Poetry / Poets / Writers / Writing

Smugglers – by Michael McCabe

The phone wasn’t working;
She said she had to make a call.
“I’ll go up the road,” she said.
“To the shop, and phone from there.”
She seemed to be gone a long time.
I thought I’d wander up to “The Smugglers”
For a quick Guinness,
And maybe see her on the way.

I suppose I knew she’d be there.
When I first saw them
They were putting their
Arms round each other:
They were sitting on stools
At the bar.
I remember thinking:
“Why don’t they push the stools
Closer.” But that was a silly
Thought, because they were those
Iron stools,
Fixed to the floor,
And they have to be a certain distance
Because of fat people.

I don’t think I was angry.
I remember looking at myself sideways
In the mirror
As I crossed over to them.
“God, I’m getting a paunch,”
I remember thinking.
Some blokes were playing darts,
And I imagined a dart sticking
In my head, as I ducked past.
“Excuse me, mate,
You’ve got my dart sticking
Out of your head. Can I have it
Back please?”
Certainly – sorry.

They looked quite happy, sitting there.
Quite happy.
They had half of mild each.
They hadn’t drunk any.
I decided to be dead casual.
“Hi,” I said, and at the same time:
“Pint of bitter, Harry.”
They didn’t look guilty or anything.
Their hands dropped,
But not hurriedly.

She looked at me
Without looking at me,
And said “Hello”.
He nodded and smiled.
He was quite small, with glasses.
Nice smile. I rather liked him.
“Peter,” she said,
“My husband.”
He said he was ever so pleased
To meet me.
He offered me a cigarette.
I said I wouldn’t right then,
Thanks. The dart players played
On, and my pint came,
And I drank it,
And the three of us said things about
The Prime Minister,
And coal miners,
And once one of us mentioned God.
Then I said I thought I’d go.
She said she wouldn’t be long.
He said, “Cheers”,
And I went home.

I suppose I ought really
To have said something else.
Or done something.
I don’t really know what.

They often go for a drink together
Now. She doesn’t make excuses
About telephones and things,
She just goes.
I suppose they sleep together.
I’ve never asked.
There’s children you see,
On both sides,
So we can’t really do anything.
Not now anyway.
Not to-day.
I don’t think Peter likes his wife.
I don’t think my wife likes her husband.
I quite like my wife.
Basically I don’t quite know how to
This whole problem.
None of it’s right.
But what do you do?
D’you think there’s something
Lacking in our diets,
Or something?


Michael McCabe was born on the Isle of Wight. After the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and several years in English theatre, he went to East Africa, where he was chased up a tree by a rhino.

In South Africa, where Michael now lives on a smallholding, with his family, he worked extensively in theatre and radio, writing and directing. His stage play “Seriously Considering Sydney” received excellent reviews, as did his one-man play “The Emissary”.

McCabe now writes, grows vegetables, and tries to explain rugby to his wife.


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