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A political fable
This free eBook remains © Erik Ryman To order a print edition of this book visit www.bluechrome.co.uk To find out more about Erik Ryman and his work, visit www.erikryman.co.uk
Published by bluechrome publishing 2009 PO Box 109, Portishead, Bristol. BS20 7ZJ First Published by bluechrome in 2009 Copyright © Erik Ryman 2009 Erik Ryman has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. All characters and situations portrayed in this book are fictitious and not a little unlikely. As such they aren’t based on any person, company, government or event. ISBN 978-1-906061-53-1 www.bluechrome.co.uk www.erikryman.co.uk
also by Erik Ryman God’s Game Doctor Mooze The Tsetsefly Chronicles The Recidivist
“A cherub rolls, for delinquent angels, £3 a joint” Nenko Joretsu
Doris sits in front of the gilded mirror and sighs. The reflection of the high-ceilinged palace room taunts him as he applies his lipstick, glues his false nails, combs out a blonde wig and carefully applies mascara. 'Mirror mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?' The mirror says nothing, it is a mirror after all, but deep within the glass, made from sand that itself came from a billion insignificant sea creatures, a random innate feeling, not even a partially formed thought seems to bubble to the surface and somehow leeches its way into Doris' subconscious. 'It’s not you, you fat, ugly, pitiful old tranny slag.'
Professor Moriarty, Head of the Departmental Induction Program, looks out at a theatre full of blankly willing faces. Most of them would fail, but what did he care? He'd been giving this lecture for seven years and could do it with his eyes pinned together. 'Shut up.' Silence. Good. He clears his throat, then spits into a napkin. 'In the early 21st Century, successive governments took many approaches to the problem of balancing the spiralling cost of public services, such as state benefits and the health service, with the increased demand for these.' Silence. No, ignorance. 'It was of course an impossible dream, the population unwilling to pay the taxes required to meet the levels of service expected, with the politicians being pushed into an endless stream of lies, so as to secure power, and cover-ups to try and retain it.' Not a glimmer, why the hell did he bother? They couldn't care less, he couldn't care less, total bullshit anyway, and it wasn't as though anyone
even pretended to believe the Department's fairy stories. 'In desperation, more and more of the services became outsourced to private companies and a new era of partnership loudly declared to be the answer for future generations.' Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. 'By the second decade of the century, no area of government service provision could operate without their partners and providers in the private sector and it seemed to be working well, or was at least measured in ways that meant it could be presented that way. Heartened, the government of the day announced the Public Private Ownership Initiative which after 23,783 pages of hyperbole calmly announced that henceforth it was perfectly legal and proper for the government to hand over complete control of individual ministries to the private sector, on a franchise basis.' La la la... 'At the time this was believed to be a brave and inspired move and though little understood, widely applauded. To stifle any public concern, an unprecedented marketing campaign was undertaken that would see the hearts and minds of a slightly bored populace, won over with promises of the best of everything allied with reductions in taxation. Naturally, the government would ensure that proper care was taken of the nation's interests via the creation of a variety of toothless watchdogs, but in operational terms, the franchise holders would have a free reign throughout their twenty-five-year tenures and enjoy a minimum of interference and regulation.'
Moriarty looked around the room. He could actually stop there, as nobody was even pretending to listen any more, but - and there was always the 'but' when it came to the Department - somebody was bound to be watching. He looked into individual faces, but couldn't spot a single glimmer of interest that might have given away a Departmental spy. Not that an informer was the only way, of course; the whole building was designed so that the Department could watch, record and analyse the inductees' every move, so why would he suppose for a moment that there wouldn't be one little old camera reserved for him? No, he'd finish the lecture with his normal levels of skill, wit, mental stimulation and knowledge. It was the only way to survive in this shit-hole. 'Radically, the government decided to auction all of the ministries on a single day - seeing this as the best way to complete the process quickly, and selected an on-line auction site as its service provider, given the comparatively low listing costs, the removal of the need for printed documentation, and the 255-letter restriction on item descriptions. As expected, a bidding war ensued with the plum ministries of the MOD, NHS and DSS (those seen as having the most scope for cost savings and therefore profit) initially attracting multi-billionpound bids, although it surprised many that of the eventual 'prices paid' it was the relatively unassuming Ministry of Parks and Leisure that achieved the highest bounty. The approach, whilst pronounced a raging success, did of course raise a few anomalies with, for example, the Welsh Assembly only raising £24.73 due to it being mistakenly listed alongside Lego and Meccano play
sets and – most embarrassing of all – the Church of England being purchased for £0.98 by a 12-yearold boy from Coventry, having thought that he was bidding for the illustrated Bible shown by way of an example on the web site. These withstanding, the running of all of the government's operations was rapidly handed over to the winning bidders on the proviso that a 25% levy on profits would continue to be paid to the exchequer and that the government would retain consultation rights - by which it was meant that they should be briefed about all major policy changes prior to reading them parodied in Private Eye - and that everything must at least look to be working efficiently. Moriarty sat down and opened a can of Red Bull. Nobody noticed. For five full minutes he carefully sipped the drink and read the day's newspaper in complete silence. Finally, standing and stretching, he looked at the students and sighed. OK, he'd get this over with quick before somebody died. 'Over the ensuing years, some of the more ruthless franchise holders made massive profits by following efficiency programs (job losses), service reviews (doing more of what was profitable and less of what wasn't) and concentrating on their core operations (ditto). Those that took a more ethical approach (imported skills from third world countries on the cheap, exported unskilled work to third world countries on the cheap) equally thrived, but to a lesser extent and over a period of years found themselves being acquired, merged and shedding their workforces through consolidation processes
that left little apart from the franchise certificate and a company logo in the hands of their acquirers. Within three years of the franchises being sold, the government found that they were no longer being 'kept in the loop' by over thirty partners, but were instead dealing with only one, owned by a global supermarket chain called Berts.' Moriarty was shocked to hear a murmur of interest, before realising that most of the audience would have worked for the company, stacking shelves. 'In many ways the government were quite happy about this for a number of years and it was only when Berts aggressively 'requested' that the 25% tithe be reduced if not removed, that concerns were raised in Whitehall. This, naturally, was something that the government didn't wish to contemplate - the proceeds from the franchise sales had been widely embezzled and otherwise spent already, and - the 25% represented the entire income of the country, or more properly the members of the government and the mandarins that kept it working. Something had to be done, but as the country no longer had an independent army or even the money for a good lawyer, it was decided that renegotiation was the only practical approach. After many weeks of deadlocked discussion, where it became apparent to the government that the hoped-for offers of military support from the USA were not likely to appear, not least because the American President's father had turned out to be a major shareholder and rapidly nominated and approved highly paid, non-executive director of Berts, they took the only decision that was
available to them and voted unanimously to encourage the chain's offer of a vertical integration. This merger of supplier and customer was quickly trumpeted across the country as ensuring peace-inour-time and the on-going security of essential supplies. Naturally, this was seen as a major victory for the government who made great capital of the length and ferocity of the negotiations, curiously omitting any mention of the country's new subsidiary status. Within the Civil Service, there was great excitement at the mechanics of the integration and Cyril Emery and his hassled deputy Arthur Bank were charged with the detail. It was Arthur, however, having being involved in the government's franchise monitoring program, who had the initial misgivings about the long-term survival of the service within the context of the change in management, and suggested that what had initially been seen as a cashless transaction the agreement had been for Berts to purchase the country for a single £1 - may not be seen by the general public as a 'good deal'. After much thought, his suggestion was to instead price the country at one thousand trillion pounds and that the supermarket should pay the treasury this amount, naturally reclaiming it once the funds were cleared via an on-line payment provider and the country and treasury came into their ownership. This was seen as inspired and the government again publicised the price they had negotiated to wide and vocal acclaim. Being a canny man, Arthur made sure that his department had the appropriate loyalty card and
included the use of this as a minor sub-clause within the agreement, assuming that it would go some way to providing the sherry for what he was quite sure would prove to be the imminent closure of the Civil Service and government as a whole. * The preparations for the takeover of the country began in earnest, with proclamations being issued from the Denver head office of the chain on an hourly basis. These covered all areas of the country and its operation, with initial highlights including the compulsory merger of all retail businesses, the restructuring and simplification (removal) of worker rights, the adoption of a standardised (low) wage, the introduction of compulsory DNA-encoded loyalty cards for all 'associates' (everybody that worked for the chain, which henceforth would be everybody) and the introduction of pre-induction training schemes for all 16-20 year olds, a type of national service, but generally restricted to stock replenishment and the freezer aisle.' A loud crash broke the monotony of Moriarty's dialogue and peering into the balcony he realised that the knock-knocking he could hear, was the feet of a inductee bashing on the plaster castings. 'Somebody cut him down, please...'
Arthur and Cyril sat at a small table, sipping sherry and looking at the walnut fixtures around them in an office that had been their home for the majority of their adult lives. Their department, they were proud to say, had been a tightly run ship and even with its imminent closure, all loose ends had been neatly tied, and as they contemplated a retirement without pension - Berts having decided that only new starters would be eligible for such things in future - they were clearing the post for one final time. 'Sir?' 'Yes, Arthur?' 'This one is addressed to the head of the department, but it is from Berts, sir.' 'Oh, open it, Arthur, we have no secrets here, my boy. I'm working my way through the latest pronouncements. Did you know that Sterling is to be no more?' 'Really, sir?' 'Yes, it seems that these new loyalty cards will replace cash.' 'Blimey, sir. That is a little radical.' 'What was that letter, by the way?' 'Oh, nothing really, sir, just the loyalty card statement. Turned up a little late, sir.'
'Late? How so?' 'Well, originally I thought we could use the points to pay for the sherry, but...' 'Ah, always thinking ahead, Arthur, you are a true visionary. Never mind, though it was a nice idea.' 'Yes, I suppose with the department's closure these will simply go to waste. A pity.' 'Indeed it is. Worth a pound each though these days, those points.' 'Sorry, sir?' 'I said I was just reading the detail of this pronouncement and it instructs that all associates have to convert their savings into loyalty points and that they are only giving one point per pound. Outrageous of course, just another way to loot the country and...' 'Pardon me, sir, but did you say a pound-perpoint?'
Cyril stands on the balcony of the palace looking down on his public for the first time since he, the Leader, and Arthur, his Deputy, had purchased the entire supermarket chain with its own loyalty card points on behalf of their beloved Department. He clears his throat. 'Ladies. Gentlemen. I have just informed the King of the revolution that has seen the liberation of our country from foreign oppressors. I stand before you , not as a ruler, but as a man. Humble. One of you.' Wiping his brow with a towel, he shrugs off his jacket and nods to the Deputy in the wings, who, standing at a mixing desk, slides the controls that fade in the opening strains of Handel's Messiah. Arthur nods back at the Leader - scene set. The Leader smiles. His moment. Finally. He clears his throat and blows on the microphone. 'No longer shall we yield under the yoke of foreign ownership. No more shall we be ruled from foreign shores. No more shall we toil for the benefit of supermarket chain shareholders.' He shakes his fists at the sky as the music grows in volume and power - the crowd gasps expectantly. 'For, once there was fear, now there is joy. Where there were profit-driven-decision-making20
processes, now we shall have care for our own. Where there was the darkness due to own-brand light bulbs with their three-week lifespan exploding and causing minor burns across the country, now there shall be the light of longer-lasting safety bulbs.' A sharp collective intake of breath from the assembled crowds beneath the balcony is quickly followed by spontaneous applause. The Leader smiles a satisfied smile - buttons pressed, time for lift- off. 'I am here to tell you. I am here today, to bring you the news that the people of this country, the victims of governments and corporations for generations, the downtrodden and tortured owners of this great country, are finally, FINALLY going to have their day. The old country is gone. The old ways are dead. I say no more oppression, no more masters and no more servants. This is a new beginning, a renaissance, a new dawn and a grand awakening. This country is ours bought and paid for, this country is yours and things will never be the way they were ever - never - again. So heed my words, listen to me. The thoughts of nation, of empire of greed and darkness, of meanspiritedness and bullying, of dog-eat-dog and division, of the partitions of race and anger and venom and capitalism and politics and parliament and torture and hatred are all behind us. No more shall we serve and no more shall we prostitute ourselves for hard-hearted masters.' A wink in the Deputy's direction and a final bellow. 'NO MORE.'
