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Laying brick by Frank Bill

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Born two parts Irish one part German, Manus Grady had taken the indented bone from a father that outweighed him by a full wheelbarrow of granite.

A man who’d taught him how to lay brick. And by the time he’d matured to voting age, he realised how unfair the world was. Got hitched with Dixie, a like-minded female of Pam Grier proportions that he’d loved and adored enough to seed her womb with a responsibility, gave air to a pale-fleshed boy he’d label Otis, who’d grow into a food-smudged six-year-old affliction.

Manus realised it’d take more than a masonry trade to provide an existence for his family. Began surveying the coming and goings of homeowners around the areas where he laboured. On lunches he’d kick down doors and bust panes of glass. Sometimes he opened skin if surprised by housewives or elderly retirees, levelled their interruptions to his criminalities. Then proceeded to fill his backpack with valuables to pawn for quick cash. Keeping food in his loved ones’ mouths and the electric humming, until Christmas came with a splintering doorframe and the bark of three men threatening, “You robbed the wrong address, Grady!”

Otis and Dixie dropped their boxed-up toys and clothing while rage spliced Manus’s spine viewing these men railing .45s and disorder. Manus clenched his knuckles into trespasser one’s paunch, helped him find the scuffed hardwood.

Dixie screamed.

Gunfire became the only sound in everyone’s ears. Otis yelped like a baby pup. Dotted Manus’s nerves with numb. Weight slapped the floor. Man number two axe-handled his pistol’s butt against Manus’s temple. Rang a bell of quiet. Weak-kneed Manus around to his tear-eyed son who sat before a shape that drained and dampened the woodworking and Manus knew he should’ve stuck to laying brick.

Donnybrook by Frank Bill is out now (William Heinemann)

(Image: Frank Bill's House of Grit)

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