling one of her stories!”

Caitriona continued, swirling the wine around in her glass.

“Anyway, this big Yank says to me and Josie . . .”

She put on her best American accent, which wasn't all that great, but enough to impress Bernie and the rest of them who'd never been to America.

Can you guys speak Gaelic?

Caitriona looked at them with mock offence.

“Sure, I haven't a fucking clue. We never did Irish at school. Och, aye, I know a couple of words, like . . . anyway, Josie gives me a nudge and I'm thinking to myself, aw, here we fucking go, what the fuck is she up to? You know what that Josie wan is like?”

They all nodded, enthralled. Josie was a bit of a legend around Strabane and everybody loved her sense of humour. She managed to make them all laugh, even when times were tough. Saoirse wondered what had happened to Josie. She'd not seen her this long time.

“Anyway, sure, doesn't Josie go to town and start teaching your man Irish?”

Bernie looked at her, waiting for the catch.

“But sure thon wan doesn't know a word of Irish!”

Caitriona nodded.

Exactly! But she's pretending anyway, cause you know what them Yanks are like. They'll believe anything. So Josie, she says to him, ‘Fe-lay-shio!’

A ripple of giggles and demure glances at their drinks, as if they'd never heard the word before. Caitriona was starting to laugh now as well.

Fe-lay-shio. That means hello, right? ‘Really?’ says he, ‘Fellatio is Gaelic for hello?’”

They were all laughing a bit now. Saoirse went bright red and giggled into her gin and tonic as a long-forgotten image suddenly popped into her head.

Anyway,’ your man says to her. So how do you guys say how are you?’”

Caitriona started a fit of laughing then and the others looked at her impatiently, the excitement building.

“So Josie she says . . . “

“Och, c'mon Caitriona! For fuck's sake!”

“So Josie she says, ‘How are you is Cunny-Lingus.’”

They roared with laughter then, shaking the table so much that they instinctively reached for their drinks to stop them from spilling. The barman popped his head up from behind the bar, wondering if there was going to be any trouble. He relaxed a bit when he saw they were just having a bit of fun.

A passerby gave them a dirty look and pulled her child along towards the Departure gate, disgusted that people could be drinking at that time in the morning.

'Bloody Norderners!'

The laughter settled down eventually, and they fell into a contented silence again. Caitriona tried to think of something to say, turning to Saoirse.

“Well, yous would have learned Irish, wouldn't you, in the South?”

Saoirse swallowed a mouthful of gin and nodded her head, ambushed by her chance to speak.

“Och aye! Fourteen years of Irish I did. Still can't speak a word of it!”

Bernie looked at the glasses emptying, and wondered whether they'd have time for another round before they needed to get on the plane. She couldn’t help staring at Mairead, still quietly nursing her Fanta.

“Are you alright, Mairead? You're very quiet the-day.”

Mairead looked at them in stunned silence. She was a woman of few words at best, but now that they were all staring at her, waiting for an answer, she said the first thing that came into her head.

“So Cunny-Lingus isn’t Irish?”

Bernie's face turned bright red, and she took a deep breath.

“Och, Mairead, for fuck's sake!”

Then she roared with laughter, and they all followed suit. Caitriona had tears coming out of her eyes, and Sinead laughed so much that she started snorting, which made them all laugh even more.

This was going to be the best fucking holiday ever!


About the author

Mauk Donnabhain was born in Lifford, County Donegal and currently lives in London. He draws on his experiences from many years living abroad, in places as far apart as Paris, Bratislava, Samarkand, Bangkok and Moscow. His work has previously been published in The Galway Review.


Mauk Donnabhain