A tidal bore of applause travels the length of the Mall, echoing across London, the south-east, out across the rest of the country and via satellite the world. 'NO MORE.' Taking a step back, the Leader looks out and into the faces of the people and something moves within. These are his people and this is his time. His story. This is history. 'And I promise you this, on this day of all days, I promise you this. While our Department is here to serve you. While I am here to cherish you, this land will be forever free; this land will be forever yours. We will not dictate; we will serve. We will not form a fist, but hold out an open, helping hand of friendship. We will have no laws for law's sake, and there will only ever be a single, unalterable commandment.' Arms aloft the Leader steps back, basking in the explosion of noise and adulation pouring up at him. Fireworks explode across the skylines of every city in the country as giant plasma screens are filled with the bulky image of the country's first demagogue. Handel's music morphs into Ride's Leave it all Behind and the skies fill with the drone of aircraft painting the colours of the union across azure skies. The Leader points to the sky and whispers, a frog catches in his throat amidst the clanging bars of music and the smell of cordite floating on the summer breeze. 'Thy will be done. That is the commandment. Thy will be done. Thy will be done.' He raises his arms aloft once more, eyes bulging, sweat dripping from every pore, old school blood and thunder, cleansing souls in his river of passion.
'THY WILL BE DONE. THY WILL BE DONE.' Each repetition of the phrase is accompanied by the meeting of his vast hands, the crowds across the nation joining him in clapping a Nuremburgesque rhythm.
'THY 'THY 'THY 'THY 'THY 'THY 'THY 'THY
WILL WILL WILL WILL WILL WILL WILL WILL
BE BE BE BE BE BE BE BE
DONE. DONE. DONE. DONE. DONE. DONE. DONE. DONE.
THY THY THY THY THY THY THY THY
WILL WILL WILL WILL WILL WILL WILL WILL
BE BE BE BE BE BE BE BE
DONE.' DONE.' DONE.' DONE.' DONE.' DONE.' DONE.' DONE.'
But that was a long decade ago.
-----BEGINS----Holding a glass to the wall, the chicken hears things that perhaps he really didn't want to. He knew, or had been told, that he had come from an egg, but the reality of the situation - shit what's that about? ----- ENDS -----
The fat man, shards of glitter-encrusted light exploding from the caps of his hand-made shoes, twists, twirls and turns as he glides through the gilded gates - not forgetting to tip his trilby at the sequoia-solid-sentry emerging from his box like a spring-heeled prop-forward, scowling with venom, then contorting his toned body into language screaming well practised vitriol. He recoils in recognition's ember rays until the dawn of enlightenment stands him stock-still, apart from a seemingly detached arm hurled headlong in salute, filled with hope and fear in equal measure. The fat man gives a faint smile and is gone, leaving a shower of moondust to catch the sodium light and to scatter splinters across the relieved sentry's expression. The sentry lets out a long and laboured sigh of relief; that would be one to tell his missus next time he saw her. But it wasn't his wife that he had been thinking of just prior to the interruption of the fat man. She, incidentally, was indulging herself with his best friend and her poodle in a pay-by-theminute motorway meeting room near Reading and probably wouldn't have cared either way. No, tonight was to be the night when he finally got to visit the much vaunted and generally talked-of-in29
hushed-tones Swollen Nightingale club in Lower Clapham. The 'gale, as it was more generally known to it’s regulars, catered to those of a discerning and often unusual selection of interests and peccadilloes, and had become quite a moth-trap for members of His Leadership's armed forces, not to mention His Leadership's Departmental colleagues. Meanwhile, a lot further up the pathway, the fat man pirouetted, boogied, rumbaed, sashayed, tapped, tangoed and fox-trotted to a screwed-up soundtrack of Electric-6's Danger, High Voltage that only he could hear. Momentarily, he slowed and looked up to a sky afire with city-orange; he'd really have to do something about that. Taking a deep breath, he arched his back, smiled - once again only to himself - then flipped and flopped his way up the flagstoned pathway to the ornately carved doors of the palace, performing an energetic triple back-flip, before landing on his hands with a grace that belied his obviously, gratuitously expanded girth. Straining his 420 pounds into an unlikely seven-point-star design, he listened for a full two minutes to the crowd that erupted in his mind, before slowly and calmly returning to reality as the rhythm of his breath descended to a more healthy, yet still unhealthy, rhythm and the nimbostratus-like steam pouring from his armpits shrank to a minor cirrusesque puff floating in the breeze. With a knowing glance toward an imagined audience - packing the imagined auditorium to the imagined rafters - he righted himself in a single, fluid movement. Slowly and deliberately, he leaned forward, balancing on the balls of his feet and craning his neck to look
beyond the amplest of what had been voted one of the world's top ten most ample stomachs, to see his handmade shoes half-buried in a pile of clearly noxious and definitely toxic dog shit. 'Fucking Corgis.'
A squat, perspiring toad of a man shifts nervously, weight transferring between his feet, then making a return journey moments later. He pulls his collar as though to let cartoon steam escape, feels the rivulets running between his shoulder blades, splitting into tributaries to navigate the blocked pores and hair follicles scattered densely across his back. Shit, he'd missed a bit. Panicking, he scribbles, page after yet another page of barely decipherable jottings and notations, amendments and corrections of previous alterations as the large man who's rapid-fire dictation he is trying to track, switches between topics, changes his mind and regularly reiterates iterations of reiteration, as though a verbal obsession overtakes his train of thought and pushes any other topic into a desperately metaphoric siding. 'Are you listening to a word I say?' The Deputy jumps, still trying to remember the preceding words - was it something about food? He couldn't quite remember. 'Yes, your Leadership, I was just trying to...' 'Well, for heaven's sake, keep up. Now, read it back to me.' 'Sorry, sir...'
The Deputy stops perspiring for a moment as ice spreads slowly across his face and upper body. 'I said, read back to me what you have written down. You have been taking notes, haven't you?' The undercurrent of menace was unlikely to win any camouflage competitions. 'Why, yes, sir, of course, sir. I mean, I have been, errm, ahh, taking, sort of shorthand notes, and well...' 'Oh, for fuck's sake, don't you ever listen to me?' 'Why, sir, of course, naturally...' 'Well, let’s start again then and this time, listen, won't you?' 'Why, of course, your Leadership, anything you say, your Lead...' 'Right, first things first. I'm starving, so get me a pizza, lots of cheese and those little fish.' 'Right, sir, straight away, but erm, where would I get such a thing your Leadership sir,?' 'Oh, for Christ’s sake, down the Mall, you idiot, I want one down the Mall and fucking hurry up. In fact, get out, I don't want to see you again until it is done, surely you can manage one simple task for me.' 'Yes, your Leadership, I'll errm, do that straight away.'
Doris and May-Belle, two friends from way back sit in what has been regarded for years as their booth, just left of the bar in the 'gale nightclub, Lower Clapham. They are in deep conversation, inbetween cocktails, with Doris, as ever, taking the lead. You can't use that word anymore. You what? I said, you couldn’t use that word in England anymore, it is forbidden. Forbidden? What are you on about? I can't use what word anymore? I can't tell you that, think about it. Hang on, that's stupid; how can I know what word you are on about if you won't tell me? But how can I tell you if it is forbidden? That is ridiculous, your expectation I should be able to communicate a forbidden word; you are being facile by even asking. Facile? How can I be facile, when I don't know what it is you are babbling about? Well, perhaps if you think about what it was that you did say, it might become apparent and then we could both drink our cocktails and put this sorry conversation behind us.
Well, what did I say? Was it because I said 'bloody?' No, not 'bloody', something else, but please don't say everything you said before as, after all, I have explained you quite simply cannot use the word again. Ever. What, ever? You are having a laugh. It’s just the way it is. So, lets get this straight. What exactly do you mean by forbidden? Can I write it but not say it or is it totally verboten? You can't do anything with it at all, I am afraid; it simply doesn't exist and regardless, writing it down would never get by them, that would be far too simple. It bloody well would, wouldn't it? Indeed. Well, at least, I can see from your face that it really isn't ‘bloody'. I already said that it was quite acceptable to use the word 'bloody' apart from it being a little vulgar. Vulgar? Bloody? You've got to be joking, tell me you’re winding me up? Well, do you not think it a little coarse? You're kidding? I mean, it isn't 'fucking' or 'arsehole' or even 'bastard', is it? And it certainly isn't 'cu...'… Well, obviously not, but would you say any of them in church on Sunday? I doubt it. I don't know. If I ever went to church and wasn't dog-tired from the night before, well... That was the word and you really must stop saying it; you will get yourself and me, come to that, in no end of trouble.
What was the word? Church? No, you said church first, it isn't church, is it? No, it was what you said before 'tired', that was the word you should refrain from uttering, if you know what is good for you. England has changed since you have been away, there aren't the decadent freedoms you, ah, 'enjoyed' before. You will need to learn to be more careful and do so quickly if you are to avoid trouble. Christ, you make it sound as though we've gone totalitarian; you've got to be over-egging it. Dog? Since when can't I say dog? Since this morning, it has been outlawed and it is now... I know, 'forbidden'. But how does that happen then, it doesn't make sense? Well, you know how it is, an order is given and... But dog? I know they are hardly flavour-of-themonth with the marches and all, but... Won't you please stop saying that word; somebody is bound to hear you. Yes, but... Yes, but nothing, Do you want: 'Yes, but it is ridiculous' to be your epitaph? Do you want it carved into the granite of your headstone? Do you want it tattooed on your face before they burn you alive? No, I think not. Epitaph? Burned alive? You are just being bleedin' melodramatic. Epitaph - I ask you? Well, think about it; what about the fellow that you worked with, who... Oh, we can't really talk about that , but it was quite, err, different... Yes, different, but not so different. Think about it.
So, I can't say the, err, 'd-word' then? But that is quite different, I mean with our, err, mate, well his case was very specific wasn't it? I mean, in some ways you would have to say that.. ...he brought it on himself by not being able to keep his unwanted opinions out of the ears of those who most wanted to hear them if they were at all being said, or even considered? Yes, well, err, yes, you are right there. But, I mean, the d-word, that is so everyday, what are we meant to say in its place? We can't all spend our time saying 'd-word,’ it'll be like John Cleese and 'don't mention the war', won't it? I mean, it is all a bit sudden, I know there was the blind march and the tabloids have been laying it on a bit thick, but... Well, I believe, and forgive my whispering, but as I was saying, I believe that an environment has been created where it isn't so much that the word is forbidden, but rather that it will have been eradicated from the English language entirely and there will no longer be a need to utter it again. Eradicated? How can you eradicate a word? People will remember it even if they aren't allowed to say it or write it. And how about reading it? There must be millions of books out there with the word 'dog' in them. Shhh! Sorry, the d-word in them; what are they going to do? Go through every book in the country and chop the word out with a little pair of nail scissors? No, of course not, that is ridiculous. Thank fuck for that, we agree on something at last, so they are hardly going to eradicate the word are they? Be serious for a minute here, its just one of those announcements, isn't it?
