Anyone from Springfield in Tallaght and its surrounds will appreciate this. The joy of the simple but satisfying ‘Pound Special’ from North Park. I don’t know what they put in that stuff but it sure was delicious. It is the inspiration for this piece of flash fiction.
Pushing open the heavy aluminium door, we are shrouded and enveloped in smells of star anise and onion. A deep, appreciative inhalation as we walk towards the counter that’s so high, we are only eyes and forehead above it. We hand over our pound coins, placing them onto the greasy counter that’s mottled with tatty menus and old, yellowed sellotape. Our stomachs growl in the anticipation and aroma of the curry sauce that wafts out of the hatch every time the surly counter girl opens it to pass an order in to the kitchen staff. We look at each other and smile. Most kids spend their pocket money on sweets. Not us. Every Friday, we walk to the chinese and spend our hard earned, household chore money on this local delicacy.
We watch anxiously as the hatch opens and that gloriously mundane paper bag is pushed through but our hope is dashed as the girl reads out a different order to ours and a portly man stands to retrieve his meal. We swap disappointed glances as our stomachs protest hungrily.
Then, it opens again.
“Two Pound Specials,” the girl calls in her deep, disaffected Dublin accent.
We smile to each other and taking the paper bag in hand, walk into the November night, hands frozen but soon warmed on the hot tin foil tub. We take them from the bag and let the fragrant steam assault our noses as we remove the lids. Eating from a plastic fork seems to improve the saltiness of the curry on our tongues, the chips like sponges, absorbing the rich sauce and the rice is light and slightly chewy. Each mouthful is like a flame from a log fire, heating our bellies from within against the bite of the winter air.
We walk slowly home, not speaking, just a satisfied grunt every now and again as we savour our weekly indulgence. A peak cap wearing reprobate walks by us and stops, regarding us suspiciously and we recoil a little.
“Gimme that curry,” he spits aggressively.
“You’re not getting my curry, but I’ll give ya all my smokes,” my friend says, meeting his eye contact, not backing down, holding the curry tightly to his chest with one hand, extracting the full packet of cigarettes from his pocket with the other. The youth favours this trade and goes along his way, lighting one of the cigarettes smugly as he goes.
My friend and I exchange glances, shrug and resume enjoying our hard earned treat.
The rain pounded on the window like an angry drummer thrashing out a rhythm. The mottled grey sky, mirrored half heartedly in the slug grey Liffey, cast no light into the room nor the streets below where the splashes from each pedestrian’s footfall was a backing track to idling cars stuck in the riverside traffic. The wipers on each rain spattered windscreen swooshed back and forth, back and forth.
He hated Saturdays now. Somehow the endlessness of the day was further mocked by the busy street below: people rushing about, shopping, chatting, spending time as the day eased away from them. Such a stark contrast to his, being alone in this apartment that he had grown to hate over the past few months. He used to have days like the people below where he’d take her to lunch on Grafton Street, then stroll through the Green or shopping for her favourite thing: shoes.
He felt that familiar wedge in his stomach as he thought of her blue eyes, mirrored in the azure, spring sky, her long blonde hair falling into ringlets down her back, the way she smiled almost all the time.
His eye was drawn to the orange-yellow sunflower that was swaying in the breeze, the only thing of colour within his view, the only sun in his sky. He reminisced about the day she had planted the seed, the promise of sun that the little black, striated thing held: a world of colour soon to be admired hiding in that tiny little shell. She’d watered it, whispered something to it and smiled up at him.
That was the day before he’d come home to find a note from her mother. She didn’t love him anymore and was leaving. He ran to her room and what had been a haven of pink fabric and teddy bears was empty and grey. He’d read the letter again. It had gone on to say he’d be able to see his daughter once a month from now on, nothing more.
His gaze fell from the sunflower to the solicitor’s letter on the table below. He vowed that before that plant withered and died, he’d have his little daughter in his arms again, no matter how hard he had to fight.