“No,” Mr Conroy goes, “that’s not how we’re going to go out - all bitterness and recrimination. Make hay while the sun shines, they say. And we made hay. Oh, that’s as sure as I’m going to be in Leggs of Lower Leeson Street at four o’clock tomorrow morning - where women with a past meet men with no future . . .” I offer them a toast without knowing what I’m actually toasting.
“Everything on earth has its own time and its own season,” JP suddenly goes. “A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to reap, a time to kill and a time to heal . . .” and there’s no prizes for guessing who he’s quoting - in other words, God? I’m wondering will he be angling for a return back to Him now that the arse has fallen out of the property game.
“If these walls could talk,” I go, suddenly all nostalgic. “I mean, some of the shit we got up to in here. Doing whatever it took to bleed that extra five, ten, twenty grand out of people. ‘You have things you can sell, don’t you? You have children? Can they not work?’”
Mr Conroy laughs. “You were good,” he tells me. “You were one of the best, Kid,” which is always nice to hear. “We put people in dog boxes. We put them in ant-farms beside motorways. We put them in villages that weren’t on any map and we called it a commutable distance . . .”
“Athlone,” JP goes, “the gateway to Dublin,” and we all laugh at the famous Irish Times ad and the memory of him trying to, like, justify it to even the Advertising Standards crowd.
You’d have chanced anything in those days.
I’m there, “You know, I used to invent motorways that were going to be built to supposedly slash commute times. I’d go, ‘Yeah, it looks a good distance away on the map - but the M57 is going to change all of that.’ And I’d have put some poor focker in practically Kerry . . .”
JP goes, “It’s a wonder none of us ended up in jail.”
“People bidding against themselves,” Mr Conroy goes. “‘Sorry, my friend - better offer came in. You’ll need to give us another twenty Ks and sell us your non-vital organs to stay in the game. You can always let the spare room. No, that’s not damp - it’s a water feature . . .’ You know, it breaks my heart to think that the next generation aren’t going to know any of this.”
There’s, like, a sudden flash of light outside. Someone has set fire to the skip. The three of us walk over to the window and watch it burn - thirty years of work, literally up in smoke.
I notice Mr Conroy’s old suit - his Lucky Louis - on top of the fire. Someone has stuffed it with something to make it look like a Guy.
I’m there, “What are you going to do now?”
“The new craze,” he goes, “is to drive to Dublin Airport, leave the keys in the car and fly some place no one will ever find you. Mad, I never thought about doing it in the eighties. But now . . .”
His voice breaks. JP puts his orm around his shoulder and I sort of, like, slap him on the back.
“It was the Klondike,” he goes, wiping his eyes and taking one last look around. “And this . . . this, my friends, was Bonanza Creek.”
He flicks the switch and the lights go out.