The smell, rotten, really rotten. A sweet and sour, thick mixture of stale, spilled cider, vodka, breath, piss, shit, vomit and sticky bodies. It could be from any one of them. It was from every one of them. A stained pool table served as a counter for drinks while two stubbled men took turns to aim a cue at chipped balls spinning erratically off felt-covered cushions. A short round woman with a fat cherry face stood leaning on a chair. A short round man whispered in her ear and worked his hand in through the buttons of her unwashed shirt. -I have a husband, you know? I'm a married woman- She made no attempt to remove his hand, but greedily drank from his plastic cider bottle. Martin Burke sat staring straight ahead. His huge frame filled the upholstered chair that had seen many owners before ending up in Sunlight House. The hood of his blue sweatshirt covered his head, making him look, from behind, like a big, fit man in his twenties. He was a worn out man of forty seven. Under the hood, his face, bore many old scars. Reaching into the left sleeve of his sweatshirt, Martin pulled out a bottle of cheap, greasy vodka. He unscrewed the thin metal top, swigged quickly from the neck, replaced the cap and shoved it back under his armpit. -You are just looking for trouble, aren't you?- Hack Foley used a walking frame. Dressed in a charcoal suit, a waistcoat with a watch chain, a shirt and a black tie. From a distance he looked like an old gentleman out on a date. The food stains that ran down his lapel and the smell surrounding Hack soon put anyone coming near in no doubt that he was just like everyone else in the hostel. He dropped into a seat beside Martin, placing a bag of beer cans, heavily onto the floor. -What did I yell you? Don't look for trouble. You are your own worst enemy. You'll end up being put out- Martin never moved, staring straight ahead. -Fuck them- Hack sat forward in his seat. -Did I ever set you wrong, did I?- Pointing a dirty finger at him. - Didn't I look after you when you got locked up? I got you the job sweeping the landing, told you how things worked in there. Did I ever set you wrong? Did I?- -No. Still, fuck them- -I always looked out for you, Martin. I didn't have to. I could have left you to rot, but I didn't. I sorted you out. I made sure you were looked after- Martin closed his eyes, hoping Hack would wear himself out. He would eventually give up, but it was early yet. - I sorted you out and now look at you. Dressed like a fuckin' junkie, still causing trouble. Why don't you let them put your drink in a plastic bottle? If they find the glass one they'll put you out. You better listen to me Martin- -Will you shut the fuck up?- -Don't you tell me to shut...- -Shut fuckin' up. You looked out for me because your brother told you to. - -Don't bring my brother into..- -Because I took the blame for his job. I did my time without opening my mouth. Because I was doing his dirty work in that kip- - You mind yourself now...- -Hack, you were just a thief doing another stretch.- -I'm no thief. I'm a..- -A small bit of time. You were nothing in there. Just a pair of eyes. Now shut the fuck UP! You're wrecking my head.- Hack stayed quiet for a moment, then muttered to himself -I'm no thief, I'm a robber- Pointing at the woman whose shirt buttons were now undone, he shouted -She's the thief round here. She'll take everything you have. Leading you on. Prostitute!- -I'm a married woman. I have a husband you know?- One of the pool players stopped mid-shot, laughed, called to her. -Your husband's not the one with his hand on your tits, though, is he?- Her companion grinned. Not willing to defend her, afraid to go against the mood that was building. She stepped back, pulling away from him. A cackle rose in the room as she attempted an indignant exit through the double doors, the cider bottle still in her hand, her shirt flapping open, exposing her breasts to the pool players. -Go on, you oul brass ya! Get out!- Hack sat back in the chair, smiling, happy with himself. Martin said nothing. A thin man, Thomas Breen, weaved his way to where Martin and Hack were sitting. He was wet faced, teary eyed, dribbling from his toothless mouth. His Dublin football shirt stained, frayed and faded. He sat on the last seat beside Hack and whimpered. Thomas held a plastic soda bottle filled with diluted cheap sherry. He whimpered again, louder. -Don't start Thomas- -I want me Daddy!- -Ah for fuck sake!- -Daddy!- -He's dead, Thomas. He's been dead twenty years- Martin stood up. He towered over everyone. Hack looked up at him. -Where are you going?- -To get some peace- Martin walked stiffly, slowly out of the room, looking straight ahead. -Daddy!- Hack turned to Thomas. -C'mon, come with me, up to my room. I have a bag of cans- He put his hand on the inside of Thomas' thigh, smiling, showing his teeth. -I'll look after you, I'll see you right-
Bio: Stephen McGuinness is from Dublin, Ireland. More accustomed to writing poetry, this is his first piece of fiction to be published. Sitting in Sunlight is a sketch for a forthcoming novel.