No, I mean they won't cut the words out as that will spoil whatever is written on the reverse of the page, it isn't as though they are some kind of spinning-jenny-burning-luddites, is it? No, they will use Tippex, but it isn't just a soundbite, they are serious about this, it apparently came from the very top. What? Tippex, it is a brand of correction fluid, you know, 'liquid paper'. They simply paint it over the word they no longer recognise and it doesn't damage what is written on the back of the page. Quite ingenious, really. I know what bloody Tippex is, but are you serious? Are they serious? Are they really going to Tippex out every instance of the d-word in every book in the country and on old fat boy's say-so? That will take forever to do, there must be millions. Yes, you are quite right, they estimate that there are over 28 billion instances of the d-word and that doesn't include all those poetry books people fill with poems about their pets. Jesus. That is a hell of a lot of bleedin' Tippex. Yes, and the bloody awful poetry will probably double the number of words that will have to disappear. Shit. I tell you what, I wish I'd known this was coming, I'd have got some shares in friggin’ Tippex, that's for sure. Yes, wouldn't we all? I bet some chinless wonder has made a killing on that one; I bet some insider dealing sharks will have smelled that drop of blood in the water and circled around until the right moment when they could... Hang-on. You did, didn't you? You bought
shares in Tippex? You jammy git, they must have gone through the roof? Well, they did treble in price shortly after the Department made their announcement this morning, but of course I knew nothing about that until then, the same as everybody else... Yeah, right. So, when did you buy the shares then? I suppose you inherited them from your Granny when you were 'but a boy' - like I bet you did... Well, I must admit I bought them last Wednesday... Wednesday? And you didn't tip me the wink? I thought you were meant to be a mate of mine? Jesus, you triple your money in five days and you don't cut me in on it, that is right, Departmentally, rude that is, cheers for that mate. I'm sorry, but you know it wasn't like that... I really didn't know for sure, it was just a lucky guess and if I'd told you and you had lost a lot of money on it, well, how would you have felt then? Especially after the other time... Oh, so that’s it? I thought we didn't talk about that anymore, that really wasn't my fault and you know it.. I wasn't saying it was, I was just saying that... Yeah, I know, I know - I can't keep my mouth shut - that was what you were going to say... No, I wasn't, it had nothing to do with that, I mean... You mean, that you think I've got slack lips, an underactive keep-it-to-yourself gland, that I'm the kind of guy who can't keep it buttoned, gets ships sunk, carelessly talks and costs lives. You think I'm
some kind of bleedin' Huggy-Bear-whisperinggrass, don't you? Calm down, people are looking over here... Stuff 'em. No seriously, calm down, I didn't mean that at all, I wasn't thinking about you telling anybody, I was concerned that if my, err, hunch didn't come-off, you would lose a lot of money and after the last time, well, I didn't think... You didn't think I had the money? Well, err, no, I didn't. Ahh ... I see, so that was it, was it? Well, you aren't wrong there, that last time nearly cleared me out and the holiday in Argentina didn't help the cash flow situation either, which is of course why a nice little nibble would have come in very-bleedin'handy... I am sorry, but... No, you were right, if I hadn't opened my mouth and celebrated a little too strongly, well, I would be a lot richer than I am, which is flat line broke. Oh, don't be so hard on yourself, it was an honest mistake and... Cheers, but we both know that it’s true. I spoiled it for everyone by not keeping it buttoned and I can't blame anyone but myself. I don't blame you for not mentioning Tippex. Thank you, but it really wasn't like that at all, it was more a case of... The Internet? What about the bloody Internet? Pardon? The Internet, it just crossed my mind, how are they going to eradicate the d-word on the Internet? I mean, that must be impossible, all those millions of web pages out there, maintained by people from
every country in the world, nobody can control that, not even them, surely? Oh, that... No, I'm afraid that proved far simpler than the books, a lot less effort was required to tame the 'Electronic Wild West’, that took no time at all... Took? Surely they haven't done it already? How could they possibly have? Yes, took. And it was quite simple, really. They didn't need to go out there and change every single web page that had ever been created; far too inefficient and probably impossible. Instead, they just had to target the browsers... The browsers? Yes, the browsers. They just had to target them and... Hang on, are you telling me they have hit every single person who sits down and browses the Internet and what? Brainwashed them so that they don't recognise... Don't be silly, that would be far too public, somebody somewhere would talk, however appealing the idea of reprogramming the nerds of the world might be. No, they targeted the software people use to browse the Internet and told the manufacturers that they would be locked up in the tower without bread and water, unless they amended their software so that the d-word was eradicated. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I bet. But how would that work, I mean, did they agree? What about the freedom of the Internet, surely people will be going barmy about this? Naturally. And I am sure they are and that there are hundreds and thousands of morons chatting in chat rooms, blogging their blogs, facing their books
and electronically mailing their e-mails, but it matters not a jot. Not a jot? Who are you, Just William? As I said, it matters not a jot. The companies will do as they are told as they can't afford to see themselves excluded from a market the size of the UK and anyway, they're mostly American and the President has them all 'singing from the same hymn sheet'. It isn't as though it is without precedent; the search engine companies have been rolling over for years. Just go to China and search for anything about Tiananmen Square, or the Dalai Lama, or the death of communism or anything else they wouldn't officially approve of their comrades seeing. No, these software companies are businesses and rocking the boat isn't good for the bottom line. Shit, I wouldn't have guessed that, not even a jot. Does it work though? It sounds kind of complicated? If you think about it, it is perfectly simple. The browsers, search engines, news readers and e-mail client programs are only a window onto the unstructured mass of information that is available to you and you can only see what it chooses to tell you is there. If every browser were changed to always display web pages as white text on an olive green background, the world would be a greener place, wouldn't it? What? I said, if every web page you ever looked at was green, you would accept it as being the way that it is and you would begin to think that was the way that it had always been and then, if you ever happened to come across a web page that was
black text on a white background, your mind would instantly reject it as being a web page at all and you wouldn't know what it was and part of your brain would become uncomfortable with it and hope that it would disappear and leave you alone and stop making you think about it, as you are starting to feel embarrassed by it's presence and feel a little guilty, because deep down you know that not every web page is truly green, that there are millions of garish, vile-looking, badly designed, illiterately composed pages out there, each with its own unique style and substance or lack-of, and you would know that the suppression of all this individuality is wrong and that, by accepting the creation of a world of consistent, neat, generic greenness, you are complicit in a conspiracy that is perverting nature's course and cutting its limbs off with a very blunt sword. But, ultimately the world will ignore this and choose to forget that there was anything other than green on the hillsides of the virtual landscape in the first place and everybody will believe that it is how it has to be, because it is the way it has always been and there won't be anybody who will allow himself to remember or dare think otherwise. Shit. You must be knackered after all that; shall I get you another 'sloe screw from behind'? Yes, ah, please do, it'll give me a moment to compose myself. Heh, waiter, yes, table seven, may I have two more of the same... What? Well, two cocktails, what did you think you were bringing us five minutes ago, llama fritters? Yes, I know, 'the next stage out of here, blah blah blah blah blah'. Thank you.
No problem, but where do they get these cretins; I swear half of them don't even understand English never mind anything else? Well, he is Australian, but then aren't they... ...all? Yes, you are right and I suppose I should say good on him, at least he has got off his arse and is earning a few quid without waiting for a handout... Ah, here they are, thank you for that... Yes, I am sorry if I was a bit pissy a minute ago, I never meant to offend ... no, really, I am sorry, truly. No, no problem. What a pleasant fellow. Yeah, not at all what you would expect, but we're getting sidetracked. Your little speech then, about green web pages and all that. It was bloody good you know, very Shakespearean, almost Agincourtlike. Thank you. Did you come up with that yourself? Yes, I did, well, rather it was spontaneous, it wasn't written at all, but it was all my own work, as they say... Spontaneous? No way. I mean, it held together really well, right to the end and you didn't stumble or anything. Well, I must admit it was something I have thought about for most of the day, but yes, I am being totally honest when I say that other than a vague plan regarding content, the actual form was entirely 'on the hoof,' so, thank you, I am pleased that you liked it. No, I really did, it was really good, honest - I was just a bit surprised, you know? I've got to ask though, was it a metaphor, I mean, rather than a
fable or an allegory - I can never tell the difference between them? Yes, it was a metaphor and please don't be embarrassed. I don't think many people these days can differentiate between the three, or even recognise them at all. I know what you mean, unless it is served up on a super-sized plate for them, people don't want to know, do they? I mean, 'why the fuck should I have to think when there are plenty of people out there willing to chop the world up into thirty-secondsound-bites that I can swallow whole between the commercials?' - it is such an abdication of personal responsibility, but it is the way it is these days, isn't it? Nobody wants to think when they can simply accept. It saves all that energy, doesn't it? My, we are all speeches today, aren't we? Good job this isn't a novel or the editor would have that out quick smart. You are right though, it is why the man who controls the media, is the man that controls the truth and why... ...the d-word can really be eradicated. Yeah, I see what you mean; very clever. Indeed, but it is hardly new is it? The first job of any half-decent despot is to curtail the freedom of the press, of all the media, though of course that is easier than it used to be as well. How do you reckon that then, there's so much more of it these days? Well, in this country there is only a handful of people who own it aren't there? You've got the fat Australian, the thin Australian, the American who has a holiday home in Sydney and used to be an Australian and then there was the fat EasternEuropean, but he drowned himself, so now I think
his empire is mainly owned by a corporation of some sort. Australian? Possibly. Either way, the entire media in this country and most of the world is owned by a handful of people and as long as you put them in their place, it is easy-peasy to control what they print, or more importantly, what they don't. Ah, I see, so you are saying that the Department has some dodgy pictures that could see the light of day, or perhaps a list of places the owners of these newspapers frequent to take advantage of all the young girls looking for a visa? Or is it less subtle? The head of a Derby winner appearing in the fourposter, or an Uzi up the jacksie if they don't cooperate? Well, it is a long time since that sort of thing has been necessary. In fact, one could almost get nostalgic listening to you talk. You've lived in South America for too long, uncivilised boors. No, these days we generally play on the same team - they get plenty of support from the Department and the Department is 'supported' in its policies without any interference from annoying reporters. Everybody is happy and political life is simple and predictable. So, the press is bought off then, that makes sense. But, surely there are still reporters out there with the old Watergate spirit? I can't believe that they have all turned into yes-men? Oh, I'm sure there are, but they might as well be shouting down wells for the good they do - if the media won't publish or broadcast their stories, who will hear them? And if they aren't getting broadcast, they aren't getting paid and they won't
be keeping their bloated stomachs in the state of extension they are accustomed to... No, it is a gentle coercion, but far from ineffective.
“Cherry blossom falls, softens the house of a mouse, as though snow. The mouse, vaguely indignant and concerned about the tiling, emits a 'Hrumph', before returning to his Sudoku.” Nenko Joretsu
Twenty-eight years he'd been a Civil Servant before the Department had been formed. Twenty-eight years of sterling service, attention to detail, calm, consistent planning and a steady trajectory leading towards a berth on the New Year's honours list with a pension that would have let him live comfortably in an Oxford cottage. That was all he'd ever wanted, a life of dedicated service to King and Country, and a gentle and genteel retirement with time to grow his mushrooms in peace. He laughed a little as he lit his third Senior Service since he'd left the Palace. No, all of his dreams of a quiet sojourn had been thrown away when he'd gone against his every instinct - defied his innate patterns of behaviour - and for the first time in his life allowed himself to be talked into taking a shortcut. He shook his head and reached into the desk drawer, removing an empty bottle with a rueful smile. He was even hitting that a little hard these days, he was sure that he'd only opened it the previous night. He picked up the telephone handset and his personal assistant immediately spoke. 'Yes, Deputy, how may I be of service?' That, of course, was one of the benefits of his position, everybody was so scared of him, or more
accurately, of the power they thought the position held - which could be further from the truth, but only just - that service and fixed smiles were immediate wherever he went. He held all of the trappings of power and respect, but none of it gave him a feeling of warmth or satisfaction, in fact it only really made him feel sad as he knew it to be like everything else where the Department was concerned, smoke and mirrors. 'Sir, how may I help you?' Bates, his nervous PA, was still awaiting his instructions; he'd forgotten he had called. 'Ah, Bates, yes.' What had he called about? It had gone clean out of his mind, he looked around, panicked, searching for something to say - he was quite sure that Bates, of all people, would have noticed the cracks starting to appear in his veneer of iron-fisted, yet velveted servility, but it didn't do to make it easy for any of them - these were dangerous days. The bottle that had been it. 'Ah, yes, Bates, another bottle if you will, this one seems to have evaporated...' The door opened before he had fumbled the receiver back onto it's cradle. 'Would you like me to pour, sir?' The Deputy looked at Bates as he entered the room, bottle and crystal goblet seemingly superglued to the silver platter as he swerved around the door with a balletic – well-practised – poise, before unrolling an Egyptian cotton cloth onto the desk and gracefully sliding the tray in front of him. 'No, Bates, thank you. I will be quite alright, that will be all.'
