Taken from the ‘never to be finished in a millenia of sundays’ novel Mysterious Ways…
Michael was having a rough day. He decided that a drink would be a good idea. A very good idea indeed…
He shuffled through the door of the pub and straight to the bar without looking at any of the forlorn figures who were scattered around the tables and chairs.
“Howdy pardner” said Conor from behind the bar. He was a tall and gaunt man, with unkempt black hair and huge, bent Roman nose which had quite obviously seen better days.
His chin was decorated with a short beard and his top lip with an enormous handlebar moustache. He was also notable for his enormous feet and hands, a fact which a great many women seemed to take notice of.
“Evening Conor” said Michael, forcing a half smile out of the corners of his down-turned mouth.
“Christ you look like a drowned rat. What’ll ya have?” the gangly barman asked him.
“Hot Port Conor thanks”
“Yeah, good for the bones my son,” the tall one told him, “Listen, sling your jacket over the radiator there and take a seat. I’ll drop it over to ya”
“Cheers Conor” said Michael with genuine relief.
Michael threw his coat over the nearest radiator and slid gingerly onto one of the stools at the bar. Normally, he would have sat at one of the tables at the back, where the rest of goon squad would be perched. However, he didn’t even look down to see were there any familiar faces but chose instead to stare straight ahead of him at the nearest beer mat.
In a few seconds, a hand came into view and placed the glass of hot Port on to its centre.
Without looking up Michael fished his hand into his trouser pocket and dragged out his wallet. As he did so, his spare finger grabbed on to his packet of cigarettes. He placed them on the bar with a rain soaked splat.
“Fuck it!” Michael said through gritted teeth.
“Ten Marlboro as well, yeah?” asked Conor, wiping a glass.
“Yep, thanks” came the mumbled reply. Michael passed the money over the counter and Conor rang it up at the till.
He turned back around to give Michael the change and considered him for a moment.
“You alright mate?” he asked.
Michael looked up at the barman. “What do you mean?”
“Well, you don’t look to good son. In actual fact you look like total shit…”
“Your eyes look bloodshot to fuck and your face is as pale as an Eskimos’ arse”
Michael regarded him for a moment. “Do I pay you extra for this abuse Conor?” he said.
“Oh yeah. I add it onto the VAT” the tall one said with a sniff.
“Thought so. It’s nothing,” Michael sighed, “I’m just feeling a bit under the weather. Might be that cold that’s going around” he lied off the top of his head.
“Yeah you should watch yourself son,” said Conor, whilst assuming a grave face, “I heard it’s a nasty fucker of a virus. Some bloke was in here last night. In fuckin’ bits he was,” Conor sniffed again, placing one hand on the bar and rolling his eyes up philosophically, “Sitting in your seat actually. In shreds he was. Told me he was pissing blood, barfing, shitting like a madman and sweating like a pigs arse in a sauna…”
Conor finished off meekly under the murderous look that Michael was shooting him from behind the lip of his glass. Michael was regarding him as though he was a worm.
“Er, I’d eh, better eh, clean the taps out” said Conor, as he sidled away nervously.
“Cheers” Michael grunted.
Michael sank the drink in one gulp. It tasted like absolute piss.
“Urrrghhh..” he spat with his tongue hanging out.
“How’s it going buddy?” came a squeaky, rasping voice from behind Michael. It was accompanied by an overly friendly slap to Michael’s back. Michael didn’t need to look around to know who it was. He just groaned inwardly.
“How’s the form Liquids?” he said over his shoulder, staring with open hatred towards the glass in his hand.
“Not too bad, not too bad at all actually. Working on a real winner at the moment” said Melvin ‘Liquids’ O’Neill, as he seated himself on the stool next to Michael.
Liquids was five foot three inches tall. He had a greasy riot of unruly red hair smattered across his scalp, a small piggy nose, nostrils like missile silos and a mouth like a slit orange. His face was battered from acne like a golf bunker and his voice sounded like he had grown up talking to rats. He was, without there being a shadow of a doubt in Michael’s mind, the ugliest bastard that Michael had ever laid eyes on.
Here we fucking go…
“Really” said Michael, feigning an interest, “What’s that then?”
Liquids ordered a drink with a motion of his grubby finger and looked over both his shoulders. Nobody was paying him the slightest bit of attention; but if you were a stranger who knew nothing of the small man, and were judging him by his guilty-looking facial contortions, you would expect the police to kick the door in at any second and drag him outside for a beating for some unspeakable crime that he had comitted.
Michael knew better and just ignored the theatrics.
