Short Story 

Mick O’grady 

Mick O’grady was a short wiry Irishman, he was an angry young man ,who also had a witty charming side. 

I became friends with Mick when I served on my first Warship. We were polar opposites , I was tall, gangly and naive, whilst Mick was short and wiry with a real worldliness. 

We lived in the same mess deck with 80 other sailors, rows of 3 high bunks in a very small space.

Next to each row of bunks there were rows of small metal lockers 1 for each sailor. 

I had a middle bunk and Mick was in a top bunk 1 row behind me.

Our daily work as young seamen was fairly menial, chipping paint on the upper deck, cleaning toilets and showers or dishwashing in galley. 

In addition we had to keep watches doing tasks like lookout, Helmsman and man overboard lookout.

Mick loved his food at the best of times and even more when on the booze.

He would bribe the cooks with his beer issue, which was 2 cans per man per day perhaps

This meant the cooks gave him extra food .

For a while I wondered why for someone who liked a drink as much as a feed ,he was happily giving up his beer issue.

Then one night he was sprung, the ship rolled in heavy seas and there was a loud thump, Mick had fallen out of the top bunk and was lying on the deck for all to see with a cask of wine and plastic tubing on top of him.

He had been hiding a wine cask in his locker ,which he had attached some tubing and he was lying in his bunk sucking away having a merry old time.

He was put on a charge and given some extra work for punishment, but because he was such a character the cooks kept feeding him but let him keep his beer.

This combined love of food and booze led to some interesting times on shore leave at different ports.

Mick could often be found sitting on the side of the road late at night, chowing down on a whole chook or a couple of pizzas. 

When we went for a sit down meal at a pub on shore leave ,Mick would order 2 main meals and be happy to eat others leftovers.

One night in a tropical port a group of us were sitting at a large table eating tea and knocking back cold beer, when one of the lad’s reached over to steal a chip of Mick’s spare meal.

Mick spotted this and with a visceral grunt he stabbed his steak knife through the back of the would be chip thief’s hand.

After a trip to casualty and many more beers ,all was forgiven. 

When we were docked in Sydney , a number of sailors liked to live ashore in flats , share accommodation or boarding houses, just to get away from Navy life. 

I shared a flat in double bay until it burnt down, but that’s another story.

Mick lived ashore for a short while, but it came to an abrupt end.

He was in a boarding house and initially all was good, the lady who ran the place quite liked Mick, but it didn’t take long before she became concerned. Mick would come home after a night on the slops, open the fridge and have a big feed. 

She didn’t want to turf him out , so she came up with what she thought would be the perfect solution. 

She put a chain around the fridge and padlocked it.

This worked for about a week, then one night Mick came home ravenous, frustrated by the chain and padlock, he went out to the shed, found bolt cutters and cut off the chain. He got his marching orders the next morning. 

After our time serving on the Warship together I lost contact with Mick. 

Then years later I was walking past a large church in Sydney that had a nice garden and I heard a familiar Irish voice sing out getday mate. It was Mick in the garden wearing overalls and a floppy hat.

What are you doing I asked. 

I’ve found God and I’m a gardener, he replied.

He then went on to tell me that a few years ago he had been unceremoniously thrown out of the Navy.

For sometime he lived rough , then one night after a night of drinking he wandered into the church’s garden and fell asleep in the flower bed.

The next morning he was awakened by the priest who offered him breakfast once he had tidied up the flattened flowers, the rest is history. .

Andrew Ballard 

2020

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