Bates was not a young man and had been with the Department – and of course before that, the Civil Service – for even longer than the Deputy. He in fact climbed the ladder along with the Deputy, or rather held the ladder as the Deputy, standing on his face, inched his way in the time-honoured fashion to the dizzy heights of mandarindom. As he silently shut the door and returned to his desk he would shake his head in concern at his master's weakness - that had been the third bottle he had supplied in the last twenty-four hours - but as even inward displays of emotion were a complete mystery to this product of Eton and Cambridge, the thought of such an expression was quickly banished, yet filed neatly in an archive of his mind. Sitting, he briefly re-polished his already formidably immaculate shoes before noting in the handwritten log, his record of his superior's request. He next completed three individual copies of a replenishment request, slipping each into a different coloured envelope and sealing them with a wax whose provenance he didn't allow himself to contemplate, before placing them into his mail tray. Immediately, his own office door opened and a young Astro Physics graduate who had spent four years serving refreshments and refreshing ink wells across the Department before recently being entrusted with the walk from Bates' desk to the 'external' mailing tray in the corridor 14 feet away, silently picked the envelopes from the basket using a croupier's slice and glided toward the promised sanctuary of the exit. 'Hastings.' Bates uttered the single word without lifting his rapt gaze from the blotter. Hastings, unused to
being spoken to between the hours of 7am and 7.30pm, hesitated before replying, 'Sir?' 'Don't forget to log those.' 'No, sir.' Hastings waited, unsure whether that had been his superior's final comment. 'Go.' It clearly had. Hastings jumped and began to depart, unsure what had got into 'the old man', it was the first time he'd even grunted in his direction. He would need to analyse this later as he was unsure whether the development had a positive or negative flavour. Silently, he closed the door and with no outward emotional sign sat at his own, somewhat smaller desk and began to scribble the details of the addresses on the envelopes he still held in his gloved left hand into his own leather-bound, yet slightly less gilded log book. Double-checking every letter he had written and carefully blotting the ink, he quickly stood and made the three steps it took to cross his own office. Straightening his tie and checking his reflection in the caps of his shoes, he opened another silent door, this one marked 'External'. As he stepped through the doorway into a further, smaller room, he was pleased to see that the mail tray similarly marked 'External' was already empty. It had been seven minutes since he last placed an envelope into it - that one he had not managed to suppress noticing had been going to Level 3, the canteen and it pleased him that his work was of sufficient import to be so quickly acted upon. As he turned back toward his own office, having first completed three copies of the 'External Post Request' form, a
slight creaking echo caught his attention. That really wouldn't do. Without turning back he addressed the first year intern, a Doctor of Thermodynamics who had joined the Department on a 'fast-track' basis, who was using a cane fishing rod to hook the post from beyond the threshold of the door that had made the noise on opening. 'Haines - get that rod greased.' Haines, surprised at being addressed at any time of day, slipped with the rod and its tip brushed the mahogany of the desk momentarily. Hastings did turn at this point. 'And for heaven's sake, man, be careful with that thing.' Haines blushed and started to cough an apology, only to be silenced by Hastings' raised hand. 'Go.' Hastings returned to his office as Haines completed his task and started to complete a series of request forms that would culminate in Barry, from Maintenance, being dispatched with a can of goose fat to grease Haines' rod. Haines, meanwhile, was counting paracetamol onto his desk, already realising that his career in the Department was at an end and unable to face the disappointment of his parents when he was returned home, a broken shell, from the retraining plant in Battersea. Hastings sat as his desk and started to complete the form that would ultimately have seen Haines dismissed. It was a shame, of course, he thought, but Haines had never fitted into the Department and he was quite sure he should never have been recruited in the first place. He'd gone to a red-brick university for heaven's sake and a state school.
Probably had never been buggered and may even have played association football. Hastings sighed. It was hard, but decisions such as these would ensure that he progressed and progression was of course the only game in town. Bates sat at his desk and considered the screen that had raised from the blotter at a touch of a button, discretely placed beneath the desk. Hastings had handled Haines quite perfectly, he showed great promise. He would have to keep a careful watch on him. He pressed the button once more and brushed the screen with his finger, by the action archiving the CCTV footage shot within Hastings' office from behind an original Bosch. He could, of course, observe every member of the Department as they worked, but had taken a special interest in Hastings since he had (unprompted, the one black mark on his record, naturally recorded in triplicate) made a suggestion of such simplistic brilliance, that it had been enough to mark him out as a threat to his own position. He was good, or more accurately, had the potential to be and that was quite unforgivable and most unfortunate. Never a wise move to stand out, and so it was to prove. For Hastings. The Deputy raised the glass to his nose and deeply inhaled, savouring the fresh almost medicinal bouquet with vague, metallic undertones. Swirling the glass so that its sides were misted rosé, he manoeuvred the glass carefully to his lips, sipping shallowly, controlled despite the need felt in the depths of his stomach. He would be delighted to 'knock it back' as his
Father would have put it, but that simply would never do. Bates sat at his desk taking notes like dictation from the screen emerging from the leather of his desk. The Deputy's control was admirable, in these little things, but The Leader was sure to be interested in the current set of statistics he had compiled. Turning toward a second flat-screen monitor emerging from his blotter, he checked again the previous month's figures and with a swish and click of his mouse, metamorphosed them into a simple line graph; the Leader detested detail. Bates equally felt uncomfortable with the need for betrayal, but the Deputy was beyond his capabilities and he felt he had no choice but to inform the fellow’s only superior. The Deputy finished the Pepto-Bismol and returned his interest to the report before him. The Leader had informed him of Bates' clandestine display of ambition. He sighed, it was a pity it hadn't come a decade sooner and he would have done something more with him than let him count paper clips. He lit another cigarette and inhaled, holding a mouthful of the smoke a second longer than necessary to remove the taste of the medicine from his teeth. He couldn't procrastinate any longer, thy will be done he smiled to himself; he just wished that it wasn't Monroe he was going to be using as his instrument. Monroe caught his reflection in the glass of one of his many framed diplomas, neatly arranged on the wall of his 'domain' as he liked to think of it. Harvard, he noticed, such simple times. He checked his profile for any telltale signs of excess, but none were apparent, chin as taught as it had
been in his sophomore days, eyes as clear as glass and the vibrant energy that had seen him offered the NFL 'draft' as a wide-receiver informing his every move just as easily as it had ever done. He was holding up and smiled to himself as he thought of last night's visit to the 'gale and all that happened afterwards; London had its moments, despite that pompous bloater's attempts to turn the place into a third world ghetto. He laughed to himself, 'bloater'; gee, he really was fitting in. The antiquated telephone started its jingle-jangle McGuinn melody as Monroe returned to his modern, glass-topped desk - for the benefit of the CCTV - appearing to studiously ignore it. Mentally counting the jangles on the off-beat until he reached the chorus of 'Turn Turn Turn', he casually lowered himself into the sofa-sized beanbag and with the toe of his Reebok Classics, flipped the handset into the air, deftly catching it and with an air of sarcastic dominance (his superior shared a belief in) simply drawled, 'Monroe?' The Deputy gulped and drained the last of the liquid from his glass before answering, well aware of Monroe's mind games and happy to play his own. 'I have a job for you.' Monroe, decided to play a midterm strategy, for no reason other than it amused him. He intuitively understood that it would grate with the natural hive-ness of the Deputy and perpetuate his image as being an unmanageable, but highly useful ubersavant. He counted to ten, listening to the opening bars of California Dreamin' in his head before answering.
'Ah, Hastings - excellent - though of course I was expecting you to call 18 seconds ago - but never mind.' The Deputy sighed. Oh, he expected better from Monroe; is this really the type of thing the CIA are teaching their people these days? He decided to play along. 'Yeth, Massa Monroo, musta bin playing mar Banjo on the roof o' mar ol' jalopeno car afor cummin, tass wat I mussa bin dooin, Massa Monroo, sah' Monroe sighed. Was this really as good as the second most important man in the land (at least notionally, in his and the US Government's opinion) could come up with? 'Ah, Deputy, I didn't recognise you at first. How can I be of service?' The Deputy nodded to himself, the Geneva strategy then, very 1963. 'Ah, Monroe, I have a little task that requires your, ah, particular talents. Would you mind retrieving document 7003-18975562-DL116/ANCHOVY/DB/17a from GOLIATH, and sorting it out immediately?' Monroe inscribed the document reference in lipstick on the highly polished glass of his desk, noting the 7003 prefix with relish - that was the Leader's own code. This could be fun, the Deputy normally hogged the more tasty morsels generated by the Leader's fractured mind. 'Sure, I'll see if I can fit it in.' The Deputy smiled at the lack of respect, he knew how much Monroe coveted the Leader's tender attention. 'Do so.'
Smiling the Deputy hung up the telephone. Convinced that he had played an inspired opening. Smiling Monroe replaced the receiver in it's holster. Convinced he had bettered his opponent. * Very few things, he felt, could shock him having been in England for just shy of a year and realising how cramped and dirty it really was had been the closest, but Monroe had to admit to himself that he really couldn't understand where this one was going and this concerned him. He hated to admit it, even to himself and, of course, Janis Joplin who was singing Summertime in the back of his head, but perhaps, just perhaps he had underestimated the Deputy. He'd need to tell Washington about this, but not until he understood its ramifications. He shrugged, he had better go along with it, he'd triple-checked the codes and authentication signatures and all were well, so, senseless though it may be, it was for real. He picked up his Blackberry and emailed his personal assistant, who sat just outside the door to his office. 45 minutes later a knock on the door told him that the message had arrived and that Erik, a flower arranger he had met at the 'gale on a number of occasions, was ready to take whatever was necessary to take down. He cleared his throat, game on then. 'Erik, get me the Head of Parks & Leisure, the socalled Lord Mayor of London, three bunches of the finest daffodils money can buy, a small turnip, the Head of Roads and Repairs, the Head of Facilitation, the Head of Press Relations, the Head
of London Underground, the Directionless General of the BBC, some muppet from Sky and the board of Directors at those other channels, whatever they are called.' 'Channel 4 and 5, sir?' 'Yeah, the ones no one likes. I want the newspaper editors, apart from the one who couldn't read - I still want him dead, mispronouncing my name, the prick - and I want the Head of the Hairlips, or if he is still fucking around because I'm a 'septic' - I just want his goddamn head .' 'Yes, sir. Would you like some tea?' 'Yeah, why not, Erik, nice idea. I want them all here in 17 minutes, OK?' 'Yes, sir, consider it done.' 'Good man. Now, have you got those photos I asked about?' 'Of Doris? Oh yes, sir - they are in 'the folder' as requested.' 'Excellent. That will be all, Erik, for now.' Monroe gives a salacious wink as Erik departs.
