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Celebrity Manager by Roddy Doyle

Last update - Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 12:21 By Roddy Doyle

Chapter Seven

He got to the house and rang the bell. It didn’t make him angry anymore, having to ring the bell, to ask permission to enter his own home. It made him sad, though – very. He waited for someone inside to come and let him in. He thought back to earlier in the day, being with the kids at the club – how they’d made him laugh, how he’d made them laugh.

The door opened. It was Shona, his youngest. Her hair was wet, she was grinning.


She stepped out and hugged him. He smelt her shampoo, strawberry or something. It made him want to cry. But he didn’t.

He followed her down the hall, into the kitchen. The eldest, Louise, was in there, ironing what looked like a 3D representation of sea coral but was probably a blouse.

–I’d never have the patience for that, said Joe, after he’d kissed Louise.

–It wouldn’t suit you, anyway, Dad, said Shona.

–True, said Joe. –Where are the others?

He hated this bit – asking. He hoped he didn’t sound needy or hurt. But they hadn’t been together, all four girls and their parents, since the break-up, except for a very long hour on Christmas Day. He knew he’d have to get over it, that he was getting over it. But it killed him.

–Hayley and June are at the Pavilions, said Louise.

–They’re coming home, said Shona. –Hayley texted.

–Great, said Joe. –And your mother?

–I’m here, said a voice behind him.

He turned.

–Hi, said Brenda.

His wife. His ex-wife – but they weren’t divorced. His separated wife – that didn’t sound right. His estranged wife – he liked the sound of that; it was almost glamorous.

–Hi, said Brenda, Joe’s estranged wife.

–Hi, said Joe right back, the old smoothie.

He wanted to tell her she looked great.

–You’re looking well, he said, and stunned himself. Because he’d said it. And because it wasn’t true. Brenda looked terrible. Sick or hungover. Maybe even heartbroken.

She smiled.

No, she didn’t. She scowled.

–No, I don’t, she said.

He shrugged.

–Ah, Mam, said Shona, the youngest and the bravest. –Dad’s just being nice.

It was Brenda’s turn to shrug.

–She’s had the flu, Louise told him.

-Oh, said Joe. –Are you feeling better now?

Brenda coughed and stared at him. Joe couldn’t think of anything else to say. He didn’t want to stare back.

They were saved by the bell.

Joe went to the front door, his estranged front door, and opened it.

–Forgot our keys, said Hayley. –Hi, Dad.

So Joe’s dream had come true. They were in the kitchen, all of them together. But they weren’t living happily ever after. It was awkward, too loud, hysterical – the girls were trying too hard to make up for Brenda’s silence.

Joe didn’t blame Brenda. She really didn’t look well. He’d been nervous about delivering his news but now he thought it was the only thing he could do.

–I’m going on the telly, he said.


Brenda had stood up. She looked like she wanted to run away.

–No, it’s different, said Joe.

He tried to laugh.

–Celebrity Bainisteoir, he said.

The word ‘celebrity’ made the girls sit up and stare. They were trying to see the celebrity in the grey-haired man in the sad jacket. Joe was a bit sick of being stared at, but he smiled and explained it to them. Brenda sat down again. She relaxed, a bit – he thought she did.

He didn’t mention the dog; enough was enough. But he did mention the make-up, how they’d be coming to look at him on Tuesday.

And that, just telling them, gave Joe the best, the happiest couple of hours he’d had in a long time. He sat on a chair in the middle of the kitchen and the girls experimented on him. He listened to them laugh and argue as they sprayed and painted and brushed. He looked at himself in a mirror just once. They’d done something to his hair.

–We’re going for a Mourinho look, said June.


What he actually looked like was a damp cigarette after a couple of drags.

–What do you think?

–Great, he said.

He looked to see what Brenda thought, but she wasn’t there.

She’d gone back up to bed.

But he went home, back to his flat, happy – ish. And nervous. He’d asked the girls to come to the match next Sunday and they’d promised him they’d make their mother come too. They’d drug her if they had to.

She’d wake up and see the dog.

His back was sore again. He could hardly lift the key to the lock. But he was still happy – ish. She’d see the dog. But she’d see the kids as well. There was something about those kids.


© Roddy Doyle 2013



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