For John Doherty, the day after the night before, arrived with a vengeance.

He crawled from his bed on hearing his alarm clock splutter into action at 7.30 am.

He had never felt so awful in all his life.

He hadn't drunk that much the night before, at least nothing extra.

Normally he drank about six pints, at most, every Friday night.

Even though he felt rough he somehow managed to brow-beat himself into getting up for work.

He drank a pint of cold water and two painkillers to try and soothe his headache.

He was a storekeeper in the local shoe factory.

Before he left the house he had a quick wash and brush up. He considered making breakfast but one glimpse at the butter dish made him feel queasy. None of the rest of his family stirred as he closed the front door behind him.

Flashes of the happenings of the night before criss-crossed his mind as he made his way through lower Creggan.

A burnt-out bus lay outside Rosemount factory and soldiers searched him on the other side of it. He was in no mood to argue.

When they ushered him on his way he headed towards the Northland Road and Springtown.

Usually on a Saturday morning he'd get out of bed at the more leisurely hour of eleven o'clock and dander down to the Bookies to have a flutter on the horses or football.

But to-day was the annual shoe factory stock-take in preparation for the arrival of the auditor from England on Monday morning, first thing.

He had been ordered to 'be there' by his boss or he'd face the consequences.

On arrival at the factory John clocked in and was accosted by his foreman, an Englishman called Rippley.

Normally they barely spoke more than a few words to each other all week.

“Rough night, Doherty!” he jibed. “Aren't you the sly one. Who'd have guessed it?”

John stared at him. He wasn't ready for an argument and lit a cigarette, trying to ignore him. His head was busting and he was in no mood for small talk.

“Don't act the innocent with me. I heard the full story... Oh, by the way... congratulations!” With that he shook John's hand.

“Eh!” was all the reply he could muster as he put out his cigarette. But Rippley was already on his way to the shoe store. He was grinning like a cat that had just discovered a fish in unfortunate circumstances.

“What's keeping you, Doherty,” shouted Mr Boyce, the factory manager, as John made his way towards his store.

“I'm not late. Sure, it's only...” he began to explain but the manager wasn't listening ordering him to come with him, immediately.

Mr Boyce had an efficient air about him. Although never friendly, he and John usually had a workman-like relationship. He always wore a white shop coat over his blue shirt and black trousers. The shirt had a white collar and to-day he sported a light green tie. He always wore a pair of brown Hush-Puppies. His hair was almost white with a parting to the left and like John he wore glasses. It looks like I'm not the only one with a sore head, thought John. He followed after his boss keeping a few paces behind him. As they passed the cutting room John waved to a few of his mates. As usual they were doing overtime.

“Congratulations, John!” shouted Frankie Campbell. “Keeping in with the boss, eh? You'll hardly want to speak to us riff-raff soon!”

John ignored him as Frankie was always codding about and playing tricks, but the manager did not. He glared at Frankie. “I'm not paying you to natter, Campbell!” he shouted.

At times his Scottish accent was hard to fathom. Frankie didn't bat an eyelid. What's going on here, he thought. Am I missing a trick. What have I done? He tried to recall the previous night's visit to Borderland, a dance hall in Muff, Co. Donegal but all he succeeded in doing was to worsen his headache.

“Right, laddie. We'll check those bags of core-blocks first and then them bags of PVC granules,” declared the boss.

John lifted the clipboard he had prepared the day before from his desk. He removed the red pen from it and stepped back to get a better view as he counted the sacks.

Wallop!

In a flash he fell over a box and ended up on the concrete floor, legs flailing in the air.

A lump quickly appeared on the back of his skull. His head spun almost causing him to pass-out!

“And, you're the laddie who wants to marry my wee daughter, Donna. You'd better pull yourself together, boy!” said Mr Boyce.

Eventually he helped John struggle to his feet and got him a drink of water. “What... what was that you said there. Whose daughter are ye on about. Marry... marry who? Who is getting married?”

“Don't try to deny it, laddie!”

John sat down and rubbed his head. It was still spinning and now he was feeling sickly.

“Well, laddie. What have you to say for yourself?”

“I haven't a clue what you're on about, honest to God!”

“So, you're denying it, ye layabout!”

“Naw... I'm... I am not denying anything. I can't remember, that's all. Wait till me head clears. I think I remember dancing with Donna now! Aye, that's right. I did!”

Mr Boyce looked astonished. John could see the anguish in his eyes and noticed that his face was turning red with rage. He had visions of himself getting thumped. Instead the manager pounded on the metal door beside him and walked away mumbling to himself.

When he was out of sight John quickly resumed the stock-take. Slowly his head cleared and the chore, which he always hated doing, was completed. He bought a coffee from the factory machine and returned to his desk. As he sat brooding he began to recall the night before. Yes! Now he had it... he did dance with Donna and yes... he did leave her home.

Frankie Campbell peeped his head inside the store. A grin spread from his nose to both ears. It was then that John realised that Frankie had seen him kissing Donna at the back of the dance hall. He must have started the rumour.

“Did ye enjoy all them vodkas I added to your pints?” he asked. “You'll have to learn to hold your drink mucker!”

“So, that's it. It was you, was it? You're no friend of mine. You're a mouth, Frankie!” replied John. “Get out of my store! Before I...”

“Now, now. Temper, temper! Sure, I was only having a wee bit of fun. A joke, man!”

“I don't think it was the slightest bit funny at all. I'm not laughing!” said John. “I never get that drunk. So, do yourself a favour and get lost, or I'll...”

“You wouldn't have got off with Donna if I hadn't done it!” said Frankie. “You're far too shy, young fella, don't deny it! Come on, admit it. You're smitten with her. Aren't ye, just a wee bit, eh!”

“Get lost,” shouted John, angrily.

There was half an hour to go before knocking off time when John spotted Mr Boyce coming back to get the results of the stock-take. His was shocked to see who was walking by his side. It was Donna. She looked beautiful. Her long black hair was tied back and she wore a black mini dress and red shoes.

“Are you finished, John?” asked her father. He had a bandage on his right hand. John was shocked at his apparent change in mood.

“Yeh... Yes, sir! The Bin-cards tally. The figures all add up. Everything is in order!”

“Good lad!” said the smiling manager. “I never doubted it! I'm heading off now. Donna here wants to have a wee chat with you!” He turned and walked briskly away.

“What's this I here, John. About us … being engaged!” asked Donna when her father was gone.

“Campbell started that,” replied John. “I'm very sorry if I upset you last night. I apologise!”

She smiled, stepped forward and kissed him and he responded, amazed.

“Let's start again,” he said. “Would you... Could you... I mean, do you fancy going to the Pictures with me, tonight?”

Donna smiled. “Yes... right, it's a date!” she replied. “I'd love to. You can walk me home now and we'll talk about it!”

As John and Donna left the factory, hand in hand, they passed the cutting room. Campbell and his pals whistled and hooted. “When is the wedding?” shouted Frankie.

“We'll let you know,” replied Donna, squeezing John's hand.

John Doherty was happy. What started out as a disaster was now turning into the best day of his life.

      

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