-----BEGINS----Moving his glass laterally, like an optimistic medic in search of a long-gone heartbeat, he hears a grunting that can only be his mother's. 'That was a fucker and a half, Matilda' - he just makes out her words to his aunt 'Felt like the little fucker had got corners on it.' He hears Matilda cackle, 'Come on, chuck, you can do it, only another half dozen and we can have a fag.' ----- ENDS -----
Very neat. So it is the same as with the browsers then, the media are your windows, aren't they? That is quite right, and you just have to convince them that it is better to frost the glass a little than to have a brick thrown in your direction through it. But getting back to the d-word, well, that is all very well but it isn't just about the books, the Internet and the media is it? What about the millions of bloody d... Steady. ..animals that are running around? I know the Hairshirts are doing their bit to round the strays up, but they aren't going to get them all, are they, and as long as all that marching rubbish is going on it is hardly going to go without comment, is it? Ah, but the Hairshirts are probably doing a lot better than you think, or the game wouldn't have moved on to this new stage. What do you mean? What game? My god, what were you doing in Argentina, playing Polo? The d-word game, it has been going on for the last couple of years - surely your exile hasn't kept you that far out of the loop? Well, maybe it has. I didn't reckon so, but I could be wrong. I mean, I do like to think I've got my
finger on the, err, trigger, or pulse or whatever. You've lost me though, what do you mean? I mean, haven't you noticed all the things that have been going on with the d-words? Wait, I can't keep saying 'd-word' it is ridiculous. Lets call them something else and at least it won't matter if someone hears us. What do you suggest? I don't know, how about 'spuds?' Spuds? Why spuds? Well, I understand their eradication was called Operation Spud at one time, so why not? But, haven't you noticed that spuds have lost their former prominence in society? Well, all of that rabies talk and those stories about 'savaging' haven't exactly helped them and quite right, too, the vicious little bastards. I think they are getting what they deserve, to be honest. Do you, or is it more that you have been conditioned to believe that you do? The bell is ringing and you have started barking? Well, of course I do. I've always made my own mind up based on the facts? The facts? Well, yes, of course, the facts... ..as you read them in the newspapers and see them on the television? Would these be the same facts that are indirectly controlled by the Department and are presented through our little windows? Ah, well, I see what you mean, but there's no smoke without fire is there? Yes, but it depends who is holding the Zippo, doesn't it? I tell you what, let me tell you a little story about what has really been happening over
the last couple of years that you have been, err, 'holidaying', and then 'make your own mind up' and see if the spuds are still the embodiment of evil that they have been portrayed as? OK, but let me get another drink first; do you want one? Yes, why not. Can you get me a brioche too? I'm famished. No problem Heh, waiter? Can I have a couple more of these and a menu, please? Thank you. Splendid. Well it really starts a few years ago. Do you remember the Leader's ten-year anniversary? Yes, of course I do, the parades, the concerts at Buck house, the Mall turned into a Do - oops, sorry, spud track for the 'common touch', the children waving flags, everybody stocking up on souvenir crockery they believe will become heirlooms and worth thousands to their grandchildren - it was like a jubilee wasn't it, just without the Germans? Yes, not a bad day all said. Well, that was the beginning you see. The Leader had been around for a decade and the celebration was meant to have hidden the fact that he and the Department, had actually not achieved a single one of the things that they had promised they would do when they originally came to power. No fantastic all-singing health service, no energetic all-dancing removal of crime from the streets, no elected second chamber, no first chamber of any merit as it happens, a handful of half-hearted wars where we got our arses kicked, corrupt politicians taking backhanders and generally screwing everyone from their secretaries to the au pair, with a pit stop at the local massage parlour for a good measure, too. No, things were pretty bad and worst of all, they
had started to lose their previously bruising grip on the gonads of Fleet Street - a few journos were starting to clear their throats and point out that the country was up-to-its-eyes in debt, 'our boys' were getting their legs blown off at regular intervals by 'insurgents' using weapons we had sold them when they had been 'freedom fighters' a few years earlier and weren’t even dressed for the occasion, being kitted out in protective clothes your average pikey traveller wouldn't deign to steal from an army surplus shop. Even TV production companies were starting to think the bubble had burst and that the writing was on the wall - and any other cliché that came to them via a focus group - and started to commission documentaries that didn't involve contestants from Big Brother or Tourette's sufferers with more ASBOs than GCSEs, or at the higher end of the quality continuum - people who had shagged a footballer, cashing in on the experience by relieving pigs of their sexual frustration. All in all, it was getting a little uncomfortable for the Leader and something had to give. Blimey, I don't remember any of that, I mean, I know the wars didn't go great to start with, but things calmed down; I recall going to see the ships come back at Southampton, it was a massive occasion wasn't it? Yes, they did that well, but it wasn't real - they had still lost the war, it was just that nobody realised because they'd spun it to hell. No, things were going awfully and even the usual unite-thecountry-behind-a-war-against-some-jumped-updago-spic-arab-despot approach had failed dismally, so they went for the only other thing that
is guaranteed to work: they decided to attack their own citizens. Hang on, their own citizens, I thought we were talking about, err, spuds, not people? Yes, but it wasn't the spuds that really mattered, it was their owners. They did what everybody else does when there is nobody left to blame but themselves, they decided to kick the mutt and by association the poor idiots that owned them. That is sick. Are you saying that they deliberately targeted their own citizens to take the heat off the fact that they were doing so badly at everything else? Indeed. And you have to admit it has worked beautifully, hasn't it? I mean, everybody is united against the spuds and the spud owners, everybody has an 'enemy' to hate that quite simply can't win and we all get to feel good about ourselves. Brilliant, really. Quite brilliant. I must admit I am finding this hard to believe. So, if what you say is true, how did they do it? What you are talking about is massive. Well, it has been going on for a couple of years and it was very well planned from the start, not the usual reactive approach you'd expect them to take. It started with them recognising that they needed something or someone that could be used as your old-fashioned black-hat-wearing baddie. It had to be someone who couldn't really fight back and who was generally popular... Popular? Surely it would have been easier to go for somebody that nobody liked, that people wouldn't mind having a go at? Well, yes, and in the short-term you would be quite right, but the fact that they needed a big
enemy, one that people had probably not feared before, one that was popular enough that when everybody began to realise that they were 'bad' after all, there was a measure of disbelief combined with shock and a little embarrassment that they, the public, hadn't noticed that the spuds weren't 'good' to start with and that they had been conning them for years. Nothing makes people angrier than thinking they have been made to look a mug, after all and nothing instils fear quicker than the thought of a hidden enemy in their midst. But spuds? They are hardly going to be storming parliament or selling nuclear secrets to North Korea, are they? No, but they are 'man's best friend' and there is nothing worse than a Brutusesque dagger between your vertebrae, especially when Brutus has large pointed canines. So, how did they do it? The Department had recognised the problem months before Decade Day but to be truthful, if such a thing could ever be assumed of politicians, they didn't really have a big idea. Oh, they had settled on the 'enemy within' as a slogan and the general decision to kick the metaphorical out of a feeble segment of society hadn't taken long to be agreed, but nobody could concur on the section that was the least likely to be able to defend itself. So what happened that they chose the spuds, then? Well, that was the piece of luck they needed, it was when The Kaiser arrived and put a smile on The Leader's face for the first time in months. What, you mean Beckenbauer got involved in all this? Man, how did they get him, he is into
everything since he became the German Chancellor, that is awesome, he's got... No, no, no, not Beckenbauer. The Kaiser, the foam-flecked, water-fearing, drooling doggie that showed up thirty yards from the mouth of the Channel Tunnel and bit an incompetent immigration officer who found it hiding in a warehouse and mistook it for a family of West African asylum seekers. Ahhh... So there they were, it dropped straight into their laps and they couldn't believe their luck. 'Rabies Bite Kills Guard In Asylum Seeking Scum Agony' blazing from the front page of every tabloid in the land. No, I missed it. That was good luck though, wasn't it? Wasn't it. Oh, I get you, it wasn't luck at all? Well, no, of course not. There was a dog and it did bite the idiot at the Chunnel, but it didn't have rabies and the man never died, though he was given a new identity and sent to live in Birmingham, so he probably felt as though he had. But that was never going to get in the way of an opportunity like that and they milked it for all it was worth. I do vaguely remember being that you mention it. Didn't somebody parody the fact that the Deputy was on TV and blaming the French before the teeth were out of the bloke’s throat...? Well, it wasn't far from the truth, though, of course the dog actually bit his finger and the Deputy had recorded his response before they allowed the news of the 'Rabid Dog Savages War
Hero Civil Servant Who Was Just Trying To Do His Job And Bring Up His Kids As Best He Could After His Sainted Wife Caught Pneumonia From A Thieving Pikey And Snuffed It In Writhing Screams of Agony' story to be released, but they didn't wait too long, maybe six or seven months. What? They waited six fucking months? You are kidding me aren't you? No, that is quite normal. The committees have to meet, agendas are planned, contingencies developed, scenarios outlined, objectives bulletpointed, minutes dictated and roles and responsibilities assigned, developed, monitored, reassessed and recorded before being analysed and modelled for future iterations. All in all, six months was an incredible performance, the Deputy – head of Departmental Strategic Planning and Codified Initiatives – got a knighthood for it, if I remember rightly. Stunning. Truly. Though, of course, they did want the news to come out in the summer, as it always has a greater potential for riot and civil disobedience and general large-scale lager consumption. Yeah, I can see that, but six bleedin' months? How did they keep it quiet, there must have been loads of people involved in that and to keep the fact that rabies had reached England quiet... Even if it hadn't... Yes, even if it hadn't, well, it must still have been a hell of a task? Indeed, but you have to remember the role of the Department and more importantly, the nature of the Whitehall drone that thrives there. Consider
what drives them and of course it is summed up beautifully with a single word, 'power'. Power? But surely they have none; they just do what they are told. Yes, but they are close to power, they see power used, they stand next to the men and women who make decisions that affect the country and the world as a whole and bask in the reflected glory, but most of all, they know secrets. Secrets pass over their desks every day, they always know what is going to happen next - they have a hive mentality - once a secret is passed to any Civil Servant, all of the others know about it within a single lunch break, but it never escapes the hive, they don't brief journalists and they don't gossip with politicians, they just glean what they can from them and store it in little hexagonal cells within their collective hive mind. So, secrets and knowledge are their motivation and power, but making their political masters instructions happen is their day job and the politicians need them for that but fear them, because they are scared that even the lowliest of the drones knows more about what is really happening than they do themselves; of course they are quite correct. What, even the Leader is scared of the Civil Servants? Well, maybe not scared, but he can't do without them and he knows that. He'll put up with their parasitical ways as long as they keep his hide clean and their mouths shut. Christ, so what happened next, then? Well, as you quite rightly pointed out, the tabloids jumped on it like... Rabid spuds?
Quite. They, of course, had some help. I know that the Department provided detailed dossiers to every section of the media, along with individually tailored press releases, facts, figures, diagrams, presentations, profiles of key breeds and case studies detailing the rise of the insidiously intentioned and unlikely named terrorist organisation Canine Resistance Against Parliament, the deadly provisional wing of The Kennel Club. CRAP? Precisely, they made the whole thing up. And despite the obvious creakiness of the arguments, the ridiculously unlikely figures - apparently 14 million spuds were responsible for 19 million attacks and 48,719 tonnes of faeces during one month in London alone - careful 'encouragement' by the Department's Media Liaison Officers and their pickaxe handle wielding associates ensured that everybody was on-message and that the general public became aware of the horror within. Bloody hell, they don't mess about, do they? No, but that was just the start. I have to say that the plan, whilst a little rough around the edges, worked like a Swiss watch and the next stage was perhaps the best chronographed of all. Once the initial furore was starting to dissipate and the tabloids were moving into their next build-them-upknock-them-down-and-try-to-get-a-celebrity-to-topthemselves cycle, the Department pulled a masterstroke. Just as the rabies concerns were calming down and people were starting to notice that the whole of Kent wasn't foaming at the mouth and avoiding water any more than normal, they sent their Hairshirts out and put Operation Poop-aSloosh into action.
