Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: ‘I think it was JFK who said that politics was the something-something of something-something else’
The old man is thinking about building a wall – and that new wig looks awfully familiar
“Hennessy and I are preparing a tender for a project,” he goes. “How many of those blocks do you think we’d need to build a wall? Height, 12 feet. Depth, four feet. Length, oh, about the length of the border between the United States and Mexico.”
I swing into the old man’s gaff to collect my ticket for the All Blacks match. He’s in his study. He’s sitting on one side of the desk, with Hennessy opposite him. And sitting on the desk between them is a large, grey breeze block.
I don’t know what it says about my relationship with my old man that my first thought is that it’s for weighing down a body.
“Kicker!” the old man goes when he sees me. “I need to pick that world famous brain of yours for a moment.”
That’s just something he says, by the way – he knows I’m as thick as, well, that brick there.
“Hennessy and I are preparing a tender for a project,” he goes. “How many of those blocks do you think we’d need to build a wall? Height, 12 feet. Depth, four feet. Length, oh, about the length of the border between the United States and Mexico. ”
I’m like, “Excuse me?”
“What’s your best guestimate, Kicker?”
“Are you serious? Are you actually serious?”
“Someone’s going to have to build the thing. Let’s not get caught up in the hows, the whys, the what-nots and the however-you-might-says.”
“That sounds suspiciously like the speech you made from the dock when they sent you down for corrupting the planning process.”
Hennessy throws in his two yoyos worth then. “There’s nothing criminal about this enterprise,” he tries to go. “If anything, it’s just a little bit, well, immoral.”
I’m there, “And that’s what you said in the old man’s defence before the judge put him away. You two are unbelievable. I was looking at that brick, thinking, ‘Yeah, no, they’re probably just trying to work out how many of those it’d take to drag a body to the bottom of the sea.’ Instead, it’s this?”
The old man goes, “Drag a body to the bottom of the sea? Is that what you think of me, Kicker?”
“I think you two are capable of anything when you put your heads together.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“Don’t. Seriously, don’t. Do you know how upset Sorcha is about this whole, I don’t know, election thing?”
“She was a fan of Ms Clinton – yes, we’ve debated on the subject.”
“She was more than a fan. It’s all I’ve been hearing about for the last six months. Hillary this and Hillary that. She took down the poster in the utility room of all the dipshit things that George W Bush said and replaced it with a poster of all the dipshit things that Donald Trump said.”
“She’s always been political.”
“And now she’s devastated. She’s been in her pyjamas for a week.”
“I think it was John F Kennedy who said that politics was the something-something of something-something else.”
“I don’t think that’s going to come as any consolation to her. She hasn’t cooked in a week. The staff in Eddie Rockets are sick of the sight of me.”
“The fact remains,” Hennessy goes, “that someone is going to build this wall – and it might as well be us.”
“That’s right,” the old man goes. “And in four years time, if the Democrats retake the White House, they’ll probably be looking for someone to knock it down again.”
“And we’ll tender for that job as well.”
“Vitam regit fortuna, non sapientia!”
“I think you’ll find it was Cicero, old bean.”
I stare at the old man for a good, I don’t know, 20 seconds in total silence. His hair, I’ve suddenly noticed, is different. It’s, like, dirty blond and it’s combed over on top, with loads of lacquer holding it down, then the side bits are brushed back around his ears.
“Is that ... a new wig?” I go.
He’s there, “I thought I’d experiment with a new look, Ross.”
“Oh my God, do you know who you look like now?”
“Yes. And I shall take that as a compliment as well. Now, by my reckoning, Hennessy, we’re going to need something in region of a billion of these blocks…”
I can’t listen to any more of this. I grab my ticket from on top of his drinks cabinet. As I’m going out the door, the old man shouts after me. He’s like, “Probably best if you don’t tell Sorcha about this, Ross. Especially if, as you say, she’s still grieving for Hillary.”
As I’m driving home, I’m thinking to myself, actually, no, I’m going to tell her. Why should I keep his secrets for him when I’ve difficulty enough keeping track of my own lies?
I walk through the front door and I end up meeting her in the hallway. She goes, “Hi.”
I’m like, “Hey,” and I smile because I notice that she’s actually dressed for the first time in a week.
“How are you?” I go.
She’s like, “The grief keeps coming in waves. It’s kind of like a death?”
“The death of someone – oh my God – really, really close to me. But this afternoon, I actually realised something. I have no more tears left to cry. I’ve done my mourning. And now my grief is ready to transform into something more useful.”
I put my hand on her back and I go, “Cooking always helps you take your mind off things,” and I stort trying to subtly steer her in the direction of the kitchen.
It’s not me being sexist, it’s me being storving.
“It’s like Aaron Sorkin said,” she goes, “four years will fly. And we’ll be ready next time – as in properly ready? And in the meantime, we’ll be vigilant. We won’t let them away with anything. How’s your dad, by the way?”
I’m there, “Yeah, no, I was actually just getting to that.”
“I walked into his study and there was, like, a breeze block on his desk?”
“A breeze block? What would your dad be doing with a breeze block?”
I look at her and I realize in that moment that I can’t tell her the truth. It’s partly because I’m ashamed of him and partly because I know it’ll set her recovery back a week.
“It’s nothing,” I go. “I think him and Hennessy are thinking of killing someone.”
“Oh,” she goes. “I was thinking of making my Jamie Oliver tomato, red wine and chorizo risotto for lunch.”
And I’m like, “Sounds good to me.”