“Well,” Liquids began with another shifty sideways glance, “do you remember I was telling ya last week about the cult of the severed head in Celtic spirituality and how this has alarming parallels with certain religious practices in the Amarna period of Ancient Egyptian Pharonic history?” he shrieked through his nostrils.
“Er, yeah…” Michael said. He didn’t have the faintest notion what Liquids was talking about.
“Well, basically buddy, I’ve uncovered some startling evidence during my research in a certain area of the National Archives in the city centre, in an institution quite close to one which you frequent on a daily basis…” he screeched with a hideous waggle of the eyebrows.
“What?” said Michael, twitching his finger in desperation at Conor for a pint of Guinness. Conor pointed to the tap in front of him. Michael nodded as though his life banked on it.
“The National Library, buddy! Are you with me?” Liquids asked with a nudge.
“Sound. Well, as I was explaining to you last week, the cult of the severed head was probably invented by the heretic pharaoh Akenhaten in Ancient Egypt, passed on to the young Moses, who in turn passed it on to the Jews… are you with me?”
Michael, by the expression on his face, clearly wasn’t, but Liquids carried on, taking a moment to shoot another feverish glance over both of his shoulders.
Satisfied that no-body was taping his conversation he turned back to the haggard face of Michael and launched off again.
“So, the earliest forms of secret, top level Jewish religious worship involved the severed, let’s call them de-capitated, heads of figures of both political and spiritual importance to these aforementioned early Jews…”
Michael, who was normally patient with Liquids where few others would be, suddenly ran out of manners. “Liquids, what the fuck are you talking about?” he snarled.
Conor delivered the pints and Liquids paid for them before Michael could even go for his wallet.
“Now, easy there, stay with me buddy…” he glanced around the bar one last time, “stay with me on this one. I’m getting to da good stuff in just a momento”
“I should fuckin hope so. So far you’ve just been talking utter shite”
Liquids didn’t seem to hear this, but instead buried his nose in his pint and sank half of it in a series of great, exaggerated gulps. When he finally finished and slapped his half-empty pint glass back on the bar, there was a great white blob on his nose from the head of the pint.
He wiped it off with his sleeve and regarded Michael with an inquisitive look.
“Where were we?” he asked.
“I was about to commit suicide”
“Oh yeah!” he broke Michael off, “I was getting to the good stuff”
“Yeah the good stuff,” said Michael, taking a mouthful.
“Yep, so. It’s the early 12th century, roight? Are ya with me? And the Knights Templar are camped out on dat hill in Jerusalem. Crusades and all dat jazz. Are ya with me?” Liquids asked for what seemed like the seventy-fifth time.
Michael grunted an affirmation.
“So they starts digging. Roight? Diggin’ like fuckin madmen they are. Digging and digging and fucking diggin’. Day and night for months and months they’re digging. Digging like the bejaysus! Are ya with me?” he yelped at Michael, the excitement in his voice growing with every word.
“Yes, correct me if I’m getting you wrong, but I think you were trying to tell me that they were digging”
“And then…” Liquids leaned closer, his puffed up eyes darting from side to side, “they find something”
Liquids leaned back, a large grin of accomplishment spreading across his pot-marked face.
Michael gave him the same look which he had given Conor some minutes previously.
“Liquids, for the last time, what the fuck are you talking about?”
“The head buddy!” Liquids almost yelled at Michael, “the head of the main man. The head honcho. The boss. Da dudemeister, ya know what I mean? Are you with me buddy?”
“Liquids, if you say that one more…”
“The head of JC, ya ill-informed muppet. Open your mind buddy! Jesus Christ. The main man…”
Michael stopped and looked closely at Liquids. Raising his glass, he spoke.
“Liquids, you are without the slightest flicker of a doubt, the most stupid, irrational, mis-guided, paranoid, gobshite that I have ever met in all my worldly travels. And I’ve been to County Clare”
“Eh?” asked Liquids with a hurt look.
“What the fuck are you blathering on about?” Michael asked him with a look of total despair.
“Look buddy, you work in the National Museum roight?”
Michael grunted, his agitation growing by the minute. He wondered momentarily, whether God was actually trying to piss him off today.
“So you probably see a lot of weird shit, roight? Government building next door and all o’ that jazz. Roight?” Liquids gushed.
Michael cast his eyes upwards and grunted again.
“Well, has it ever occurred to you buddy, to ask yourself whereabouts are all of those artefacts that we all hear about but never actually see…” Liquids whispered.
Liquids snorted a laugh. “What artefacts he says! What artefacts indeed…”
“Liquids, get to the point will ya?”
