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Celebrity Manager by Roddy Doyle

Last update - Monday, July 1, 2013, 16:03 By Roddy Doyle

  Chapter Nine

Joe was afraid to move. His hair was lacquered. They might have put some kind of dye in it as well. He was afraid to look. And they’d put makeup on him too.

–Jesus, Joe, said Mick. –Fake tan?

–It’s for the lights, said Joe. –Jen said I’d look like a leper without it. Is it bad?

–Well, said Mick. –A leper with a tan is better than a leper without one, I suppose.

–Ah, Christ, said Joe.

Brenda, his wife, was coming to see him – the whole thing, the whole show. He knew he’d never be Liam Neeson but he’d never been called a leper before. Still, he didn’t look in the dressing room mirror. Dream on, bud. Dream on.

The kids – the boys – had started to arrive.

–Wazzup, Dog Man.

–Woof woof.

If the mind had a back, that was where Joe had been keeping the opposition. He hadn’t let himself think about his opponents, the other celebrities – the young one who’d been on The Apprentice, the guy who’d been Sylvester Stallone’s bodyguard’s bodyguard, the politician who’d lost his seat and changed his sex. And the dog. Joe had kept the dog at bay, barking away in a kennel at the back of the back of the very back of his mind. Now, though, he couldn’t try to ignore it any longer. The dog was Joe’s first opponent. The dog. The dog that – no, not that; who – the dog who had taken his health and his marriage. The dog who’d destroyed Joe’s life. And Joe hadn’t told his wife – his ex-wife. His estranged wife.

–Are there many out there? he asked Sunday.

–No, said Sunday. –No one. Just my dad.


–Good guess, said Sunday. –He’s washing the nets.

Joe heard a bark, and it didn’t come from the back of his mind. It had come from the dressing room next door. Jesus Christ, the dog was giving his boys their team talk.

–Mick, said Joe.


–Was that what I thought it was?

–It was, yeah, said Mick. –You should see him in his jacket. It’s fuckin’ hilarious.

Joe could feel the makeup peeling off him, sliding down his face. He’d never get through this. He’d forgotten why he was there. He was a complete blank. There wasn’t even a back in his mind.

But his real back was killing him.

Mick was talking.

–What? said Joe.

–Will you shake hands with the dog before the match starts? said Mick. –Or will you wait till after?

–Jesus, Mick –

–It’s just, the director wants to know.

–After, said Joe.

–Good man, said Mick. –It’ll keep it tense. Kind of will he, won’t he. Rafa, Fergie.

Joe felt sudden heat against the side of his head. He turned – but he couldn’t, probably. There was a camera in his face.

–Could you talk to your team now, please? said a voice behind the camera. Joe thought it was a woman’s, but he wasn’t certain.

–Leave the grab-your-luck speech till half-time, Mick whispered.

–But they mightn’t be losing, said Joe.

–Oh, they will, said Mick.

–Okay, said Joe.

–Lads, he said.

The camera and crew had shifted; he felt less crowded. He could see his team now, all 15 boys and the subs staring at the camera.

–Me, lads, said Joe. –Look at me.

They looked.

–Are you listening? said Joe.

One of them, little Aaron, nodded.

–Right, said Joe. –Just play your normal game.

It sounded like reasonable advice; Joe was happy enough. But he saw a woman beside the camera, waving her hand like she was helping him to park. She wanted him to keep talking.

–The ball, said Joe. –That’s the key. The difference between victory and defeat. If you have the ball, you’ll score. If you keep the ball, you’ll stop them from scoring.

Joe wasn’t sure, but he thought he was telling them something he’d heard Brian Clough saying on The Big Match some time in the ‘70s.

–So get the ball and keep it.

–You’re leaving out something, Mick whispered.

–But, said Joe.

The camera was under him now.

–Kick it into the net now and again, said Joe.

–Or over the bar, said Mick.

–Exactly, said Joe.

The camera was behind him.

–Could you say that again, please.


–All of it.

And he did. Joe gave them Clough’s bullshit three times. The fourth time he sounded like he meant it, and the director let the team run out – twice.

Then Joe went out to face the dog.

He heard it before he was out of the club house.

–Oh Christ, Mick, he said.


–Listen, said Joe.

–Woof, woof, fuckin’ woof!

It sounded like hundreds, maybe thousands, of people.

–Woof woof, fuckin’ woof!

And Joe’s estranged wife was in the middle of that.



© Roddy Doyle 2013

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