How far would you go to help someone?

I picked up The Companion, one of those nice Europa editions, off the New Books shelf in the library; there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of reviews or discussion. It’s Lorcan Roche’s first novel, after a career as journalist and playwright. I thought there was a lot of energy coursing through the language, whatever the weaknesses in plot and inconsistency of mood (ironic? earnest?).

Trevor, our narrator, is a young Irishman in New York, serving as companion-aide to a teenager with muscular dystrophy. The Judge is the boy Ed’s grim, distant, rich father. Trevor drinks a lot and tells lies and has been known to hurt people (he’s a big guy), but he’s struggling for goodness and authenticity.

Whenever I slide the log of my hours under the Judge’s door that same day a cheque gets left out on a varnished table in the hall. When I go to the bank sometimes Mabel smiles; on one occasion she put her hand under the glass, like a talon, then she tapped it in time to what she was saying, “The work you’re carrying out is God’s work. . . . I can understand how ya might sometimes get vexed with outside people . . . What I’m saying is, you’re alright, OK?”

“OK. Thanks, Mabel.” Then as I counted out the money in front of her she smiled and said, “Make sure you treat yourself to something nice now, ya hear?”

You have to admit New Yorkers are weird the way they veer from one extreme to the next; it’s as if all the passing through, all the strangers coming and going, makes it impossible to be just one steady continuous thing all the time.

Hooked up to the mask and the breathing-machine in the corner he sucks the energy right out of the room. Maybe it’s a gift he inherited from his father I don’t know, but he just sits there in his chair, polluting.

And sorry Mabel, but this is not God’s work: this is God’s fuckin’ cock-up.

The Companion
, Lorcan Roche, p. 163.


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