“Who do you think looks after all those artefacts? Eh? How many artefacts are there even? Eh? Are ya with me buddy? Does anybody actually know like? Tell us, have you ever heard the theory that there’s actually an army of Leprecahuns working underneath the vaults of the Government, Museum and Gallery?”
“What in the name of Jesus does any of this have to do with people lobbing heads off and worshiping them? What in Gods’ name are you talking about?”
“God’s name indeed. God’s name indeed, buddy” said Liquids with another bout of flapping the eyebrows and a learned nod of his head.
Michael pivoted in his seat and was about to lay into Liquids again but the small one cut him off before he could get the first word out.
“You know the story of what happened to the Templars roight?” he said.
Michael knew the story well. “Yep” he said, deciding he would give Liquids another thirty seconds before he threw him through the window.
“Friday the 13th, AD1307 to be precise, the Knights Templar are rounded up by the troops of that unholy bollocks the French King…”
“Phillipe the 4th?” Michael confirmed. He instantly wished he hadn’t.
“The very one” nodded Liquids with a slanted smile, “He rounds them up, basically because he owes them a sum of money equivalent to the national debt of Boilivia, and accuses them of all kinds of heresy, all of it bullshit. Trumped up nonsense. Now, Michael, old buddy, what were the Templars really famous for, eh?”
“Being the Guardians of the Holy Grail…”
“Well, yeah obviously,” said Liquids in a tone of blunt sarcasm, “but what else were they famous for? Hmm?”
Michael though about it for a second. Well, he mused, it could be any one of about a dozen things. The Templars had been the most famous order of Medieval Christian knights. They were, by all accounts, not a bunch to be messed with. These guys had invented the modern cheque book. They were famously kick-arse crazy in battle. They brandished the skull and crossbones as their flag. They invented the deck of cards.
Gods warriors. The Militia of Christ.
They had arguably been the most powerful organisation in the world.
It had been suggested, that as well as the Grail, they may have also been in possesion of the Ark of the Covenant. Michael also knew from a previous one of Liquid’s rants that he considered the two objects to be one and the same…
“Amaze me then…” said Michael.
“Being rich. Rich buddy. Filthy fucking rich! More money than that rich dude, what was his name?” asked Liquids, snapping his fingers and squinting his eyes.
“Creosus?” suggested Michael hoping to silence the other with his knowledge of obscure facts.
“Bono,” said Liquids, “Stinking fuckin rich they were. Fuckin rolling in it” Liquids took another huge gulp of his pint.
Michael joined him, not out of any sense of camaraderie, but rather in the hope that the effects of the alcohol might unexpectedly render him temporarily deaf.
“Go on then” Michael prompted him, deciding to be generous.
“Well, imagine for a momento, if ya will, that these riches for which they was fabled, was a type of riches that money has no bearing on…”
Michael regarded him with suspicion. “What do you mean?” he asked, genuinely curious.
“Well, what’s more valuable than money?” said Liquids leadingly.
Michael paused whilst thinking of his answer. He had the distinct impression though, that no matter what his reply was, Liquids was going to correct him.
“Knowledge?” he guessed.
“Not bad. Not bad. Very important that. Knowledge. Very important indeed” Liquids nodded furiously, “But what’s even more important than knowledge?”
“Stun me then” said Michael.
“Okay, “said Liquids with another jack in the box nod, “Let me put it to ya another way. What does knowledge give you?”
Again Michael though carefully on his answer. He suddenly wondered why he was even bothering.
“Certainty” he said, giving the first smart sounding answer that came into his head.
“Bingo!” Liquids almost shouted, slapping his hand on the bar.
Conor looked at him gravely.
Liquids carried on, “And what is the one thing that man desires certainty about more than anything else? Are ya with me?”
“Where the next shag is coming from?” Michael laughed.
“Be serious buddy. Be serious. This is important now. Be serious…”
“I don’t know, but I get the funny feeling that you’re about to tell me” Michael said with a sigh.
Every word of Liquids’ next response came accompanied with a finger stabbing at the air.
“The certainty that we’re not alone. That there is something or someone else. That there might just be a reason as to why we’re here”
“Liquids, just how much have you had to drink?”
Liquids chewed his lip and did some hasty calculations. “About seven pints”
“I see” said Michael, looking at his watch.
“No seriously buddy. Think about it. The certainty that we’re not alone. Certainty that there is a God. Imagine it… absolute proof!”
“Liquids, maybe you should have a coffee”
“Maybe you should have another beer buddy” Liquids retorted.
Michael looked at his watch again. It was getting late and he was getting hungry.
“No listen friend, I’d better be going”
Michal stood up and got his coat. Liquids protested for all of five seconds. After that he wandered off down the bar to berate someone else.