‘Maybe if you hated each other’s guts, it’d mean that you meant something to each other in the first place’


Like I said, it would take a seriously mean and spiteful man to tell his father’s second wife that he’s been having an affair with his first behind her back. But, unfortunately for Charles O’Carroll-Kelly, that’s what he raised. I decide to break the news to Helen on Thursday night, which just so happens to be the old man’s birthday. I find them in Roly’s in Ballsbridge, him tucking into a traditional Kerry lamb pie while banging on about world affairs, her staring at him adoringly, no idea that he’s cheating on her – and cheating on her with my old dear, a woman with a face like an empty sock puppet.

He ends up nearly choking on a mouthful of Chianti when he looks up and sees me standing over the table. “Happy birthday!” I go.

Helen’s like, “Ross! What a wonderful, wonderful surprise!” because she’s genuinely a lovely person and way, way out of his league.

The old man goes, “Oh – hello, Kicker… What the, em . . . What are you doing here?”

What are you doing here? It’s a good thing I’m not sensitive.

I go, “Hey, Stud! I just popped in to pass on my best wishes. Once more around the sun, as Father Fehily used to say. Or the moon – I can never remember which.”

Helen smiles – the poor woman has no idea what he’s even like. “I’ve just been telling your father that he doesn’t look his age!”

I’m there, “He doesn’t act it either,” and I keep staring him down, even though he won’t actually look at me?

Helen goes, “Will you join us, Ross – for supper?”

I’m there, “No thanks, Helen. What I’ve got to say won’t take long. And it involves you, by the way.”

“Well,” she goes, “hold that thought for moment. I have to visit the ladies room,” and off she goes.

I help myself to one of the old man’s hand-cut chips. He doesn’t object. He’s on thin ice with me and he knows it.

“You know, she’s probably not gone to the jacks at all,” I go. “She’s probably gone to tell the staff that it’s your birthday and ask them to rustle up either a cake or a desert with a candle in it. Not that you deserve it – carrying on like a 17-year-old with that focking woman.”

He goes, “Your mother.”

I’m there, “So-called.”

“Ross,” he goes, finally making eye contact, “please don’t do this.”

“Dude, don’t waste your breath. This is happening. It’s on. It’s on like Maud Gonne.”

“Just ask yourself what good would it serve?”

“I try not to think of things in terms of good and bad. That’s a lesson you taught me, remember?”

“Look, it was a silly mistake,” he tries to go. “A silly fling that – I can assure you, Ross – had more to do with nostalgia than simple sexual gratification. And it’s over now anyway.”

“You can explain that to Helen. I’m sure she’ll understand.”

“But she might not.”

“Then it sucks to be you, doesn’t it?”

He storts literally begging then. “Helen is the love of my life,” he tries to go. “Why are you doing this?”

I’m there, “Because it bothers me – it’s always bothered me – that you and the old dear couldn’t hate each other like normal people when you got divorced.”

“I don’t understand why it should bother you that we still like each other.”

“I don’t know either. Maybe if you hated each other’s guts, it’d mean that you meant something to each other in the first place. Or maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe it’s just that I’ve finally got something on you and I’m enjoying the power.”

I take another chip. They’re good chips.

He loosens his tie and opens the top button of his shirt. He’s like, “What if I gave you some money?”

I laugh in his face. “You’ve tried begging and pleading. Now we’re on to, what, bribery?”

“Thirty thousand euros, Ross. I’ve got it in the safe back at the house. You can have it. Tonight.”

“I can’t be bought. Not for €30,000 anyway. No, from where I’m standing, you’re all out of options, Dude.”

And that’s when he says it. “I didn’t want to have to do this,” he suddenly goes, “but, like you said, you’ve given me no alternative,” and then he pulls it out of literally nowhere.

He goes, “Hannah McLysaght.”

And suddenly it’s me who’s, like, muttering and stuttering. I’m there going, “Hannah . . . What? I don’t . . . The . . . What did you say the second name was?”

“Hannah McLysaght,” he again goes? “You met her in Krystle nightclub – when was it, back in March? You were out celebrating young Christian’s birthday.”

I’m suddenly going, “Er . . . Er . . . Er . . .” like a focked percolator.

He’s there, “I think you told Sorcha that you stayed in Christian’s house that night – although that was a white lie, wasn’t it?”

I’m there, “Who told about that?”

He smiles at me. “Ross,” he goes, “I pay a solicitor a considerable amount of money to make sure I know the things that I need to know.”

I shake my head. He’s talking about Hennessy Coghalan-O’Hara, who happens to be Christian’s

The old man suddenly picks his phone up from the table. “So,” he goes, “because full disclosure clearly means so much to you, perhaps we’ll ring your good lady wife and discover just how forgiving she is when she hears of your . . . would you call it an affair, Ross?”

He’s good. God, he’s better than good. Of course he is. I didn’t lick it up off the old maple hordwood flooring.

I’m there, “Okay, maybe I won’t say anything about you and the old dear then. Is that 30Ks still on offer?”

But he just looks over my shoulder and smiles and goes, “Oh, look! Helen’s organised a birthday cake!”

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