‘Don’t underestimate me when it comes to the whole parenting thing . . . ’


TINA RINGS ME at, like, nine o’clock or some other ridiculous hour of the morning, roaring down the phone at me, in that Dublin accent of hers that’d nearly wash the colour from your clothes. I sit up in the bed, my brain struggling to adjust to the hour.

“Tina,” I go, “I’m not getting a lot of this. Could you even put a one- or two-second gap between, like, each word?” See, I can’t even watch Fair City without the subtitles.

“You know veddy well whorr Ine sayin,” she goes. “Ronan’s arthur tellin me he’s not goin back to skewilt.” I’m like, “Back to?” She’s there, “Skewilt.” I’m like, “School? Is that what you’re trying to say?” It’s like talkng to focking Skippy.

“You can wontherstand me peerfectly well,” she tries to go. “He toalt me tus morden he’s leavin skewilt to woork wit you. And he said he had yewer permishidden.” I’m thinking, uh-oh. What with, like, being out of the country for two weeks, I totally forgot about Ro being hellbent on not going back to Castlerock? “I’ll, er, have a word with him,” I go. “Do the whole father-son chat thing – blah, blah, blah.”

“You’d fooken bethor. No offence, Ross, but I don’t want him toordenin out like you.” “Okay, I don’t see how I couldn’t take offence at that?”

“He’s got brains to burden.” “I know.” “Well, I don’t want him spendin the rest of he’s dayiz woorking for a bleaten shredden compiddy.” I’m tempted to remind her that Shred Focking Everything is one of the few businesses in this town making actual money at the moment. But then, as I’ve always said, arguing with a woman is like wrestling with a hog. No one learns anything and all you get is dirty. “I’ll pick him up for work in an hour,” I go. “Then I’ll talk to him during the day. Don’t underestimate me when it comes to the whole parenting thing and blah, blah, blah,” except by the time I’ve finished my sentence she’s already hung up.

So I pick Ro up as agreed and, as we’re driving back across the city, I’m doing what used to come so naturally to me on the rugby field – trying to decide the best angle of attack.

We’re actually driving along Nassau Street when Ro turns around to me and goes, “Is there something on your moyund, Rosser?” I’m like, “What?” “I get the impression you’re trying to pluck up the coudage to say something to me.” He’s a smart kid – like his mother said.

“Okay,” I go, “since you’ve put it out there, yeah, there is something on my mind. This whole thing about you leaving school.”

“Ine not leaving school, Rosser.” “What?” “I’ve left school. Ine not going back.” “Well, that’s what’s on my mind. I don’t want to see you make that mistake. Okay, I hate to use me as an example, but you possibly don’t want to end up like your old man.” “You’ve done alreet for yourself.” I smile – can’t help it. “Thanks, Ro. That’s an amazing thing for me to hear. But yeah, no, the point I’m trying to make is that you’ve got actual brains. I mean, God knows how that even happened. I wonder sometimes was there, like, a switch at the maternity hospital. I mean, you have literally no idea how thick I was at school.”

“At what?” “At everything. Maths. English. History. We were doing a whole thing about the Easter Rising once and I thought the IRB was the IRA’s second team. And that’s a direct quote. I wrote it down in an actual exam. Ask Christian, Oisinn, JP – they still rip the serious piss out of me for it.” From the look on his face, I can tell he’s still not convinced.

I’m there, “Ro, you’re young and you’re intelligent. You could do anything you want with your basic life.” He goes, “Ine doing what I want,” and of course there’s no actual answer to that? So I end up just driving to, like, Rathmines and our first collection of the day.

Barry Doogan is an old mate of mine – Gonzaga, but still sound? – whose old man runs, like, an import business. Barry meets us at the door. “There’s about 15 sacks out the back,” he goes. And then he’s like, “Actually, Ross, I wanted to have a word with you.” I’m there, “About?” “Well, you know, times are tough. There’s obviously the whole recession thing. And, well, my old man’s wondering about your rate...” I know exactly where this conversation is headed.

I’m there, “Dude, it’s only, like, five hundred snots a year.” “My old man thinks we can do better.” “With what company?” “Slash and Byrne. They’ve been ringing here, Ross. Pretty much every week.” I look at Ronan. “Those fockers! They’ve been trying to undercut me all over town.” Barry shoots me a look of, like, sympathy. “Look, Ross, you and I go back a few years. I want to keep giving you the business. But you’d have to take a cut.”

I’m there, “What kind of cut are we talking?” “Fifteen per cent.” I’m like, “Fifteen per cent of €500? That’s like...” I stare at my Dubes, trying to do the maths. Barry refuses to even help me out. I end up having to just take a punt.

I’m there, “That’s €200.” I watch Ronan’s jaw hit the floor.

“Er, yeah,” Barry goes. “You’d have to knock €200 off your fee.” “Fine,” I eventually go. “Not that I’ve any choice in the matter. Those fockers in Slash and Byrne...” I head out the back to stort picking up the bags, with Ronan following me.

“Er, Rosser,” he tries to go.

I’m like, “What?” He’s there, “Errr... nothing,” obviously not wanting to hurt my feelings but at the same time getting a flash of his future.

A few minutes later, we’re tipping the last of the bags into the shredder and he goes, “I think I might go back to school arthur all, Rosser.” I’m like, “Really?” He just nods.

As we’re driving away, I notice Barry still standing at the door. He smiles at me and I give him a wink as if to say, ‘Job well done, Dude.’

See, I actually know what 15 per cent of €500 is? Well, I don’t. But I know it’s not €200. There’s very little going on between my ears. Most of the time, my mind is just like a dripping tap.

But when it comes to being a father, I’m basically a genius.

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