Rabbitte Guts 4:
Jimmy Rabbitte, suddenly middle-aged and the main character – the fuckin’ protagonist, like – in a novel for the first time in more than 25 years, could look at his wife – his life partner – Aoife, and know that he’d loved her for half his life. Even though he hadn’t. As far as he knew.
How had that happened?
Well, her name hadn’t come out of nowhere, just for this new book, The Guts. She’d been mentioned in one of the old books, The Van. Doyle had written that one in 1990. Jimmy himself was hardly in The Van. It was more about his Da. But there was a mention of Jimmy’s girlfriend. Aoife. His Aoife, like.
He – Doyle – gave her the name, Aoife, because it’s Irish and a lot of middle-class people were giving their kids Irish names back then – and they still do. So, just like that, Jimmy had a middle-class girlfriend who, Jimmy’s Da thought, was too good for his son. But anyway, Jimmy had had the makings of a wife back then, even though he’d never seen her.
Weird – a bit fuckin’ sinister, even. But grand – because she was great.
Anyway. Doyle wrote a story called The Deportees about twelve years ago, about Jimmy having one last bash at band management. Aoife became Jimmy’s wife, and Doyle gave him three kids while he was at it – and a fourth one towards the end of the story, when Aoife gave birth in the car under the pedestrian bridge in Fairview on their way in to the Rotunda, the maternity hospital.
Anyway. So. Maybe he knew her a bit more than he’d thought. He’d been the midwife at the birth, for fuck sake.
But anyway, there’d been a gap of more than a decade. One minute, he’d been witnessing the birth of his fourth child – a boy, by the way – in the back of the car, cheered on by two under-15 football teams who’d interrupted their match in Fairview Park for the happy event.
He’d just made up that bit about the teams; it wasn’t in the original story. Jimmy just slipped it in while Doyle was downstairs making the coffee.
That bit, above, is made up too. Doyle is actually on the train from Edinburgh to London while he writes this. He’s in complete control of every word. Jimmy, on the other hand, is fictional.
Anyway. One minute Jimmy was watching the birth of a new-born baby and the next – or so it seemed – the new-born baby was a big lad watching telly and Jimmy was in the kitchen, looking at the woman he loved, knowing that he’d loved for more than half his life.
And it seemed normal – except for the fact that he was waiting for the opportunity to tell her that he had cancer.
So, how was that done? How did Jimmy feel so at home with Aoife?
Well, almost immediately, she called him a music fascist. And Jimmy could tell, and hopefully the reader could tell, that she was slagging him and that she’d been slagging like this for years. There was a line in The Commitments, ‘Jimmy Rabbitte knew his music. And in The Guts, Aoife Rabbitte knew her Jimmy.