‘There are times when even my old man can’t hide his disappointment at how thick I am’
Illustration: Alan Clarke
The old man tries to engage me in conversation, like nothing’s wrong. He goes, “Staying here again tonight, eh?” and then he turns to Hennessy and sort of, like, nods knowingly. “Marriage! The most difficult job in the world! Matter of fact, I’m going to make a prediction for you right here. The day after we give these gay people the right to get married, they’ll be back to us looking for the right to get divorced. That’s as certain as cigars follow port.”
I just, like, stare him down, refusing to get sucked in.
He goes, “Are you okay, Kicker? You look like you’ve seen a proverbial what’s it.”
I’m like, “Who was that I just saw you with? A woman. You just walked her to her car.”
“Oh, that,” he tries to go, muttering and stuttering. “Oh, that was just, um, someone selling something – isn’t that right, Hennesssy?”
“That’s right,” Hennessy goes. “She was selling, um, dish mops.”
I’m like, “Don’t give me dish mops. It was Phaedra. The same Phaedra who’s supposedly suing Shred Focking Everything for sexual harassment. Except you two were having the crack with her – like she’s not trying to take the company for every penny it’s worth?”
The old man and Hennessy exchange a look. “Maybe we should tell him the truth,” the old man goes. “He’s not stupid.”
Hennessy’s like, “I don’t know about that. Why don’t I see what I can come up with – see if he buys it?”
This man is supposed to be my godfather, by the way.
“No,” the old man goes, “it’s probably only fair that we loop him in, as they say. Ross, take a seat.”
I’m there, “I’m fine standing, thank you.”
“Okay, look, you’re right. There’s more to this thing than meets the eye. Well, actually there’s less to it. Phaedra was… well, she was a plant.”
I’m like, “A plant? Are you saying she wasn’t actually human?”
A look of genuine shock crosses his face. There are times when even my old man can’t hide his disappointment at how thick I am.
“Yeah, the girl was a rhododendron,” Hennessy goes. “That’s why we asked you to water her twice a week. Come on, Charlie, the kid’s got nothing but birdsong in his head. We don’t need to tell him shit.”
The old man goes, “When I said she was a plant, Ross, I meant she was a dupe. Phaedra is a paralegal – works in Hennessy’s office. We placed her with Shred Focking Everything to, well, engineer a set of circumstances that would allow us to fold the company.”
I’m there, “You let me hire her as an intern, knowing that I’d probably end up using some of my incredible oneliners on her, so you could claim she was suing for sexual harassment and close the company down?”
“That’s about the measure of it, yes.”
“Am I allowed to ask why?”
“Ross, I think maybe you could use a brandy.”