The opening lines of 'An Evening with John Joe Dempsey', one of the short stories in William Trevor's
The Ballroom of Romance and Other Stories:
In Keogh's one evening Mr Lynch talked about the Piccadilly tarts, and John Joe Dempsey on his fifteenth
birthday closed his eyes and travelled into a world he did not know. 'Big and little,' said Mr Lynch,
'winking their eyes at you and enticing you up to them. Wetting their lips,' said Mr Lynch, 'with the ends of their tongues'.
John Joe Dempsey had walked through the small town that darkening autumn
evening, from the far end of North Street where he and his mother lived,
past the cement building that was the Coliseum Cinema, past Kelly's
Atlantic Hotel and a number of shops that were now closed for the day.
'Go to Keogh's like a good boy,' his mother had requested, for as well as
refreshments and stimulants Keogh's public house sold a variety of groceries:
it was for a pound of rashers the Mrs Dempsey had sent her son.
'Who is there?' Mr Lynch had called out from the licensed area of the premises,
hearing John Joe rapping with a coin to draw attention to his presence. A wooden
partition with panes of glass in the top half of it rose to a height of eight feet
between the grocery and the bar. 'Im here for rashers,' John Joe explained through
the pebbly glass. 'Isn't it a stormy evening, Mr Lynch? I'm fifteen today, Mr Lynch.'
There was a silence before a door in the partition opened and Mr Lynch appeared. 'Fifteen?'
he said. 'Step in here, boy, and have a bottle of stout.'
© William Trevor