My phone beeps. It’s a text message with a link in it to the Irish Indo newspaper. From Jimmy.
“Modular Housing Delayed Again” goes the headline.
I feel bad. I won the contract back in December to build 22 of them for the homeless. It was all going Ok, pretty much to schedule when I ran into trouble over building the set for the RTE Election Debate. It’s a long story, but now I’m pretty sure the Party-That-Cannot-Be-Named have a hit out on me.
So I’m sweating it out in one of the unfinished modular homes in Ballymun, with the curtains drawn and the lights off. Nobody knows where I am. I've lost track of time. I’m a prisoner.
My phone’s been going mental. I’m letting everything go to voicemail. Even the ex-Minister fella Alan Kelly left an angry message saying something about having a long memory and not forgetting me when he is Taoiseach someday. I’m not overly worried, his party don’t seem like they could follow through on a promise.
It’s the messages from Anonymous I’m more concerned about. It started with "Joe, saime as before. Come aloine". Then “I told you, no Sitcheayshuns. Meet me tonighte” to “Deaid men don’t need voicemail. You have 24hours”.
The thing is, being confined like this has given me a new perspective or something? All I have is in this room – like I said we’re behind schedule, so we haven’t actually added anything like walls or a roof to the houses yet.
I feel a certain comfort knowing that this is my domain and I’m as much a part of it as the fixtures in it. In a moment of loneliness or something, I start calling out to them.
‘Hello, cheap door. ‘
‘Hi there, MDF kitchen cupboard’
‘Story, uninsulated wall?’
‘What’s up, wonky skirting board?’
‘Yo, single glazed window!’
They’re like my friends. I felt the same way about them when the council signed off on them too – they actually cost me buttons?. They’ll always be there for me – at least until they fall off or disintegrate in a few years’ time.
I stare hard at cheap door thinking about the situation I’m in and the similarities between us. I’ve had my fair share of openings too, become unhinged a few times and am now locked up trying to keep the bad guys out.
“We’re a lot alike, you and me, cheap door” I go.
Door says nothing back. Just stands there kind of crookedly on its hinges.
Then it comes to me. We’re actually different. It’s locked up, but it’s just doing its job. I’m the one actually choosing to be locked away.
I walk over to it and give it a kind of hug. It falls off its hinges and crashes to the floor letting the light of the day stream in from the outside. As I shield my eyes from the unfamiliar blast of sunlight, I think to myself that I’ll have to get one of the lads to do a patch up job on it.
It’s time to face the music, come what may. I’ve a project to finish and a whole lot to live for. I can dodge the Party-That-Cannot-Be-Named until it all cools down. They've probably already forgotten.
As I walk out the open door way, I look around one last time. The room looks different now.
‘Bye-bye room’ I go as I step outside into the Irish spring day. No urge to look back as there’s nothing in there for me anymore.
As I kind of stumble across the empty building site, I hear the welcome voice of another human being in the distance.
“Joe, you bleeding sap. Where the feic have you been?”
It’s Jimmy. He’s over the other side of the site with the lads on lunch break.
“I had to go away for a while” I say as I walk towards them. “But I’m back now”.
“Jasus” goes Jimmy giving me a strange look, “it’s well for you. You’ve been gone all bleeding morning and we’re way behind schedule”.
I say nothing. Just pour myself a cuppa. He wouldn’t understand what I’ve been through.
“Oh, and by the way” he goes. “There’s some northern bloke waiting for you in the site office. Says you’ll know what it’s about.”
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