From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success, as Georges Pompidou once remarked to Lionel Ritchie. Shels’ demoralising defeat in Oriel Park, followed by the frustrating goalless draw at home to Waaaaterford, seemed to be the last iced bun that broke the camel’s coffin, but subsequent victories against star-studded Kildare County and the Magic Mons breathed new life into Shels’ promotion charge.
For Lionel, the talk of building for next season had been replaced by the need for Shels to beat Athlone and Wexford. He argued constantly with Zug’s Cousin Genghis over whether Bisto should be brought back into the team for the two matches. Lionel’s point of view was that the aforementioned striker’s presence was vital to the team. Cousin Genghis merely drew his hand across his throat and grinned menacingly which, to Lionel, did not constitute a well-reasoned argument delivered in a cogent and lucid manner.
On the Wednesday evening between Claudia Winkelman and Coronation Street, Zug gave birth to a healthy baby boy. “What is it?” called Lionel over the heads of the goats, who had gathered round to watch the birth. “It’s a baby,” snapped Zug’s grandmother. “What were you expecting, a vaccuum cleaner?”
“I think I will call the baby Geogho,” said Zug, cradling the tiny infant in her arms. “Look at his moustache and the little jink he does when he runs up to take a penalty. You are happy with this, Lionel?”
Lionel could not have been happier. He had heard rumours that mail-order brides do not often work out but here was Zug, producing a son for him only six weeks after they had met. He couldn’t wait to teach the child how to execute a perfect slide tackle while unobtrusively kicking his opponent with his trailing leg. He couldn’t wait to bring him to Tolka and show him how to abuse the opposition players. He couldn’t wait to smack him around the head and tell him not to be leaving those magazines where his mother might find them.
Curiously Zug’s Uncle Reuben, who shared a bed with the happy couple, also took a great shine to the baby and insisted on breast-feeding it during the night. However, Zug assured Lionel that this was the custom in her native Mongolia. Also, she suggested, it would be an advantage to put Reuben’s name down on the birth certificate, purely for tax reasons, to which Lionel acceded willingly.
On the Saturday afternoon of the Athlone match, Lionel was preparing to leave when Zug announced she was not feeling well and would prefer to stay in bed. Full of concern, Lionel offered to stay behind with her but she assured him that Uncle Reuben had already volunteered and that she would not want to spoil his enjoyment of the match.
He kissed her tenderly and loaded up the 93 Sunny. Grandmother took the baby in the back with Cousin Genghis while one of the goats sat in the front seat. The other goats, tethered to a piece of washing line, trotted along behind. Glancing up at the bedroom window, he could see Uncle Reuben standing there in his underpants and idly wondered if he had turned the heating up too high that morning.
The procession started off down the M50, the goats paying their way handsomely by bunching up as they passed the toll plaza, thus concealing the number plate from the camera. They turned off onto the N4, with Grandmother softly singing “When Jayo went to Poland” to the baby and Cousin Genghis amusing it by pretending to decapitate it with his scimitar.
They were just about to branch off onto the N5 when Lionel noticed the blue, flashing lights in his rear view mirror. Well, they were actually behind him, not in his mirror, and by the time Lionel realised this, the car had pulled up alongside and the long arm of the law was telling him to pull over. Being a law-abiding citizen, Lionel did so, though the goat in the passenger seat urged him to make a run for it.
“I was only doing 20mph, officer,” said Lionel, puzzled, as a team of marksmen took up position around the car.
The policeman leaned into the car and spoke through a megaphone. “Step out of the car and lie down on the ground with your hands behind your back!” he yelled, waking the baby.
Slowly, Lionel did as he was told, as did Grandmother and the baby and the goats. Only Cousin Genghis defiantly drew a finger across his throat until a bullet in the thigh put an end to his bravado.
Lionel felt the handcuffs click round his wrist.
“Lionel Snitchie,” shouted the officer through the megaphone. “I am arresting you for the murder of Nigel de Havilland Ponsonby Smythe.”