Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: I’m like Cersei Lannister – refusing to leave the throne

First day of the Leaving Cert. My hands shake like the old dear’s when I hide the corkscrews

 

It’s finally here. The first day of the Leaving Cert. And the nerves have well and truly got to me. I’m staring at the bathroom floor, doubled over with stomach cramps. I should be in the cor by now, halfway to school. But I’m like Cersei Lannister – refusing to leave the throne.

Honor hammers the door with her hand. She’s like, “Dad, you’re being stupid!”

“Stupid is who I am,” I go. “Stupid is who I’ve always been? You need, like, proper smorts to pass the Leaving Cert.”

Honor’s like, “No, you don’t – it’s just a remembering-things competition.”

“You’re only saying that because I promised you 30 grand if you could help me pass it.”

“Er, you actually promised me 50 grand?”

“You see? I can’t even remember that. Basic, basic maths.”

“Dad, you’re spiralling now.”

I stand up and I take a long, hord look at myself in the mirror. All of the colour has drained from my face and I’ve got, like, sweat seeping out of every pore. At the same time, my hands are trembling, like my old dear’s do when I go to her gaff and hide all the corkscrews for a laugh.

“Dad,” Honor goes, “we’ve put – oh my God – so much work into this. We’re talking, like, hundreds and hundreds of hours.”

I’m there, “And I’m grateful to you for home-schooling me, Honor. But I was crazy to think I could pass this thing.”

Suddenly, I hear his voice outside on the landing – as in, like, my old man’s?

“Step aside, Honor!” he goes. “Leave this to Chorles!”

I’m there, “You’re not going to persuade me to go through with it, Dude.”

But he’s like, “I have absolutely no intention of doing so. I’m sliding a piece of paper underneath the door, Ross.”

A sheet of A4 suddenly appears at my feet. I pick it up and give it the old left to right. It’s like, “English – H1. Irish – H1. Maths – H1 ...”

I’m like, “What the fock is this?”

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“Those are your grades,” he goes, “if you decide to not sit the exams and opt instead for predicted results.”

Honor’s like, “In other words, he’s bribed the school to give you maximum points for doing absolutely nothing.”

“I’ve offered them €2 million to build a new library,” the old man goes. “Only a cynic would see it as a bribe.”

“Fye-sicks?” I go, still staring at the page. “What the fock is fye-sicks? I don’t do fye-sicks!”

“It’s physics,” Honor goes. “And, yes, you do. Do you remember we learned about weight and mass and temperature and momentum?”

The old man goes, “Stop, Honor! His brain will overheat! Take the predicted grades, Kicker! It adds up to 700 points – in case you’re struggling with the maths!”

Honor’s there, “Dad, I remember when I was, like, eight years old and it was, like, sports day in Mount Anville. I was entered in the sack race, but I didn’t want to do it – not because I was nervous, but because they couldn’t get a headline sponsor and there was no cash prize. And you said something to me that I’ve, like, never forgotten?”

I’m like, “What did I say?”

“You said that quitting is like pissing your trousers,” she goes. “It only feels good in the moment. But then you’ve got to live with the consequences.”

I’m like, “That’s one of Fr Fehily’s. You can’t use Fr Fehily’s quotes against me.”

“What do you think he’d say if he could see you now?”

“He’d probably tell me to take the predicted grades. He didn’t believe that rugby players should have to sit exams.”

“A man of eminent wisdom!” the old man goes. “What you need to understand, Honor, is that Ross being good at rugby set the pattern for his life! Off the pitch, he’s never actually achieved anything on his own! It’s all been favours! The money for this house was inherited from his grandmother! Any jobs he’s secured – from Shred Focking Everything to Hook, Lyon and Sinker – have been down to him knowing the right people! He’s never done anything for himself! He’s never had to!”

Hearing him say that makes me feel suddenly calm and secure. But Honor’s not letting it go. She’s there, “Grandad, he can pass the Leaving Cert. I know he can.”

“Your father is as thick as the wall, Honor! But he’s not so thick that he doesn’t understand that 700 points for nothing is better than no points for a whole lot of hord work!”

“I believe in him. As a matter of fact, Dad, I don’t want the money.”

I’m like, “What?”

“The fifty grand,” she goes. “I don’t want it. I never wanted it. All I wanted was to get you to see that you’re not thick as shit like everyone says you are, including Mum.”

That ends up being the straw that breaks the camel’s blahdy blah. I open the door. “Honor,” I go, “that’s the most amazing thing that anyone has ever said to me – obviously non-rugby-related.”

She smiles at me. And the old man smiles at me in the exact same way.

“Hang on,” I go, suddenly sensing an air of something between them. “You two are in league together.”

“Honor thought it might be a good idea,” he goes, “for me to play the role of devil’s advocate, quote-unquote!”

This focking family.

I’m there, “Okay, if you don’t mind, I’ve got an exam to sit,” and I tip down the stairs, still feeling a bit wobbly in my legs.

I step outside the house to be greeted by a sight I wasn’t expecting? There’s, like, 30 or 40 people standing around in the gorden. We’re talking Fionn, JP, Christian and Oisinn. Sorcha’s here. And all the neighbours. And they give me a round of applause as I walk to the cor, tears streaming down my literally face.

I’m thinking, how could I doubt myself with people like this around me? I get into the cor. Honor steps up to the window. She’s like, “Good luck, Dad.”

I’m there, “Thanks, Honor. What have I got today?”

“English.”

“Okay, that shouldn’t be too hord. I mean, I speak English?”

“Sort of, yeah. By the way, that thing I said about not wanting the 50 grand?”

“It was port of the routine?”

“Yeah, I’ll still want the money if you pass.”

“There’s no if, Honor. I’m going to nail this thing.”

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