Utterly Monkeyby Nick Laird
Danny Williams didn't mean to be a lawyer, but somehow he is -- and for up to eighteen hours a day. He's well paid, home owning, and twenty-seven but is also overworked, lonely, and frequently stoned. The plan was to leave the troubles of a small town in Northern Ireland for the big city in England, but one evening an old school friend, Geordie, bursts into Danny's… See more details below
Danny Williams didn't mean to be a lawyer, but somehow he is -- and for up to eighteen hours a day. He's well paid, home owning, and twenty-seven but is also overworked, lonely, and frequently stoned. The plan was to leave the troubles of a small town in Northern Ireland for the big city in England, but one evening an old school friend, Geordie, bursts into Danny's shiny new life. On the run from a Loyalist militia, Geordie brings everything Danny thought he had left behind and dumps it on his doorstep.
With infectious wit and energy to burn, Utterly Monkey is a searing, fiercely funny, and ultimately redemptive novel about surviving an office job, outwitting the bad guys, and, hopefully, getting the girl.
Meet the Author
Nick Laird was born in 1975 in Northern Ireland. He was a scholar at Cambridge University, and later spent a year at Harvard University as a visiting fellow. The author of To a Fault, a poetry collection, he has received several prestigious awards for both poetry and fiction, including the 2005 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature.
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Utterly MonkeyA Novel
By Nick Laird
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Nick Laird
All right reserved.
'For God's sake bring me a large Scotch.
What a bloody awful country.'
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland,
on the plane back to London after his
first visit to Belfast, 1 July 1970
Wednesday, 7 July 2004
Moving is easy. Everyone does it. But actually leaving somewhere is difficult. Early last Wednesday morning a ferry was slowly detaching itself from a dock at the edge of Belfast. On it, a man called Geordie was losing. He'd slotted eleven pound coins into the Texas Hold'Em without success -- not counting a pair of Kings which briefly rallied his credits -- and had now moved two feet to the left, onto the gambler. The three reels spun out into click -- a bell, click -- a BAR, click -- a melon. Fuck all. Geordie's small hands gripped each side of the machine as if it was a pulpit. He kept on staring at the symbols, which again and again represented nothing but loss. Then he sniffed loudly, peeled his twenty Regals off the machine's gummy top and sloped away. Eighteen quid down and they hadn't yet left the harbour.
The boat, the Ulster Enterprise, was busy, full of families heading over for the long July weekend. Geordie bought a pint of Harp from the gloomy barman and slumped onto a grey horseshoe-shaped sofa in the Poets Bar, then sat forward suddenly and took a pack of playing cards from the black rucksack by his feet. He started dealing out a hand of patience. A short man in a Rangers tracksuit top stopped by his table, swaying a little with the boat, or maybe with drink. His shoulders were broad and bunched with muscle. He held a pint of lager and a pack of Mayfair fags in one hand. The other was in his tracksuit top, distending it like a pregnancy. He had a skyblue baseball cap with McCrea's Animal Feed written across it. He looked as if he'd sooner spit on you than speak to you and yet, nodding towards the other pincher of the sofa, he said: 'All right. This free?'
Belfast, east, hardnut.
'No, no, go on ahead.'
The man sat down carefully, like he was very fond of himself, and held Geordie's eye.
'You think we'll still have McLeish next season?' Geordie continued, looking at his tracksuit top.
'Oh aye, I think so, though he's a bit too interested in players and not enough in tactics.'
'You on holiday?'
'Spot of business.'
'Oh right. I'm seeing some friends. You heading to Scotland?'
'Naw, on down to London.'
'Oh aye? Me too. You not fly?'
'Taking a van.'
Geordie paused, to see if the offer of a lift was forthcoming. It wasn't.
'Hot enough today, eh?'
'It'll do all right. Better that than pissing down.'
They talked the usual talk. About pubs and places and discovered that the stranger was the nephew of one of Geordie's dinner ladies. Which was how they swapped names. Ian. Geordie. They played whist and matched pints for the next two hours as the ferry ploughed through the water to Scotland. Just before they got in Geordie went out on deck to clear his head. Outside he shivered and watched the wake turn lacy and fold back into the sea. He felt off. His mouth was dry and the ache in his head suggested that afternoon drinking hadn't been such a great idea. He turned slightly, to take the wind out of his eyes, and Ian was standing beside him, smiling secretly out to sea. Geordie nodded briskly at him and went in to the toilet.
When he came back to the table Ian had dealt the pack out and was in the middle of a round of pelmanism. Seeing Ian concentrating on the cards, crouched forward, intent, just as he had been doing earlier, made Geordie feel suddenly well-disposed towards him.
'You not play patience? It's a better game.'
Ian turned over the Jack of Hearts.
'No skill in that. This', he tapped the back of a card, 'exercises the memory.'
Staring hard at the grid of cards, he turned over a matching Jack, clubs, then placed them both into a discard pile at the side. Geordie said it first.
'Listen mate, I'll be in London for a while later on this week as well, and I don't know so many folks down there. If you give me your number maybe we could meet up for a jar or two?'
'Tell you what, you give me yours and I'll ring you if I'm free.'
'Aye, do. That'd be a laugh. We'll go out and get slaughtered.'
The solicitor Danny Williams was looking in his babyblue refrigerator. His pinstripe grey suit jacket sagged over the narrow shoulders of a kitchen chair. He had discarded his tie and shoes. The room was dim and the only light came from this massive fridge. It was like a UFO opening its door in his kitchen. 'Take me to my dinner,' Danny said out loud in the empty flat, without humour, as he stood snared in the pale luminous strip. An empty jar of mayonnaise sat by itself in the middle of the top shelf, like a judge on his bench. Danny found it difficult to look in his fridge when he was alone. It witnessed his failures. He would often wander round his airy flat, peckish, open it, see nothing he fancied (or could eat without risk of illness) and walk away again. Danny was skinny. The fridge clicked off its light and Danny resolved to make toast, a Saturday visit to Safeway. The doorbell went. He walked down the hall, unslid the chain, and opened his life.
Geordie Wilson was standing on the step. His small frame was silhouetted against the London evening sky. He looked charred, a little cinder of a man. His navy tracksuit hood cowled round a narrow and freckled face and his bagged eyes . . .
Excerpted from Utterly Monkey by Nick Laird Copyright © 2006 by Nick Laird. Excerpted by permission.
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