Benjamin? Charlie says. He want a black-sand beach. He want to be talking bollocks. He want a circle of swaying dreadlocks all ’round him. He want the girls and the dogs hanging on his every word. He want to be staring all soulful into the moonlight. Ranting his nonsense about the stars and the leylines and Jah Rastafari and the magical significance of the number twenty-three.

The cunt wouldn’t go away and get a job for himself, no?

No fear.

Right! Benny says. I’m away.

Maurice leans in, slams him to the stool, bites his shoulder. Charlie muffles the cry with the tips of his fingers placed firmly to Benny’s mouth.

Ben? There’s no harm done.

Are they on their way, Benny, are they?

I don’t know anything. I can’t help you. I might have seen a Dilly one time in Granada. But it was way back.

Charlie descends in sadness from his stool. He takes the dog by the rope. He moves away from the other two and turns his back on them. He breathes hard as though to control himself.

Maurice lays a fatherly hand on Benny’s shoulder.

First off, Ben? I’m sorry I bit your shoulder. There was no call for it. It’s shocking behaviour. But I was badly brought up, you know? I didn’t have your advantages. I’d say your old man was an accountant or something, was he? Or did he run a leisure centre? Usually the way. With your crowd. With the crustaceans. But me? I came off a terrace street the sun never shone on. I was put out working at four years of age. In Cork city. I was a bus conductor, actually, on the number eight, St Luke’s Cross direction. But that’s all a long time ago now, and those were the sweet days of my youth and they’re not coming back. Oh, no, they are not. And never did I think I’d wind up the way I am now. A man that’s heartbroken. A man that hasn’t seen his Dilly in three fucken years. Imagine what that does to a fella? But I apologise again, Benny. I do. Are we on speaking terms?

Benny half nods; he’s very scared.

Well, listen to me carefully and take good heed, okay? Because you see that man there? Charlie Redmond? Of Farranree? See what he’s trying to do there? He’s trying to control his breaths, Ben. He’s trying to articulate his spine.

He calls over to Charlie –

Are you articulatin’ your spine, Charles?

If there’s nothing else I’m doing, I’m articulatin’ my cunten spine, Moss.

That’s good news, Ben, because if he don’t relax himself? All bets are off. I mean seriously. Charlie Redmond? A gentleman. A philosopher. A man so attuned to emotions he can communicate on a bodily level with the most delicate creatures of us all, which is dogs. Charlie Redmond? Loyal as an old dog himself, and fierce! If needs be. And I tell you now, since she were no bigger than a little trout? Dilly Hearne has been that man’s darling. Oh, he doted on her. He was around our place four nights of the week, five, bringing her comic books, DVDs, sneaking her in sweets, and if he didn’t show up, of an evening, she’d be at the window, upstairs, looking out, where’s my Unkie Charlie? And it’s three years now since we seen Dilly, and you can imagine what it’s like for me, the girl’s father, I’ve been in hell. But Charlie Redmond? He’s as bad again. No peace, no solace, not till his Dilly’s got back to him.

Charlie returns to the pair, with the happy dog, and he squats in front of Benny. He opens his suit jacket, takes out a knife, looks around carefully. He shows the knife to Benny, both sides of it. He puts it inside his jacket again.

I’d hate to have to take the head off the fucken dog, Ben, you know what I’m saying? So tell me now. Is Dilly due in, is she? Dilly Hearne?

She’s a small girl.

She’s a pretty girl.