Deckie never knew his father. If he had, he would have known that his father’s name was Tommy Macken. He would have known that Tommy was the seventh son in a family of thirteen and that they were natives of East-Wall.
He would have known that Tommy Macken was handsome and charming; that he was skilled in the art of conversation and that he could dance like no other.
Women that knew Tommy knew of his talents, and of their unrequited love for him. Women like Deckie’s mother had met Tommy and were consumed and enchanted by his masterful spell. It was an enchantment that gifted them all a little present in the form of a child. Consequently, Tommy had children across Dublin. He had a son in Tallaght; a son in Ballyfermot; twin sons in Stillorgan; a son in Blanchardstown; a son in Cabra and then Deckie who resided in Ballymun.
Deckie’s mother left Ireland to work in England, driven by economic hardship of the 80s coupled with the perpetual Irish stigma of unmarried motherhood. Deckie was left with his grandmother for a brief period that turned out to be longer than brief. How many years can be fitted into a brief period?
It was at a very young age that Deckie’s grandmother discovered his special knowledge. She was crippled with pain one day due to the arthritis in her elbows and hands. When little Deckie saw his grandmother vigorously rubbing poteen into her afflicted elbow joints, he went to her and placed his little hands on her and said:
– I make it better Nanny.
Her pain just ebbed away.
As Deckie grew he became aware of his special knowledge on occasion. There was times of realisation when he knew all answers and he understood all motivations. He knew these things like his lungs knew air. Deckie could see people’s truths and untruths, everywhere. He felt the knowledge strongest when he rode his piebald through the seven football pitches. To him the odour of fresh-cut grass and horse-sweat was the essence of the world itself. He had often viewed Dublin from his vantage point of horseback on high-ground and saw vividly the vapours of love and hate hover over the city. He understood them and accepted them.
When his horse was impounded he understood why. There were no facilities for keeping horses. True, his horse was not treated badly, she was in excellent condition in fact, but eventually she would suffer, or so he was told. He understood the fear and contempt in the voice of the young veterinarian woman who worked in the pound when she told him:
– You people think you have a God given right to horse-ownership. When I was a child my parents couldn’t afford to get me a horse, so I had to make do with horse-riding lessons.
He understood that she could never understand.
Deckie didn’t feel his special knowledge so much without his horse. Until, one night, Deckie was hanging around at the bottom of one of the blocks of Ballymun flats when one of his peers produced heroin. His first draw from the toother brought his special knowledge screaming and surging into his senses, galvanising each sense with an absolute palpability. From then on that was where he wanted to stay forever.
Deckie’s heroin apprenticeship progressed from chasing-el-dragon to injecting-el-dragon in less than a year. Then, while lying in a disused flat with a group from his vocation, an acquaintance began to overdose. Deckie crawled over and placed his hands on the afflicted man. He spoke gently into his ear; he blew his breath softly into his mouth three times. The man convulsed with a jolt like he had been touched with a thunder-bolt then sprang to his feet with his eyes agape. He found Deckie’s eyes, fell to his knees and wept hysterically. He had been touched by something truly divine.
When word went around, Deckie never again had to steal or connive for heroin. He floated from shooting gallery to shooting gallery and cured collapsed veins, abscesses, cirrhosis afflicted livers and overdoses. In times of crisis the addict community would phone Deckie rather than an ambulance. He never took money. A bag of heroin was the only payment he would take.
Then Deckie was found to have disappeared and the addict community became concerned. A priest was approached and told about Deckie’s gifts. Intrigued, the priest embarked on a quest to find this phenomenon. He searched Ballymun’s length and breadth, haunt after haunt, both night and day. Until his search led him to an old shed at the back of a burned-out house. There, the priest found the seventh son of a seventh son of Ballymun sat upright in the corner, a syringe dangling from his left arm and his t-shirt ripped open with the fingers of his right hand embedded deeply into the flesh of his left breast. Blood had trickled from each finger-point and dried into blackness. His face was raised upward and illuminated by a solitary shard of light that had punctured the felted roof. His countenance was one of grotesque and rapturous divinity.
Like a Christ of modernity.
Written by Alan O’Brien
Illustration by Paddy Lynch