We’ve walked to school in silence, Noel swinging his book bag, but as we enter the playground Noel asks, “Daddy, why were you sleeping in the spare room?” I’m about to attempt an answer when Billy dashes past us. Noel wheels into his best friend’s slipstream and they are gone. Somehow, during this manoeuvre, Noel has transferred his book bag into my hand. I walk towards Noel’s classroom, where parents and children gather outside.
How would I have answered? That mummy and I had a horrible argument, I drank far too much and collapsed into the spare room bed? It has the advantage of truthfulness. Now I’m hungover, unshaven, scruffy and chucking a sickie. As I approach the forming line of children I hear Mr Donnelly, his back to me, quip to a couple of BAFTA-winning, Italian-suited TV producers, dads of various Jocastas and Dexters, “Give a man a gun and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank and he can rob an entire nation.” Smug laughter all round.
Mr Donnelly turns to inspect his charges but, instead, confronts me. “Mr Cashman. Ah…” Noel and Billy career into the back of the line of seven year olds, sending a ripple through the class. “Noel. Billy. Be careful. Right, in you go,” says Mr Donnelly. The children enter the classroom, Noel and Billy giggling at the rear of the line. Mr Donnelly turns and enters the classroom.
I walk away, wondering whether I should make Donnelly an offer he can’t refuse. He has a great reputation. Maybe quadruple his salary to tutor Noel at home. That’d ruffle some BAFTA-winning feathers. I pass a putrid rubbish bin and retch violently. My head spins. And as I raise my head I see Mr Donnelly watching me from the classroom window.
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