They sent them to do what? They sent the Hairshirts to start spreading dog shit around. Surely you know about that? No, and I've been meaning to ask, I keep hearing about them in the news, but who are the Hairshirts, for heaven's sake? Oh, 'the Hairshirts' is just their nickname. They are officially the Departmental Integration Support Officers, but like the rest of the new agencies they are really just thugs. Yes, they are on practically every corner these days, always wearing chinos that don't quite reach the top of their boots and bland, armpit- soaked beige shirts. Oh, is that who they are. I must admit I thought they were just some kind of private security - I tend to stay out of the way. Departmental, you say, though? God, they look pretty rough. Yes, most of them came out of prison after being offered a choice between extended sentences and the chance to torment and abuse some 'enemies of the state', never really going to be much of a contest, of course. So what is this Operation Poopa Scoopa? Operation Poop-a-Sloosh. Well, it was quite simple, the amount of sympathy you can milk from a partially digested Civil Servant can only go so far, but if you start bringing people's children into the equation you've got a license to do as you will. So what Poop-a-Sloosh did was to completely change the scope of the game. The Hairshirts were charged with turning, what until then had been a short flare-up of a story, into a crusade that would have an impact on every family in the country. To do that they had to find a way of turning a minor news story into a horror show of national
proportions. How they did it was brutal, simplistic and of course, devastatingly effective. Have you been watching Dr No again? Err, yes. It shows. Was this the Crufts-massacre thing? No, that came later. The first thing they did was slightly more underhand, at least the implementation of it was. They sent three hundred teams of Hairshirts out across the country - by the light of a silvery moon, no less - and systematically visited every single school, nursery, play group, scout hut, girl guide meeting hall and Leader youth club, placing an average of 3 carefully aged, hickory smoked, well- hung dollops of Great Dane faeces in every square metre of the playgrounds and play areas. From there they visited all of the sink estates in the country, shooed off the local crack addicts, hoodies and prepubescent prostitutes from the community climbing frames, BMX parks and all night garages and spread lower grade frozen-tripe-fed-mongrel shite over all available surfaces. To ensure the maximum publicity when every 'little Johnny and Mollie' got home the next day covered in the stuff, their coup de grâce was to release 3,781 of the mangiest laxative-stuffed mongrels they could import from Southeast Asia to wander and do as nature intended, in Lower Thames Street, Canada Square, Derry Street, Great Ancoats Street, Blackfriar's Road, Farringdon Road, Marsh Wall, Virginia Street, Herbal Hill, Melton Road in Leicestershire and Havelock Street in Cardiff; which as the modern homes of our fourth estate meant that every hungover journalist with a grudge found their mood further impaired by discovering themselves up to
their collective knees in, well, you know what they found themselves buried in. Bloody hell, are you joking? How the fuck did they get away with it without anybody noticing them do all that? Ah well, a nod in one direction, the threat of being detained at the Leader's displeasure in another, it is amazing how much of an effect it can have on anybody's eyesight. Amazing. Truly, but that was only the start. Of course, the next day's press went inter-continentally-ballistic and quite naturally relegated the U.S. invasion of France to about the fifteenth page, if they reported it at all. It was a non-event anyway, lets face it, the French have always been all mouth. The Americans have invaded France? Jesus Christ, I never heard a word about that, what the hell is happening, everything is going mad? I mean, the whole dog, err, spud thing is crazy, but I can see it; but when America start invading NATO countries and nothing at all makes it into the press and nobody knows fuck all about it, I mean, shit. Quite, it is what I am trying to explain to you. Hang on, that means the Department is in on it, doesn't it? It wouldn't be kept quiet otherwise, would it? Obviously, but that is only the tip of the iceberg, the nose on the face, the pimple on our beloved Leader's spectacularly large arse; that is what I'm trying to explain. If you understand how it works in terms of the spuds, you'll understand the way that they always work. Yes, but the French. I mean they are the most bolshie...
Shhhh! Sorry, but I mean the French, they are our allies and... Shut the blazes up. Sorry? Listen, I said, Shut up. Look over at the door … what do you see? And for heaven's sake whisper, you idiot. Oh, I see, sorry. So, they are Hairshirts then, yes? But they've got.. Shush, for Christ’s sake, you'll get us killed. But... Listen, before you say it, they aren't dogs; I mean, err, spuds. They are Wolves, pure unadulterated, never mongrelised, beautiful Arctic Snow Wolves - to call them a, err, spud, is to invite them to feast on your throat. Jesus, but I don't understand, why have they got Wolves? Well, it is what I've been trying to tell you. The Department recognise that the Wolf has never been domesticated or crossbred in the way every other breed has been over the last million years or two. The Wolf is pure, whilst the spud is dirty, foul, lecherous and dirty again - and I quote here so any repetition is the Leader's own. So, let me get this straight: it is OK to have a Wolf as a pet then, but not a spud? A Pet? A pet? A Wolf could never be a pet. A Wolf is a citizen in its own right, it has a personality, it can be a celebrity if it chooses to go the reality TV route and sniffs the right arses, a Wolf in this society will only ever be seen with Department members or associates and then only if its work requires, as it would consider itself to be ‘slumming
it’ unless it is conversing with a Head-of-Protocol, at the very least - quick, talk football, they are coming over... What? Err, yes, that Maradona, what do you reckon on him then? Well, I think he was a special, err, talent, but perhaps his, err... ..temperament? Yes, very suspect, when he loses it he is like a mad... fool, yes, he is like a mad fool.. Thank god, they've gone, I thought those vicious bastard mutts... Wolves, for heavens sake, they are Wolves. Sorry, shit, they just were the scariest looking things. Quite, that is precisely the point, they are there as much to terrorise as anything else. Well, they certainly scare the shit out of me. I should say, though, that I wasn't going to say the, err, d-word just now, when I referred to the Hairshirts I mean. Sorry? Well, you thought I was going to say that they had spuds with them and you told me that they were wolves. Indeed. What I mean was, I wasn't going to say that they had spuds with them, I was going to say that they all had fluffy jumpers. I just thought it unusual being as they are Hairshirts, that they weren't wearing any shirts, hairy or otherwise. Oh, I see. I'm sorry about that. No, you are quite correct, they wouldn't be wearing their normal shirts today, as it is Friday. Friday? Why would that matter?
Well, it is officially, dress-down-Friday, they used to call it mumpty or mufty or something when I was younger. Mumpty? Yes, it is a dress-casual day, it aims to make you feel better and more relaxed in your work by dropping the starched collar of everyday office wear and generally aiming to help you relax a little more. And the Hairshirts do this? That's just weird. Indeed it is. It was part of the plan when they were first introduced; I believe it was to make them seem more palatable and less threatening. Less threatening? Walking around in fluffy jumpers they may be, but they are still clinging to leads that are the only barrier between my throat and Fang-the-Wolf. That is madness. Gyles Daubeney Brandreth jumpers and moccasins? It is surreal. Indeed, but it took the heat off the Department in the early days, when there was still a His Majesty to have an opposition. In summer of course, you'll see them in T-shirts with natty logos and pithy comments, 'You don't have to be anti-canine to work here, but it helps', and 'The right of appeal is only available to persons over 80 years of age, when accompanied in person by both living parents.' Oh, and my favourite, 'If you are close enough to read this, you are going to get your head kicked in, so get out of my face, scum.' Pithy Indeed, it must have really stretched the focus groups in developing them.
All the way to Blackpool and back, I expect. Indeed. The moccasins are of course a new departure. I suppose they look better with the jumpers than the jackboot. Quite, but originally on a Friday you would have seen them wearing something else, can you guess what? I don't know, err, maybe, Shit. Surely not... Yes, I think you might have it... No fucking way, that would be too good to be true... Yes, yes... Hush Puppies? Indeed. Oh, I did laugh when I realised that they were still padding around in Hush Puppies. Not sure how well it went down with the Leader when he noticed that his personal security detail were all wearing them... Man, I could dine on that one for weeks. If you could tell anybody, which of course you can't. Yes, I suppose so. I've been meaning to ask, is all this off the record then, or is it just for background? Strictly off-the-record, this is really for interest and of course could never be published in the UK at anytime. In the UK, you say? Indeed, in the UK. However, as much fun as this is, I don't think we'd better stay any longer, so perhaps you can hold on to your questions for a moment and I'll tell you the rest. Fine, schtum it is, I won't say another word and I promise...
Good. The Hairshirts had spread the faeces far and wide and the media were going crazy about the spuds. The story was on the front pages, was the lead item on every TV show - even all of those tacky ones you can only get on satellite that fat housewives and single mothers watch to buy their fake tan spraying machines and cheap jewellery and a million column inches were dedicated to 'an in-depth analysis of the situation', which of course meant a mass regurgitation of what they had previously been spoon-fed by the Department. This was the most important moment of all in terms of the Department's planning as it was the point where the tide simply had to begin to turn and the people, the real people, the proles, labour force, citizens, name them as you will, had to be persuaded that spuds were bad, if it was to gain its own momentum and evolve a life of its own. But, why were they bothered? I mean, they just do as they are told, don't they? Well, yes, generally, of course, but the thing that has kept the Leader in power for so long is that he has never forgotten that elections or no elections, the people can always remove him at will. He might send in the Anti Social Behaviour Suppression Units with their tanks and smelly gases to quell a food riot, and he might weed out the undesirable-of-themonth through the artifice of the judicial system, but if he oversteps the mark, if he goes too far without at least the passive tolerance of the normal, hairy-arsed and artificially blinged-up members of the public, they will gather their wits and fight him and they will win. And the reason they will win is that every Department member, however loyal, however tainted and power-crazed 78
as many of them may be - knows the same thing, you can't kill everybody. The soldier on the front line will not, consistently, kill his family, friends, neighbours and associates without at some stage deciding that enough is enough. You see, the Leader is no fool, he realises it is better to occupy the hands and dope the minds of the people with whatever means is necessary, than to fight them, for while they might not choose to remember the fact, they will always win. So, that is the point of the spud thing then? It is to keep the poor saps who live in this country busy so they don't notice the fact they are being shafted by the Department and decide to do something about it? Possibly, but nobody knows for sure why the spuds were targeted. You could be right, but how the Leader's mind works? Well, I really wouldn't even pretend to begin to know. So what came next then?
