‘Hennessy. He’s the dodgiest man I’ve ever met. And yet I could learn so much from him’
Hennessy says he worries about me – as in, like, really worries? “If brains were dynamite,” he goes, “you wouldn’t have enough to blow the wax out of your ears. And yet your father thinks you’re some kind of misunderstood genius. Know what he says to me the other day? He says, ‘They laughed at Galileo, too, you know?’ This is during a discussion about you! He’s comparing you to Galileo!”
I’m like, “Who the fock is Galileo?”
And he laughs – as if I’ve somehow proven his point ?
“You see?” he goes. “That’s what I’m talking about right there. There’s kids ain’t even potty-trained and they’ve already forgotten more than you’ll ever know. But Charlie – he believes in you. And I don’t want to see you let him down.”
It’s, like, two weeks since I was elected to the Board of Governors of Castlerock College with a promise to stop the school going non-fee-paying from September. And this is my godfather giving me a supposed peptalk before my first actual board meeting.
He’s like, “I seen roadkill with more impressive brains than yours. Splashed across two lanes of the N7. Blood and grey sputum everywhere. Crows picking away at what the rats didn’t want . . .”
I’m there, “Okay, I get the basic point. I’m not up to much intelligence-wise. Do you mind me asking, why are we driving around in circles?”
We are, by the way. We’ve driven past Pearse Street Gorda Station four times now and he’s about to make a right turn for a fifth pass. And he’s holding his mobile phone up to his ear, even though he’s not actually, like, talking on it?
“I got 10 penalty points already this year,” he goes. “Two more and I lose my licence. Well, as it so happens, I’m going back to the States next week. This time for 12 months. A friend of mine – no names, no pack-drill – he’s asked me to advise him on his bankruptcy. So I figure, if I pick up them two points . . .”
“You can serve your driving ban while you’re out of the country.”
“I come back with a clean slate. That’s called using your nut.”
Except, roysh, he can’t get a Gord to notice him holding the old Jo Malone up to his ear. We pass for the fifth time. A lady Gorda leaving the station stares straight at him, except she doesn’t pull him over, even though he slows down to practically crawling pace. So we go around again.
“So what’s your plan?” he goes.
I’m like, “Plan?”
“To persuade these other shmoes on the board not to go looking for help from the state.”
“Well, I was thinking of just making one of my amazing, amazing speeches. I might be an iron or two short of a full golf bag, but I’ve always been a good talker, going back to the days when I captained the . . .”
He cuts me off.
“You don’t need to say shit,” he goes. “There’s seven members of the board. A simple majority wins the day. That means we need four votes.”
I’m like, “ Four votes?”
“You’re counting, aren’t you? I can see your fingers moving!”
“I was just checking that it was definitely four.”
“Trust me. It’s four. You are one. Provided, that is, you can be trusted to put an X in the right box. That means you need to bring three more with you. You’ve already got Edward Newenham. He’d never agree to his precious alma mater letting in the dregs of society. And we’ve got David Ramsay’s vote as well.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because I gave him €20,000 in a bag for it – three hours ago, in his place of work.” Hennessy is the iffiest focker I’ve ever known – probably what makes him a great solicitor. “All you got to get,” he goes, “is one more vote. And there’s one in particular I think is within your reach.”
“You ever heard of Terri Trenier?”
“Terri Trenier? Yeah, no, her son was actually in my year. Mark was his name. He helped Fionn organise the Maths Olympiad. He was a serious brainiac, to the point where he wasn’t very good at rugby at all.”
“Terri lost her husband two, three years ago. She’s on her own. You know what I’m saying?”
“Well, you might well be dumb as an ox, but it hasn’t escaped my attention that you have certain . . . charms. Qualities that are desired by the deadlier of the species.”
The penny suddenly drops.
I’m there, “Are you suggesting I, like, pimp myself out to her?”
He goes, “I’m suggesting you give her the impression that you like her. Take her out. Treat her nice. And, hey, if she wants a cuddle, give her a cuddle.”
I’m there, “Dude, can I just remind you, I’m basically married ? I took certain vows on my wedding day.”
He just stares at me. He knows how much those vows mean to me. He was handling my divorce up until six months ago.
I’m there, “Okay, I’ll take her out. Jesus, she’s no MILF, if I’m remembering her right.”
We’re suddenly passing Pearse Street Gorda Station for the sixth time. A Gorda is throwing his leg over a motorbike. Again, he stares straight at Hennessy and, again, he doesn’t do anything. Hennessy winds down the window and shouts at him. “Hey,” he goes, “Sergeant McDumbfuck, I’m on the phone here, look!”
The Garda’s face all of a sudden lights up. “Pull in,” he goes.
Hennessy. He’s the dodgiest man I’ve ever met. And yet I could learn so much from him.
ILLUSTRATION: ALAN CLARKE