There was once a man by the name of Brian McDermott who used to cheat himself. He used to cheat himself all the time. He had a savings account in the AIB and every so often, when he wasn’t looking, he’d run off and sneakily take out a few hundred euros out of it and spend it all on rubbish. You know the sort of thing. Scratch cards, lottery tickets, in the bookies, putting it on the horses and the greyhounds. All that sort of crap. Or he’d nip into the River Inn and neck a whole load of pints and then after the closing time he’d stagger off to the kebab shop and pork out on a large donner and chips. Then sneak back home again and kid himself that nothing happened. Or he’d go on a diet (all that beer and fast food went straight onto his already hefty belly) and then – unbeknownst to himself – he’d slip out of the house, go down to the bakers and stuff his face with doughnuts, Danish pastries, sticky buns and what have you until he felt positively green around the gills and then he’d creep back home and act as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.
Brian was always up to this sort of thing. When his health started to go downhill – as it of course was bound to from all the drinking and smoking and bad food and lack of exercise he was warned by his doctor that he’d better take steps to radically change his lifestyle or else he wouldn’t be hanging around in this world much longer. The doctor told him straight that he wouldn’t see many more Christmas’s the way he was going. Brian got a fright at this and promised to himself that he’d turn things around, start over, turn over a new leaf, get rid of all his bad old habits. Change his lifestyle. Take up jogging, swimming, yoga, eating wholemeal grains, cutting out the fat and the white sugar and the refined flour. Give up the old fags, knock the drink on the head. All that kind of thing.
But what happened then of course was that he started cheating on himself, as usual. He’d put in all the hard work, stay off all the bad stuff, do all the good stuff – the jogging and the walking and the swimming – but then, just as soon as he was starting to feel the benefit, he would start up with the old cheating again and undo in a night all the good work he’d done. Things got so bad that pretty soon he was cheating on himself every single day. He was robbing himself blind. Before too long there was nothing left in the pot to steal. He had burned the arse right out of it. And then one afternoon when he was getting out of bed after a particularly heavy night he had a heart attack. Just before he went down to the floor for the last time, clutching at his chest, he caught sight of his face in the dressing table mirror. What he saw brought him up short.
Although it was the same old face he was used to seeing in the mirror (apart from being a bit of a funny colour) there was something else there. Someone else. He could see another face there, a half-hidden face looking out at him. It was a sneaky, sly sort of a face and it was grinning at him with a smug, meaningful kind of a smirk. As if he was supposed to understand something from that look. The face winked at him. In the last few moments that were left to him Brian was able to recognize the face of the man who had been robbing him blind all his life. “Why you dirty filthy rotten bastard!” he croaked hoarsely, “you’re the one who’s been cheating me all this time! Wait til I get my get my hands on you…” But just as he closed his hands around his own neck in a savage murderous grip he fell down stone dead from the heart attack and that was the end of Brian McDermott.