-----BEGINS----The glass in his hand is wet with sweat and as he moves it around the wall, it slips from his grasp, clattering across the wooden beams of the floor. 'Who's that?' he hears his mother cry, unable to stop the last push but terrified it is the farmer. 'It's only me, Mom, I'm just scratching', he quickly starts scraping the floor with his feet. 'Well, fuck off outside, you little shit,' Matilda calls, 'this is women's business, there is no place for you here.' ----- ENDS -----
Erik looks at his watch, for the fourteenth time, straightens the cuffs of his beautifully tailored jacket and noticing a minor spec of nail varnish clinging desperately to his index fingernail, carefully removes it with a nailfile, after first having instructed the milling state officials to turn their back on him, to maintain his privacy. 'Please, as you were.' The room relaxes slightly as Erik looks once more at his Rolex; Monroe is always late, but even he is stretching a point by keeping a meeting waiting for eight hours. 'Err, excuse me? Mr Ryman, sir?' Erik looks into the red face of the overweight Head of London Underground, seeing another terrified heart attack certainty hopping from foot to foot. He shrugs. 'As I told you earlier, Lord Smythe, if you need to use the facilities you are more than welcome to do so.' 'But, when is he arriving, Mr Ryman, when is he arriving? I can't possibly be out of the room when Mr. Monroe walks in, he would be furious.' Erik shrugs a second time. He is quite right of course, Monroe had attacked a former Ambassador
who, after waiting for four hours for a five minute meeting, excused himself in similar circumstances, and missed Monroe's entrance. 'I really couldn't say, Lord Smythe, you know as well as I that Mr. Monroe's movements are as mysterious as his own's.' Saying this Erik nods to the ceiling, the Leader of course was equally unpredictable and given to violent outbursts. The fat man blanches at the thought and performing a restricted hornpipe, starts to return to the main group as the lights dim turning the room to darkness. Ah, the signal. Quickly Erik removes the small handset from his waistcoat pocket and despite the darkness easily fingers the single button as the low voices previously filling the room settle into an abrupt silence. 'Laaaaaiiiiidiiiieeeeessss aaaannnnndddd Geeeeennnnnnttttlllleeeeeemmmmmeeeeeeen. Plllleeeeaaaaasssssseee bbbbbeeeee ssssstttttttaaaannnnnddddiiiiinnnnnnnggggg ffffffoooooorrrrrrr tttttthhhhhhheeeee mmmmmaaaaasssssttttteeeeerrrr ooooffffff mmmmaaaaayyyyyhhhhheeeeemmmmm, ttttthhhhheeeeee kkkkkiiiiiinnnnnggggg ooooooffffff cccccooooooooollllllll, ttttttthhhhheeeee dddddiiiiiiaaaammmmmmooooonnnnnddddd aaaaaaannnnnndddddd lllllliiiiiggggghhhhhttttttt, yyyyyooooouuuuuurrrrr ffffrrrrriiiiiieeeeennnnnddddd aaaaannnnnnddddd mmmmmmiiiinnnnnneeeeee, ddddiiiiirrrrreeeeecccccttttt fffffrrrrrooooooommmmm Lllllllaaaaasssss Vvvvvveeeeeggggggaaaaasssss
Nnnnnneeeeevvvvvaaaadddddaaaaaa, ttttthhhhheeeee ooooonnnnneeee aaaaannnnnnddddd ooooonnnnnlllllllyyyyyy MMMMMMMMMOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNRRRRRR RRRROOOOOOOOOEEEEEEEEE!' Erik sighs. This is starting to get silly. Carefully, he removes the unborn-calfskin-bound notepad from the inside lapel pocket of his jacket, straightens his tie and prepares himself for what he knows is to come. Beneath his breathe mutters, 'Here we go then, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1.' Pressing the button once more, instantly the room becomes bathed in violent white light from high intensity halogen lamps hidden behind the artwork on each of the walls; he winces as he hears the slight cracking sound of paint lifting from canvas as the heat from the lamps dries centuriesold oils and destroys artwork that has only recently been removed from the National Gallery. (The testing of the lighting had accounted for three Botticelli's and a selection of Turner's watercolours). As the lights fade to an afterburn, he removes the shades from his eyes and appreciates the miniature Tinkerbell that has started to fly around the room, bathed in an ethereal blue light. He'd told Monroe this was pointless as, of course, everybody else in the room was still practically blinded, but would he have it? No, of course not. He presses the button again, Tinks shakes her bootie cheekily as she departs the room and Jimi Hendrix's Star Spangled Banner drowns out even Ryman's thoughts, being joined for its atonal crescendo by fireworks (well, simulated fireworks - they were in fact projected - this was Monroe's one concession
to reality, grudgingly given when Erik pointed out that there was little point in actually killing them all), images of dogs being disembowelled by children, Nuremberg-esque rallies parading down the Mall and Roger Whitaker singing the Skye Boat Song on Cheggar's Plays Pop. All the images slowly merging, overlapping and rotating until they finally morph into a single, flame-filled letter M, replicated on each of the walls. Erik presses the button a final time. 'Hhhhhhheeeeerrrrrrreeeeeessssss MMMMMOOOOONNNNNTTTTTTYYYYY.' A final retina-burning explosion of light, a dramatic final bar of feedback and canine agony and the room returns to its normal, sedate shades of beige and amber, silence and natural sunlight spilling through smoothly opening blinds. Erik takes a small step forward before the shell-shocked group. 'Mr Monroe will see you all.' He speaks in a gentle, matter-of-fact voice and indicates an office door with his outstretched hand. 'Oh, and Lord Smythe, perhaps you might like to...' Lord Smythe looks down at the large wet patch in the crotch of his trousers and bursts into tears. '...clean yourself up?' Ignoring the stricken man, Ryman moves toward the door and knocks gently. 'Come.' Ryman opens the door and - dressed entirely in Savile Row – Monroe steps into the room, sneering at the tearful Head of London Underground and says,
'Ladies and Gentleman. Many thanks for coming along. I know you are all busy and I will keep this short.' Sharply he looks toward the sobbing Smythe, 'For fuck's sake, you useless cunt, can't you shut the fuck up for one minute while I'm talking to you? Where's your fucking dignity, you piece of worthless shit, eh? Just try and be quiet or I'll tell the Leader what you said to your private secretary in Worthing about him.' Smythe looks stricken and incredibly guilty, trousers forgotten, as all he can see in the cinema of his mind is his neck in a barbed wire noose. 'But, I never... How did you...?' Monroe laughs nastily. 'Oh, man, you really are as stupid as you are incontinent. I'm watching you - all of you,' turning to face each of the assembled VIPs, 'ALL THE TIME. Get it into your thick skulls: this isn't the Civil Service anymore, you worthless pieces of shit. This is the Department.' Flicking his hand at them in dismissal, 'Anyway, where was I? Right, you are here because I have a job for you all at the Leader's request - SO NO FUCKING THIS ONE UP - you gottit?' The room turns into a nodding frenzy and Monroe smiles to himself as Ryman, now standing behind the group, gives a small bow. 'Right, this is the way it is going to be. I want you to tarmac Regent's Park, I want artists, get me Bacon, get me Hirst, get me Banksie, get me any other useless fucker that is popular - I want them all in a warehouse turning out some product. I want fish sculptures, I want musicians, I want the biggest
fucking stage this country has seen - get me Goldsmith, get me loads of men with hard hats, I want concrete and I want builders crawling all over the Mall and when do I fucking want it?' He is greeted by silence and manically screams, 'When do I fucking want it?' 'Now,' they chorus. 'Fucking A I do! Erik, give them their instructions and, ladies and gentlemen, get your flabby asses moving. You've got three weeks.' Ryman starts to handout bound copies of the plans as Monroe smiles nastily at Smythe. 'What do you think about that then, Smithers? You going to get me a new tube line in three weeks?' Smythe shivers at the look on Monroe's face, trying to hold himself together enough to answer. 'I'll certainly do my best, Mr Monroe.' 'Your best, Lord Smythe? I certainly hope so. But call me Monty, all my friends call me Monty.' 'Yes, sir, I mean, errm, Monty.' 'Good, good. I didn't mean to upset you earlier, it was uncalled for and I humbly ask that you accept my apologies.' Smythe, looking suspicious, simply shrugs - when things seem too good to be true, in his experience that tends to be the case. 'No, that is quite alright, Mr err, Monty.' A faint smile crosses Monroe's lips and a glance tells Erik to step back in search of detergent. 'So, Monty is it? I see, Lord Smythe. Monty. My Mother called me Monty when she left me in a shopping basket outside Wal-Mart.' 'Oh, I am sorry, but you...'
'Monty, that was the name the Sisters called me by at the orphanage, whilst they were beating the goddam living shit out of me.' Ryman, bucket in hand, starts to usher the other, silent, dignitaries away and begins to lay polythene sheeting around Monroe and the star-crossed Lord. 'Monty, is what the Holy Father called me when he fucking pinned and mounted me like a butterfly. Do you know that song, Smitty? Do you? But Monty, you call me? NO FUCKER CALLS ME MONTY.' Smythe starts crying again and a couple of people, despite themselves, make the sign of the cross. 'Nobody, do you hear me?’ Monroe visibly pulls himself back from the brink, hearing Bob Dylan sing about Ahab and his discovery of the US of A. Calmer; he talks in a low flat - monotone, and begins to stroke the hair of the Lord now kneeling before him in supplication. 'Nobody, calls me Monty, nobody. But how were you to know? No, that isn't a problem Hieronymus, that isn't a problem.' Sensing an unexpected chance for hope, Smythe begins, 'I am so sorry if I caused offence, there really was no intention on my part to...' Monroe waves his apologies away. 'No, it is alright, no offence taken - an easy mistake to make. No, what I am more concerned about is the project, for that is the Leader's will and it shall be done.' 'Indeed, I will start to look at it's ramifications immediately and...' 'No, I don't think so, Charlie, I don't think so. You see, my concern is that you aren't 'up to it'
anymore, my concern is that you are 'passed it', your 'sell-by-date' has come and long gone. You see, Peter, I just don't think you can cut it anymore - time for a new broom, a clean slate, a spring clean. I think perhaps we need new blood and...' With a lunge Monroe dives to catch Smythe by the balls, yanking them left and right, not noticing the howl of terror and abject pain escaping his victim's yellowing lips, or the look of realisation flickering across his face. '...as every dog has its day, it is perhaps time that we put this old canine...' Falling on top of his petrified victim, Monroe jams his fingers into Smythe's eyes, digging deep into the sockets. Smythe finally starts to struggle as first one then the other of his eyeballs are rammed deeper into his face. '...out to pasture. Do you have any hobbies, Smythe? Watercolours perhaps? I know that you love the Lakes. Surely you paint them?' The left eyeball gives way now and Monroe yanks it down so that it is left hanging on the cheekbone like a stringy fried egg. 'Maybe a little French polishing? Do you burnish your coffee table, Algernon? Do you like to give it a little rub before bedtime cocoa?' Monroe's fingers dig deeper now as though trying to unwrap a sweet in his pocket. Smythe simply whimpers, a broken shell, beyond desolation. A soft popping sound echoes around the silenced room as his other eyeball breaks free of the socket and falls to the floor. Monroe sees it and with glee stoops lower and picks it up in his teeth, still talking through them,
'I always saw you as a practical man, though, Horatio, surely you are good with your hands?' With an outstretched foot he pushes Smythe backwards to the floor and nodding at Ryman is handed a Sabatier meat cleaver. A quiet gasp sounds from the cowering group and he nods a little, still chewing on Smythe's eye. Rolling it around his mouth before storing it in his cheek, he gulps the Vitreous Humour and addresses them. 'Well, children, you see I didn't think that Lord Haw Haw here was up to the job and the Leader does take the implementation of his instructions quite seriously, so we aren't going to suffer any delays on this one.' Practising his fore and backhand like a tennis pro, Monroe leans into his shot and removes Smythe's left hand with a single sweep. Pirouetting, he catches Smythe above the ankle and tuts to himself as it take two attempts to remove his left foot. 'Can't leave you unbalanced now, can we, Christopher?' Six more swings of the blade remove the remaining appendages and a nod toward Ryman sees him move in, to tourniquet the limbs and inject the silent Smythe with adrenalin and morphine. Monroe wipes his hand on a towel Ryman hands him, spitting the chewed remains of Smythe's eye into his twitching face. 'So, do we foresee any issues with the project?' A shaken chorus of 'No' follows. 'Good, that's what I like to see - a team bonding through the hard times. Erik?'
Raising his eyebrows, Monroe points Ryman toward the plastic sheeting that has taken the brunt, but not all of the bodily fluids escaping the dying Smythe. 'Would you mind doing the honours?' 'No, sir.' Turning on his heel Monroe leaves the room, silently closing the door behind him. Erik clears his throat. 'Well, ladies and gentlest of men, just one last thing before you go. As Lord Smythe here had a few problems with his bladder and you have, after all, been waiting for quite so very long, Mr Monroe asked that I invite you to relieve yourselves before you leave, to avoid any unfortunate accidents on your way out.' Pointing toward Smythe's stricken body on the floor, he simply adds, 'And, please, try not to get any on the carpet. It is 4th Century Persian, you know.' From beyond the door a voice bellows 'AND NO FUCKING EXCEPTIONS - TELL THE BITCHES TO SQUAT IF THEY HAVE TO - BUT NOT A FUCKING DROP ON THE CARPET.' * Everybody now gone, Ryman knocks on the door to Monroe's office. 'Come.' Entering, Ryman sees Monroe watching the CCTV footage from the morning’s events. 'How did it look? Effective?'
'Yes, Erik, it looked great - it'll scare the shit out of the rest of them. We should meet our deadline now without any problems. Would you like a drink? 'Yes, but please let me organise it...' 'As you wish, Erik, as always, as you wish.'
