The trial, Lionel thought, was a complete farce. The barrister’s trousers kept falling down and the judge was mistakenly accused of having an affair with the usher, whose wife made sudden sporadic appearances with a rolling pin and curlers.
The impartial jury of six men, five women and a chipmunk called Marvin, who had been constantly chanting “Hang him! Hang Him!” all during the trial, got their desire when the judge donned his black cap and sentenced Lionel to be hung by the neck until he was dead. Fortunately, the clerk informed him that capital punishment was no longer on the statute books due to health and safety concerns and the sentence was commuted to four weeks imprisonment.
“Four weeks!” yelled Lionel. “That means I’ll miss the end of the season! Can you not let me go now and I’ll serve four weeks after the Limerick game?”
The judge however was adamant, even going so far as to do the silly Prince Charming dance with Diana Dors. Lionel was led off in handcuffs and tears, as the chipmunk pelted him with salted peanuts.
The warders in the Joy proved to be curiously unsympathetic to Lionel’s requests to have access to Shelsweb on Friday nights to keep up to date with Shelbourne’s final few matches of the season. His plaintive appeals of “Don’t you know how important this game against Longford is, you morons?” fell on deaf ears as well as on other parts of the body that were hard of hearing too.
One evening a pigeon landed on the ledge outside Lionel’s cell while he was lying on his bunk, dreaming of the late departed Karen and the alluring way that a big green bogey used to dangle elegantly from her nasal hairs. Lionel had once seen The Birdman of Alcatraz – the film, not the actual birdman – and he recognised the poignant bond that existed between the prisoner and the bird.
“Food!” he yelled, making a grab for it. With a dummy and a feint worthy of Sparky in his heyday, the pigeon hopped further down the ledge. Suddenly Lionel had an idea. If he could tie a message onto the pigeon’s leg, he could get word of how Shels had done against Lokomotiv Fingal.
He ran back to his writing desk and began to write, the pigeon following him curiously and leaning over his shoulder, correcting spelling mistakes. The pen is mightier than the sword, he thought, though it probably wouldn’t be my choice of weapon in a duel.
He wrote to Zug, who was now living in Slovenia with her “Uncle” Reuben. He poured out his heart to her, though the ventricles kept smudging the ink. He told her how he felt about her – thirteen pages of aching words of love that had the pigeon gagging uncontrollably – and then he tied the letter to the bemused pigeon’s leg.
Carrying the bid to the window, he kissed it on the head and threw it gently through the bars, where the weight of the paper caused it to plummet three floors to its death.
The days dragged. Lionel heard on the grapevine that Shels had drawn 0-0 with Hajduk Fingal and he heard on the banana vine that a McAllister penalty had disposed of Waterford. It was all down to the final game of the season! This was the most important game in Shelbourne’s history since the last one and Lionel couldn’t believe he was going to miss it over a trifling little crime like murder.
The day of the match loomed grey and Novembrish and Lionel used the bucket seven times during the day, which irked Crusher McBonehead, his cellmate, to the point of violence.
Only thirty minutes to go, thought Lionel, trying to unwrap his left leg from around his throat. What I need is a miracle.
Suddenly the door flew open and there was Karen, as lovely as he remembered her, her golden hair flowing mellifluously from her ears.
“Karen!” he yelled.
“Yes I know,” she said.
For a moment neither of them spoke. “Lionel, I’m sorry I was so late,” blurted Karen eventually. “When I got swept out to sea, I thought I was a goner but fortunately I got harpooned by a Japanese whaling boat and brought back to Ibaraki. It’s a long walk home and I’ve only just arrived. I’ve told the police everything and they say you’re free to go.”
“Er, yep, sorry about that,” mumbled the police officer in the doorway. “Off you go then.”
Lionel looked at Karen. Karen looked at Lionel. Then they rushed into each other’s arms, embracing long and passionately.
“Oh Karen,” whispered Lionel, coming up for air from between her enormous breasts. “Let us never be apart again. Let us get married and have many children and bring them all down to Tolka…”
“Tolka!” yelled Karen. “Haven’t we a much more important match to attend to first?”
And arm in arm, giggling like a couple of love-struck teenagers, they ran out the door.