‘Sorcha subtly checks out the female guests, trying to decide which staff member I’m most likely to cheat on her with’
J P’s old man greets us at the front door with a smile and a handshake for me and a hug for Sorcha that ever so slightly crosses the line that separates festive friendliness and sexual assault.
“Merry Christmas!” he goes. “Come in, come in!”
The porty is already in full swing. He hands me a double scotch and a cigor the size of Conor Murray, which he lights for me, while Sorcha subtly checks out the other female guests, trying to decide which member of the Hook, Lyon and Sinker staff I’m most likely the cheat on her with.
See, that’s how the female mind works.
The bird she really needs to worry about is the cracking little Slovakian fun-bundle who works two doors down in Costa – who sometimes gives me a Massimo, then only chorges me for a Primo.
There’s something about me that foreign birds genuinely love.
Sorcha goes, “This is just an observation, Ross, but a lot of the girls you work with are very pretty,” but it’s more than just an observation – there’s, like, an accusing tone to her voice?
I’m there, “Yeah, no, that’s JP’s old man for you,” trying to fob her off. “His first question at job interviews is always, ‘So, what do you weigh?’ I genuinely don’t know how he gets away with it.”
“On Friday nights,” Sorcha goes, “when you go for staff drinks, do all these girls go as well?”
I’m like, “Sorcha, I don’t want you to stort getting all insecure on me. You’re the only one I want to be with and blah, blah, blah.”
This seems to definitely put her mind at ease.
JP arrives over. A kiss on the cheek for a Sorcha and a high-five, then a chest-bump for me.
He’s all, “Merry Christmas, Dude,” except there’s a definite awkwardness there. Six weeks ago, he was Hook, Lyon and Sinker’s number one seller. Since I went back to work for his old man, well, without wanting to come across as big-headed, he’s not anymore.
His old man suddenly shushes everyone, just as the canapés are being passed around. It’s obviously speech time.
He’s there, “Pardon me if I get a little bit emotional here, because I’m remembering the last time we were all gathered together like this. It was Christmas of 2009. Do you remember? At the end of the night, I broke the news to you that Hook, Lyon and Sinker was going into voluntary liquidation, and some of you were a little sore with me when I told you that I’d been using your weekly PRSI contributions to try to keep the business afloat. A lot of things were said in anger that I’ve thankfully forgotten now.
“A week later, as you cleared out your desks, then went off to spend your statutory redundancy money, I made each and every one of you a promise. I told you that it wasn’t goodbye. Because I knew there was a future for people like us – even as our so-called politicians promised that never again would they allow the property market to become so vital to our economic wellbeing that something as simple as a total collapse in house prices could bring about the country’s financial ruin.
“Even as they vowed that never again would they stand idly by while young people took on the burden of mortgages they couldn’t afford, I knew – I just knew – that Hook, Lyon and Sinker would be back. And look at us tonight!”
There’s a huge applause. There’s quite a few tears as well.
He goes, “Okay, it’s that time of year, boys and girls, when we recognise and reward achievement during the year just passed. I’m referring to the Hook, Lyon and Sinker Excellence in Selling Awards.”
All you need to really know for the purposes of the story is that I end up walking away with four major prizes – Most Outrageous Use of the Term ‘Bijou’, Most Imaginative Use of the Term ‘Commutable’, the Pig-in-a-Poke Prize for the Most Valuable Sale of a Property That Hasn’t Even Been Built Yet and – drum roll, please – the overall prize of Seller of the Year.
I end up saying a few words, mentioning that, as far as honours go, this is right up there with winning the Leinster Schools Senior Cup, which is obviously bullshit, but I’ve a fair bit of drink on board at that stage.
I end up having to commiserate with JP, who won literally squat. I’m there, “Hey, a lot of those awards were close-run affairs. And if there’d been a prize for Persuading Someone that a Stationery Cabinet was an Actual Livable Space, you’d have been a winner, too. I genuinely mean that.”
He just nods and smiles in a hey-ho kind of way as he weighs up my Seller of the Year award in his hand. He goes, “Yeah, no, there’s always next year, I suppose.”
I’m thinking, Yeah, you’re focking dreaming, Dude!
See, that’s Father Fehily’s influence. When it comes to competition, we’re animals.
Anyway, about an hour later, the porty is really hopping and that’s when JP’s old man catches my eye. With a flick of his head, he indicates for me to follow him into his study, which is what I end up doing.
He sits with one orse cheek on his desk and he relights my cigor. It went out about an hour ago.
“This time next year,” he goes, “someone else is going to be doing all of this.”
I’m there, “As in hosting the Christmas porty?”
He’s like, “As in running the company. It’s never been my intention to keep working until the day I eventually keel over. When Hook, Lyon and Sinker reopened, I told JP’s mother I’d give it two years, then pass it on to my successor.”
“I’m presuming JP.”
“You would think that, wouldn’t you? But lately – strictly entre nous, of course – I’ve been having doubts about the boy – much as it pains me to say it about my own flesh and blood.”
“JP is someone you can definitely rely on,” I go. “Father Fehily used to say that the greatest ability a man can possess is dependability.”
He goes, “Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not. I worry he’s got too much moral fibre to be a truly great estate agent. You know he went to Mass every Sunday in Advent?”
I’m there, “That’s not how he was raised – I’m saying that in your defence.”
“No, it’s not. He’s got this strain of Christian decency in his character that God knows I’ve tried to wash out of him but I can’t shift it. He ain’t the man to steer Hook, Lyon and Sinker through the coming economic boom.”
I’m there, “Who is, then?” because sometimes I can be as a thick as an embassy wall.
He smiles at me and goes, “You are, kid!”