The Cynics Club
Maureen Gallagher lives in Galway, Ireland where she works as a special
needs resource teacher. She writes prose and poetry and has been published in The Sunday
Tribune, Potpourri, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Nottingham International, Books Ireland
and many others. Maureen was a prize winner in the New Writer 2002 essay competition and
a finalist in the Dublin Writers' Festival Poetry Slam in June 2002. Her work has been broadcast
on the Arts programme of the Irish National Broadcasting Organisation, RTE's Rattlebag.
Maurice has just
arrived at the Cynics Club. He blinks as he adjusts to the dark. A dozen or so
thirtysomethings, are all crouching on the floor, around a large board game. Ken jumps up to
greet Maurice, smiling, 'Come on in. I was wondering when you would come and visit us.'
He leads Maurice over to where the others have resumed
their game, a sort of scrabble of nonsense words and sentences. The person who makes up the
most meaningless phrase wins.
'But why make up words and sentences that are meaningless?'
'Because life has no meaning, stupid!' Ken says, bursting
into high-pitched laughter.
Maurice joins in and quickly comes up with the word
EQUALITY. There is silence for a moment until finally Gen says, 'We're not interested in
that kind of language here.'
'Sorry, I just thought it was a good word. Surely meaning
can't be ignored completely?' Just then, Ken completes the phrase 'Kock Eyed Kooks.' The group
whoop and cheer.
* * *
Ken claps his hand.
'Game's over,' he announces, even though the game had in fact barely begun. 'It's book time,'
he says and brings over a large bundle of papers to a big table at the far end of the room.
The rest join Ken who takes the head of the table.
"'We're compiling a 21st century anthology of emerging
poets,' he explains to Maurice, 'all the best work will be in it.' At that, he reads out a
poem, one of his own.
Lurch thru the streets
The worn gelding
Congratulations your manifestation
Staggers like a forgotten cripple
Raffish rake struts his stuff
with jet shock sheen
her stance shuns
The swagger pleasure
And not a mark on her
The cold slaughter
Loud cheers and applause.
'But its meaningless', Maurice says.
'There you go harping on about meaning again.'
Maurice persists, 'But it has no rhythm or rhyme or music
or even good grammar or syntax.'
'The important thing in poetry nowadays,'
Ken explains to
him patiently, 'is that it has an internal relationship, integrity within the text, good
imagery, these are the things that constitute a good poem.'
|"you know, the
majority of people are just rubbish, they drift along, day in, day out. No purpose."
'I notice you used the word 'equal' in your poem even
though I was pulled up a while ago for using it. Everything is arbitrary with you!'
'Arbitrary! Arbitrary! Good word that. Must remember
it,' Ken retorts, laughing. Then, quick as a flash, recites:
and the sheer necessity
of neatly slashed wrists!
He gets another round of applause for this improvisation.
Gen looks at him, eyes smouldering. But, Ken is rummaging through the sheaf of papers again.
Then, 'Listen to this garbage from Andy Jordan,' he says:
'There was a man called Mickey D
Who wanked and wanked into the sea
The wank collected by a gale;
Was bottled up and called Betrayal!'
'But what's wrong with lampooning a reformist,' Maurice
asks, 'even if it is a limerick and not real poetry. Isn't it a good thing to parody a leftie
who sells workers down the river time and time again?'
'Political talk,' Ken says curtly, 'not allowed!'
Abruptly, he jumps up, pulls on a jacket and says,
'let's go to the town.'
* * *
They head for
O' Che's nightclub. The place is filling up. Ken points to a middle-aged man at the bar,
the worse for wear.
'Is he a New-Ager?'
'No, he used to be in our club, but we had to kick
him out in the end. Bukowsky, we call him.'
Just then, 'Bukowsky' pinches a young woman's rear, for
which he receives a sharp slap. The group fall around the place laughing.
'That's very unPC, surely.' Maurice remarks. 'Was he
like that when he was in your group?'
The mirth dies off. Ken goes into a rant, 'I fuckin' hate
PC and I hate people who go on with that fucking Political Correctness. I hate it!'
'But surely the point about PC is that it refers to a real
fight against sexism, racism and so on,' Maurice speaks with an indignation that surprises even
himself, 'I mean, shouldn't liberals support the issues PC stands for?'
