‘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.”
“I don’t want a brandy. Tell me why you wanted to close the company down.”
“Ross, this may come as something of a surprise to you, but Shred Focking Everything has never turned a solitary cent in profit in all of its years in operation.”
I feel like I’ve been suddenly punched in the chest. It’s like that time I tried to order a mojito in Flannery’s in Limerick.
I’m like, “What do you mean it’s never turned a profit? I’ve been working like a deranged man – we’re talking six-hour days. There’s been the odd five-day week thrown in as well.”
He goes, “Ross, Shred Focking Everything was only ever a front.”
“And when he says a front,” Hennessy goes, “he doesn’t mean a beach promenade.”
I’m like, “Yeah, I know what a front is. I’m Charles O’Carroll-Kelly’s son, remember? I sat through all 36 days of his trial.”
The old man goes, “Your godfather and I had quite a bit of money from, well, a little intrigue we were involved in down Bulgaria way. Least said, soonest mended, etcetera, etcetera. Anyway, we had to find a way of legitimising the money.”
I’m confused. I think I might need that brandy after all. I’m like, “But what about all those companies I was collecting bags of documents from?”
He goes, “A lot of them were just friends and acquaintances of ours.”
“You’re telling me I’ve spent the last four years of my life driving around this city, collecting sacks full of useless paper, just so you two could launder your dirty money?”
Hennessy goes, “That’s right, Bright Eyes. And now the money’s laundered, we don’t need the company anymore.”
“I didn’t want to tell you the truth,” the old man goes, “because, well, I knew how proud you were of the job you did building up Shred Focking Everything.”
I’m like, “So instead you tried to make me feel like it was my fault that it went bust?”
“We could have handled it better, I expect. But that’s business, Ross.”
Something suddenly occurs to me. I’m like, “What about that Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award I won? Are you saying…”
“It was a piece of Waterford Crystal that Hennessy won,” he has the actual cheek to go, “playing in a pro-am with – who was it, Hennessy? – Paul McGinley and Ronan Collins? Yes, we had it re-engraved.”
I was wondering why it was shaped like a golf ball.
My legs all of a sudden feel hollow. It’s like I’ve just found out that the 1999 Leinster Schools Senior Cup final was fixed. Actually ... No ... No, I don’t even want to go there. My old man is literally capable of anything.
“There’ll be some money for you,” he tries to go. “Redundancy and whatnot. I was thinking something in the area of €50,000.”
I’m very proud of myself, because I turn around and I go, “I don’t want your money”, and I walk straight out the door.
I do want his money, of course. But I also have a thing called pride. I’ll leave it until the morning and tell him I’ll take €80,000.