Lost in Translation

The crash of the front door being slammed with great force jarred Jim uneasily awake from a pleasant and peacefully-stoned sleep. There followed the sound of running footsteps in the hall and then the thud of the back door; curious. Moments later there was a sustained battering on the front door. Something was up: the knocking and thumping (kicking?) was being done in a very serious manner. He turned restlessly in the bed, trying to ignore it, but none of the other tenants were home from their Saturday nights out, so it was down to him to investigate. He pulled himself out of bed with leaden feet, tied his dressing gown around him, and went down the stairs. What was all this commotion in the middle of the night? There were voices shouting outside; he couldn’t really understand what they were saying at first, but it sounded urgent. There was a lot of cursing. The door wouldn’t open. He mumbled apologetically through the letterbox, but they didn’t calm down. Soon they were knocking on the sitting-room window as well, shouting for him to open it up. It was the Royal Ulster Constabulary: Jim was scared.

With all the noise, he didn’t hear the footsteps behind him, and the first he knew about the unfolding situation was a heavy tap on his shoulder. He jumped in surprise, and turning around saw the huge bulk of a peeler towering intimidatingly above him. Not good. Paranoid thoughts multiplied like bacteria. He only had a wee stash, just for personal use – was he busted? He folded his skinny arms across his chest, smiled weakly, and said: What can I do for you officer? The cop’s flabby, pale face was grim, his fat lips tightly pressed together. We know about your mate, he’s on our radar. Panic: what mate? What do they know? How much? Jim’s stomach twisted with anxiety. I don’t know. Who? What do you mean? he babbled. The peeler frowned, looking down at him condescendingly. Jim felt like an invisible Dunce’s Hat had just been placed on his head. The Frenchy. You know, the boy who lives here with you? Relief. It was his housemate Thierry they wanted; he must have done something stupid. He usually went to the session at Kelly’s on a Saturday evening and drove home when the pubs closed, blocked after a feed of Guinness. Refused to waste beer money on a taxi. He said they always waved him through checkpoints because of his French car – too much paperwork for them to bother with him. Well, not any more by the look of things. The policeman continued: He had a skinful then drove home. Weaving all over the Ormeau Road, he was. Lucky we didn’t shoot him, taking off like that. You may tell him to lay off the vino if he’s driving, or we’ll have him. That was it. The cop struggled with the jammed latch, gave up, and went back out through the kitchen towards the entry where Thierry had made good his escape.

When the Frenchman eventually crept back into the house, Jim was sitting in the back room by the remains of the fire, shakily trying to roll a wee spliff to calm his nerves. Bastards nearly caught me: what did they say? said Thierry. Jim related the story back to him, including the police message: lay off the vino. Thierry was outraged: Vino? Vino? I don’t believe these imbeciles! Putain, bordel de merde! I’m French, not Italian!

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16 Responses to Lost in Translation

  1. Maith thú, Jason. Thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of Jim et Thierry. I suspect your Thierry may be a failed fiddler who settled on the Ormeau Rd in the 90s, learned two hornpipes, three jigs and a reel.

    He soon discovered that Guinness tasted better than rosin, got stuck in the Kelly’s Cellars time warp and he’s still here yet. 🙂

  2. viveka says:

    A French in Belfast …. not that exotic … a Swede should be maybe *smile …thanks for a great story. I hope you don’t do shooting on Ormeau Road,again.
    In Belfast you can run into any nationality, because of all the students .. doctors … nursing staff .. and tourist those days.

  3. Mike says:

    I applaud with mirth Jason. The style, suspense, language (not to forget the vernacular) and timing are skillfully written and well delivered. Much enjoyed mate.

  4. nedkelly944 says:

    PS Loved the RUC character just the way I remember them (waking up in a Portaferry cell after a big night on the town)!

  5. nedkelly944 says:

    Intriguing! A Frenchman in Belfast, the subject begs expansion, how did he get there and why? I had an experience with a drunken French chef who looked like a rugby prop. He insisted on driving me home from a pub in Scotland. Having refused and walked on, he drove the car after me on to the pavement and said ‘Get in’. ‘Luc’ sez I ‘you’ll lose your licence’ ‘What lisonze?’ he sez.
    The French are always there when they need you. I loved General Patton’s remark ‘Going to war with the French is like going deer hunting with an accordion’

  6. Peter McCavana says:

    Hiya Jason,

    Great wee story! (with a great punch-line!)

    Who is/was “Jim”, I wonder? Ye don’t necessarily have to answer that! 😉 You may “refuse to answer on the grounds that it may incriminate you (or him)”, as they used to say in old American cop/crime TV series, like Perry Mason, etc.!

    I didn’t know you knew Thierry. Where is he these days? I haven’t seen him since the days when he lived on the Antrim Road, opposite the top of the New Lodge. Give him our regards (from Peter & Franoise) if you see him or hear from him.

    All zee best!

    Peter McCavana cavana.peter@gmail.com


    • jasonoruairc says:

      Bon soir Peter. Thierry and Jim are both fictional! The Thierry you mean is still in Belfast I think, but this story has nothing to do with him. I’ll certainly pass on your regards if I do see him, but it’s been a while.

    • Peter McCavana says:

      By the way, since we’re on the subject of Frenchmen with Belfast connections:
      Just two weeks ago, I was chatting, drinking and havin’ a bit o’ craic with fluter Jean-Luc Thomas at a world music festival-cum-fair in Marseille, where I interpret conferences every year. I first met Jean-Luc at the event a couple of years ago (in the bar, not at the conferences, of course!!) (;-)
      This time, I learned that you two were related (“were” being the operative word, in the real past tense)…

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