Sunday 4 December 2016

Dumb things my dad did

A short story by Joseph O'Connor

Joseph O'Connor

Published 06/11/2016 | 02:30

'He's been telling it for years, at every birthday party, every chance he gets, the same ridiculous story, till you can't stand it anymore. It's the story of a boy who bought himself a goldfish. It's so lame. You probably heard it. No?' Photo: Depositphotos
'He's been telling it for years, at every birthday party, every chance he gets, the same ridiculous story, till you can't stand it anymore. It's the story of a boy who bought himself a goldfish. It's so lame. You probably heard it. No?' Photo: Depositphotos

You should meet my dad, seriously. The lamest guy I know. Like, I love him and everything. It isn't that.

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It's more, you give him a chance to do something right and he'll always do it wrong. He's like the Government. You need him, but he's useless.

This one day we're in town, my dad and my brother Max and me. It wasn't long after my mum went away. It was close to Christmas time and all. Tinsel. Fake One Direction posters. We'd gone to look at the lights and walk up and down Grafton Street, which my dad loves doing, though I've never known why.

I was upset about my mum leaving, and so was Max. And my dad was, too. But I don't want to go there. Anyway, we're done, and we're about to head home, when he stops right there in the middle of the street and stares at me.

He's like, 'Where's the car?'

And I'm like, 'Dunno.'

'I can't remember where I left it.'

'Huh?'

'Was it Wicklow Street or Drury Street?'

'Dad, I'm nine! I don't know!'

This policeman comes down the street. On a horse.

And my dad's like, 'Sorry there, guard, I wonder if you could help me. I'm after losing my car.'

'You're what?'

'Not losing it, exactly. I'm after forgetting where I parked it.'

'Where did you leave it?'

And my dad's like, 'I haven't a bogging breeze.'

'You're after losing your car?'

'I know. It's ridiculous. Can you help me to find it?'

'But where did you last see it?'

'Well… If I knew where I last saw it… it wouldn't be lost.'

And the horse makes a snort. Like it's laughing.

And dad's looking at me weird like. Dumb klutz.

Another annoying thing about my dad, he fancies himself as a storyteller. If my friends come around for a play date or something, he won't leave us alone to do something educational like play Xbox or Minecraft, he always has to tell us a story. And it's always the same one.

He's been telling it for years, at every birthday party, every chance he gets, the same ridiculous story, till you can't stand it anymore. It's the story of a boy who bought himself a goldfish. It's so lame. You probably heard it. No?

This kid buys a goldfish. You sure you never heard this? Obviously, you never met my dad, in that case. Well, one day the kid puts his hand into the bowl and takes the goldfish out for a second or two before putting it back in the water. And it doesn't die.

The next day, he takes it out for five seconds. And it doesn't die. Then six seconds, then seven, every day another second. And still the fish doesn't die. And over time, he trains that goldfish to stay out of the water for 60 seconds, then five minutes, then nearly half an hour. And it doesn't die.

Then one morning, he's taking the fish in its bowl into school because he wants to show the teacher this remarkable thing: a goldfish that can stay out of the water for three full hours. But as he's walking along by the canal, he trips, and drops the bowl, and the goldfish falls into the water. 'Where it drowns.'

And my dad falls around laughing. And all the kids look at him. Lame.

It's just one of the 50 million dumb things he does: tell the same story over and over and swear that it's true.

And I've been putting them all in a book. Called Dumb Things My Dad Did.

The first one was marry my mum.

This story appears in Looking At The Stars - a limited edition anthology of Irish writing edited by Kerrie O'Brien and Alice Kinsella to raise money for the Dublin Simon Community. Several contributors will be giving a public reading from the book at the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin next Saturday, November 12. lookingatthestars.ie

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