‘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.”