'Questions! Questions! Questions! As a matter of fact, we
didn't throw him out because of PC. We threw him out because he lacked discipline. Always
soused. Always bumming around. I despise people who lack discipline.' Then in a conspiratorial
tone, says sotto voce, 'you know, the majority of people are just rubbish, they drift along,
day in, day out. No purpose. There are only a few of us who ever do anything. And, to be
honest, between us, I despair of even some of my own crowd here. More and more of them are
becoming like New-Agers. There'll soon be only myself left.' Laughs. 'You know, I would think
I was God, if it weren't for the fact I get a fucking hangover every now and again.
'Jesus, you're beginning to sound like a fascist,' Maurice
remarks. Ken squeals delightedly, 'Really? How would a moustache suit me?' He places his
forefinger over his top lip. Pauses for effect, then elbows Maurice, 'Only joking!' He does a
double take, 'fucking hell! You didn't think I was serious, did you?'"
It is Open Mike
at O' Che's and several young women sing, some with acoustic guitars, others without. 'Plenty
of girlies tonight,' Ken says, 'and good lookers, too!' A woman their own age joins them, and
Ken introduces her to Maurice as Angie. Angie sits silently, watching the performance and
drinking brandy. After an hour or so, she leans over the table until her face is only inches
away from the two men, who lean forward.
She whispers, 'Would you like to fuck?'
Ken grins broadly,
nods to Maurice and the three of them go out to a back room. Angie strips. Maurice is a little
nervous, but Ken goes straight over to Angie, swivels her around, unzips his trousers, and
mounts her from the back. When he's climaxed, Ken draws himself out without a word. He gestures
to Maurice to take over but Maurice shakes his head. After Ken has straightened himself up, the
two men go back to the bar. Angie is not asked to join them and she remains in the room.
|"Truth? I don't
believe in Truth! Truth was tried and tested and failed and that's all there is to it."
The Cynics are wined and dined by yuppies all evening and
into the night. The conversation becomes more and more incoherent. 'How do you stick their oul'
waffle?' Maurice asks Gen.
'We know which side our bread is buttered on,'
she says wryly.
* * *
They return to the
Club at around five o clock, and one by one go to bed. Maurice and Ken stay up talking, both
quite drunk now. They finish off a bottle of whiskey.
'Don't you ever dream of fighting to change the
world,' Maurice says apropos of nothing.
'I used to. In fact, I'll tell you something and I wouldn't
be telling you this only I'm half-pissed, but what fucking difference does it make anyhow.... I
was involved with left politics myself once.'
Maurice looks surprised.
"'Surprised? Well, I was. Back in the Good Old Days,' Ken
says, throwing his head back and laughing, a hollow empty laugh.
'Why did you leave?'
'Long story.' Ken looks as though he's falling asleep.
After a few minutes he raises his head, 'But things aren't so bad. We know how the system works
and we attract largesse our way, I mean awards that are thrown our way to keep us sweet,
on-side. We're an elite, superior to the great-unwashed mass, superior to those fucking
New-Agers. Superior. Full-stop.' Ken falls silent for a moment. 'I really wanted to get off
with that Sarah tonight.' He stares into his glass.
'She's a New-Ager, isn't she?'
Ken nods gloomily.
'Gen's keen on you, I'd say, would you not be interested
in her?' Ken shakes his head.
'Too fat. Too....' Ken gestures, moving two cupped hands
up and down at waist level, 'you know what I mean.'
Maurice says nothing.
'I'm pathetic; don't pay any heed to me. I'm just not a
nice person. It's no wonder she'd have nothing to do with me. She sees through me, that's
the problem.' He's crying now, whiskey tears of self-pity.
"'Why don't you try and change then?'
Ken looks up and shrugs his shoulders, 'No point. Life is
shit. As I've said, there's no point to anything, only getting on. And I am getting on.
I'm in there anyway, in with the IN crowd, and That Is All That Fucking Matters!' His head
sinks into his chest again.
'What about truth?'
Ken looks up from his glass, 'Truth? I don't believe in
Truth! Truth was tried and tested and failed and that's all there is to it.'
'How was that?' Maurice asks, but Ken has fallen asleep. As
he makes to leave, Maurice looks back at the hunched Ken, and notices for the first time the
bald patch on the top of his head, carefully disguised by strands of fair hair grown long for