‘I’m beginning to think that Chad is, like, my Mary Poppins? If that doesn’t sound too weird’
I ’m getting ready to tee off on the third in Elm Pork and there’s something that I need to say to Chad, my American friend from my J1 summer in Ocean City, who turned up on our doorstep two weeks ago, saying he’d come for The Gathering.
What I need to say is that I don’t remember him. And not only do I not remember him, none of the goys – we’re talking JP, we’re talking Oisinn, we’re talking Christian – have a clue who he is either.
Having said that, there are significant gaps in our memories of that summer. Whoever planned the town thought it would be a good idea to put the liquor store next door to the Western Union office.
Throughout June, July and August of ’01, my old man kept me supplied with a steady stream of Cora Venus Lunny, which the good people in liquor store were happy to convert into cans of Milwaukee’s Best – remembered fondly by J1 students of a certain vintage as The Beast.
Chad remembers everything. He remembers me persuading JP one morning to borrow a vintage Oldsmobile from the country club where he worked as a valet, then JP scraping the side of it off a fire hydrant while trying to parallel pork it.
He remembers me – with my famously delicate stomach – shelling prawns for something ridiculous like four hours a day with a vomit bucket permanently beside me.
He remembers all of our conquests. He remembers all of our porties. He remembers all of our misdemeanour arrests.
But no one remembers him. And I need to know why.
“Dude,” I go, loosening my shoulders for the swing, “I need to ask you a question.”
He’s there, “Can I just make an observation first?
I’m like, “Er, yeah.”
“You’re not hinging your wrists properly on your back swing. It’s depleting the power potential of your drive.”
He tells me to take a backswing. When I do, he goes, “Okay, stop! There! That’s where you’ve got to hinge those wrists! Okay? I know it feels a little strange because you’re used to not doing it? But give it a try. You’re going to be surprised by the results.”
I do as I’m told. I hinge. Then I bring the club forward and I hit literally the most unbelievable drive I’ve ever hit in my life. I’m actually going to end up birdying the hole, which I’ve never done before.
“So,” he goes, “what was this question you wanted to ask me?”
And I’m like, “Er, yeah, no, it can wait.”
A couple of hours later, roysh, we’re leaving the course with me having just corded my best ever round. My old man will actually have a shit fit when he sees my score.
I’m keying the engine and I think, okay, ask him now – as in, why can’t any of us actually place you?
That’s when, totally out of the blue, he goes, “So what did you get Sorcha for your anniversary?”
I’m like, “My what?”
“Isn’t it your wedding anniversary tomorrow?”
I’m like, “Oh, no! I forgot. I totally forgot!”
He’s there, “Hey, don’t worry. I kind of know what she wants. Look, I’m sorry but I just happened to overhear her say to her friend – is it Sophie? – on the phone that she’d seen this diamond bracelet that she loved. Then I noticed, in the kitchen, one of her magazines was open on an ad for Tiffany’s that had a bracelet – presumably the same one – on it. If you want to go to the store now, I could definitely pick it out for you.”
I end up just laughing as I point the cor in the direction of BTs. I suddenly don’t care that I don’t remember him. In the course of, like, a morning, Chad has made me a better golfer and a better husband.
Two hours later, we’re in the cor again – the bracelet in the phoca – and we’re heading out of town. I pull into the Apple Green on the Stillorgan dualler for petrol and Chad says he’ll fill it up – and pay – because me and Sorcha have been, like, so good to him?
When he’s inside, my phone just happens to ring and it ends up being JP. “Okay,” he goes, “I’ve been through all of my photographs from that summer in Ocean City. This dude isn’t in any of them. Christian and Oisinn went through theirs as well – same shit. Ross, there’s something very strange about all of this.”
I watch Chad walk across the forecourt towards me, with a bottle of Doctor Pepper and a packet of buffalo flavour Hunky Dorys – my favourite lunch – and I go, “It’s strange alright. It’s possibly even magical. I’m beginning to think that Chad is, like, my Mary Poppins? If that doesn’t sound too weird.”
There’s, like, silence on the other end, so I’m presuming it does. I tell him I have to go – my new bezzy mate is opening the door – and I hang up on him.
Ten minutes later – my lunch eaten – we’re back at the gaff. Honor is standing in the hallway when I open the front door. She takes, like, one look at me and goes, “Oh my God, do you have any idea how fat that golf sweater makes you look?”
My daughter is what you’d get if you crossed Sauron from Lord of the Rings with a speak your weight machine.
I’m trying to think of something to say back, roysh, when all of a sudden Chad lets rip.
“He is your father!” he goes, at the top of his voice. “He’s a great man! You show him the respect he deserves!”
And Honor is left just standing there, in total shock, her mouth flapping open and closed, like Sorcha’s granny when she was trying to wear in her new dentures.
I no longer care that I can’t remember Chad.
He can stay here for as long as he wants.