-----BEGINS----Glass in hand he crosses the barnyard, kicking a stone which clatters off the wire of the fence, causing his father to jump and drop his dice. 'For Easter’s sake, Charlie, get a grip, there are young 'uns around here, you could have had somebody’s eye out with that.' ----- ENDS -----
Well, it was a tense time in Downing Street and at the Palace, but within eight hours the news everybody in the Department was waiting for began to filter through. First of all there was a report of an arson attack on a boarding kennel in Staines, then sporadic instances of 'hoodies' setting about anybody who they could find taking a spud for a walk. Obviously, this was to be encouraged and the Department had soon spun it into the beginnings of a canine jihad or poochicide for the tabloid readers. Over the next few days, pet shops, more kennels and animal feed wholesalers all found a few litres of lead replacement four-star trickling beneath their front doors, followed by an illuminated Swan Vestas carelessly passing through the letterbox and anybody who dared to take his 'best friend' for a trot after dark was to be considered fair game for all the Saturday-nightnutters out, looking for an excuse to inflict their pugilistic prowess on the world. Shit, I didn't have a clue. No. Nor did anybody else. The press, of course, was frenzied by this point and for the first time were actively condemning the victims of these assaults rather than the protagonists. The Department had quite a party when The Times
finally gave over an editorial to the 'despicable, dirty, canine terror stalking our streets' and issued tastefully designed souvenir posters - was it Hockney, I forget? No, surely not, it had to be Hirst. Posters? You must have seen them - a red cross dripping blood with the mangled carcass of a cocker spaniel crucified on it. It certainly sounds more like Hirst. Is that what they were about? I assumed it was some kind of weird supporter-thing for the World Cup. No, that was Rooney in his warpaint, but an easy mistake to make. I would say that – on reflection – it probably would be Hirst, but then I remember that it came with instructions for creating your own, life-size, 'living' sculpture and I can't imagine him deliberately climbing-off-the-gravy-train-tomillionaire-lifestyle-central, so perhaps it wasn't him, but I digress. A wee bit. So, where was I? Turning the tide of public opinion? Indeed. Well, as you would expect it worked beautifully. The tabloids were tightly marshalled through the promise of honours or of getting even, and the citizens were starting to exclude spud owners from their communities. That seems a bit harsh? Of course, but it is the nature of the beast. Everybody wants somebody else to pick on or to blame or, more to the point, they themselves don't want to be the ones that are getting victimised. It is human nature and the only thing that separates us from the animals.
That doesn't sound right. Surely it is the same with animals – the weakest go to the wall and the strongest thrive? Yes, but that isn't what I'm talking about here. With humans it is the ability for the opposite of that to occur that is so unusual. Think again of the Department members. Apart from the Hairshirts, none of them are what you would call 'physically exceptional', are they? Well, I haven't seen too many of them in the flesh and I've never thought the dragon-slaying official portraits to be very likely, but certainly, the main boys are all either weedy or obese, the Leader for one is a right fat bast... Indeed. But better left unsaid, don't you think? That is what I mean; what separates us from the animals, is that intellect can surpass brawn – brains can defeat aggression and strength. So, in relation to the spuds and their owners, everybody is happy to see that firstly, it isn't themselves that is in the firing line this time - keeping your head down and avoiding trouble is a way of life nowadays, after all - and secondly, that these bastards who managed to con them that they were upstanding, friendly and decent, when of course the reverse was always nearer to the truth, are finally getting what they had obviously been deserving of all along. Yes, you’ve said all that... But getting back to the story … the communities had begun to turn on the dog owners. Urine and fire were pouring through letter boxes, mothers were dragging their children across busy roads to avoid walking past spuds or even their owners when out alone, gangs of Hairshirt-encouraged
hoodies were holding ad hoc 'woofings', and generally things were going as expected. Woofings? What the fuck are woofings? Ah, that was the Leader's own contribution and allegedly, it doesn't refer to the spud as such. I did hear that it was all due to our Leader misremembering a joke and that nobody had the courage to correct him. What joke? Oh, an old one - how do you make a cat go woof? Go on. Cover it with petrol and then add a match... Ha! Very good ... oh, I see. Ah, that's horrible they do that to the spuds? Indeed they do and if the rumours are accurate, to an unfortunate number of owners too. And it is because the Leader got the joke wrong? Apparently so, though that may be a little too good to be true, in fairness. Either way, it is still pretty grim. Makes a terrible mess of the tarmac, too. Do you know the temperature a spud burns at? Haven't got a clue. No, I don't know either, but they leave an impressive hole in the pavement and they are appearing on high streets quicker than Starbucks at the moment; hundreds more every day. The Department has even had to start discouraging the ambulance-chasing personal accident vultures from going after councils when people injure themselves falling down the holes, but I digress. Fuck me. That really is horrible. Vile. Yes, but we’re getting away from my story; please, let me finish. Sorry.
No problem. Well, the next stage was really the winner. With all of this faeces flying around, disease was almost a certainty and like everything else, it was minutely planned. This just gets worse the longer you go on. Indeed. Well, this is where we come to the marches. The blind kids? Yes, 127,382 of them went blind within a month of the poop-a-sloosh campaign beginning and another thousand each week since then. Bloody hell! And this is down to the shit? That is totally disgraceful, it was bad enough that they were targeting the spud owners, but all those innocent kids? I can't believe they would go so far... Indeed, and of course they didn't. There were a few hundred children who lost their sight, but they were carefully selected and were from the north anyway, so it was hardly a major loss. They targeted children from the north? Why in fuck's name... Oh, don't be naive, of course they did. Think about the marching aspect: northerners have been doing this type of thing for aeons; it is in their blood. It would barely have made an impact if the blind marches had been from Northolt all the way to Oxford Street, now would it? They'd have hardly got the TV cameras set-up and the whole thing would have been over. No, of course they targeted the northerners and the further north the better. Jesus... Quite. They needed weeks of coverage of blind children being led by overweight, poorly dressed parents with little regard for personal hygiene or diction, blood streaming out of inappropriate
stilettos, armpits of football shirts blackening with mildew and all this to a soundtrack of the synchronised tap-tap-tapping of little white sticks interspersed by the whimpering of the children, syncopating with the background beat of a million bluebottles pirouetting overhead. They stagemanaged every aspect and public opinion quite simply orgasmed. It was a beautiful job. Beautiful? It is the most sickening thing I have ever heard. Please tell me that they didn't actually harm the children. Well, of course they didn't, or I should say that they never intended to. Fuck me... Perhaps later. No, the original intention was to simply give the children a teeny-weeny dose of something that would cause a temporary visual impairment. Unfortunately, nobody quite realised that testing the serum on animals wasn't quite the same thing as using it for the first time on children. For fuck's sake... I know, I know. The Leader, for one, was particularly annoyed by it and immediately introduced an edict, prohibiting the use of moles in animal testing. Moles? Why would they test something like that on a mole? Yes, it sounds unlikely now, I'm quite sure, but the fact is that moles have been used over the last few years, to test cosmetics and drugs that could possibly affect human sight and at the time, there was no reason to suspect that existing testing and control procedures would be fallible. Hang on a minute. Why in heaven's name would they choose to use moles for things that might
have an impact on human sight? Even if it did have an effect on the mole, how the hell could you ever tell? They're fucking blind! Well, not quite, but I see your point and that, of course, was the reasoning behind the selection of moles as, err, guinea pigs. It is part of a general policy to minimise the amount of animal testing that is required. It has been very popular with the citizens – nobody wants to see animals suffer for no good reason after all. Apart from spuds. Indeed, though they have of course been declared to no longer be animals for over a year now, so they don't really count. Shit. OK, but why moles, when it clearly doesn't make any sense whatsoever? Well, as I say, there has been a movement toward the minimisation of animal-based testing, due to the weak stomachs of the general public and their ability to forget what is done to these selfsame animals as part of the preparation of their burgers and turkey twizzlers. As it seemed popular and had no real effort or cost attached, from the Department's point of view, they decided to introduce a statistical measure that would reduce the amount of testing required, if the initial tests could be proven mathematically to have been overwhelmingly successful. Go on.. You see, the way it used to work was that everything had to be tested on earthworms in the first instance. If this proved to be safe, the next level of tests would be undertaken on say, lab mice. Following a success with these, it might move to rabbits, beagles - though now that would
fill a football arena - miniature donkeys, marmosets, squirrel monkeys, chimps, orang-utans and finally gorillas. Assuming all was well by this point, they would begin human testing. Bloody hell, that must have taken forever. So, was that the point? Were they trying to speed it up? Indeed they were, though of course after all the news reports showing cute little rabbits with needles in their eyes and chimps with electrodes up their foreskins, there was real public concern about cruelty, too. So where do the moles come into it then? You have lost me totally. Isn't it obvious? All of this palaver was much too cumbersome and not to mention expensive; do you know how much a gorilla costs these days, especially when you have to fly the bugger to some Swiss clinic for all the really useful and, sadly illegal in Britain, tests to be undertaken? No, the new system was designed to streamline it all. Instead of these multiple layers, it was decided that a drug would only have to pass a single trial before it could be declared as being safe. That sounds a bit dodgy... Indeed it was, but it was sold as being safer as the drug had to be proven, statistically, to be 100% safe before it could be passed for human use. If it failed by even a tenth of a percentage they would need to repeat the trial. Well, that sounds a little better. If it is 100% safe... …you must have fixed the test. Simple. God, I think I feel sick.
Don't be wet. So that is where the moles became involved. If you test eye products on an animal of which it is almost impossible to tell it has suffered a visual impairment, you can be pretty sure you will find an absence of visual degradation and the trial can, hand-on-heart, be declared a success. Shit. Exactly. It isn't just the moles, of course; hair loss products are tested on bald eagles, mouthwash on cats, flu treatments on iguanas and breath fresheners on hyena. In an uncertain world, they quite simply turned any possibility of failure into certain, unqualified success But what about the children, what happened to them? Well, that wasn't so agreeable. Unfortunately, within an hour of their being sprayed with the serum... Sprayed? Yes, they sprayed them at the start of the march, before the press were allowed to get near them as they realised that injections would be a little obvious and time-consuming. So, they sprayed them, the idea being that they would all have tears streaming down their grimy northern lardy-chip-fatsmothered faces and the press would get some good shots for the next morning's front pages without having to follow the scratty brats all the way down the M1. They could then, naturally, meet them in London when the raggle-taggle lot of them turned up and started bleating in Trafalgar Square. So what happened? As I said, the spraying worked wonderfully and the brats, tears flooding down their faces, were stumbling along the road, holding on to the track101
suited, snot- covered wrists of their moms and whoever was filling the role of their dad for that week. The press were released from their pens and rushed toward the march, cameras were flashing, VT rolling and commentators commenting. And then all hell broke loose. You see, what hadn't been considered was that the serum had ammonia as one of its constituent parts and having been stored in barely chilled tanks for months, it had partially evaporated and become highly concentrated, making it a lot more potent. Of course, when this was sprayed from the helicopters... Helicopters? Bleedin' hell.. Yes, they used old American choppers and you'd probably find that they never cleaned out the napalm tanks … but that is only a guess on my part. Where was I? Oh, yes. When they sprayed the serum, the tears flowed for a minute, but then something horrible happened; everybody there started to feel their eyelids itch. This lasted a few seconds and then it started to burn, hotter and hotter, until finally they could feel their eyelids quite literally melting, along with most of the skin on their faces. Jesus Christ... Indeed, it was really horrible. There were a few red faces over that little episode, I can tell you. Anyway, as you would imagine, they hosed them down and administered first aid and, being pragmatic, encouraged the marchers to march – well, stumble – and the reporters to report what they were told to report. Well, those that could still see, of course. I don't know what to say.
Who would, but it is one of those things, it happens. It could have been a lot worse, of course. Could it? I really don't see how. Imagine if they had held the march in London. It would have been awful and so difficult to keep quiet. I'm sure that must be a real comfort to the kids. Oh, a lot of them were bussed in from Liverpool, so they would have been whining about something anyway. I beg your pardon? Liverpool. Oh god, don't get tin-headedlypolitically-correct on me. It is a well-known fact that 'scousers' love nothing more than the feeling of being victimised; it gives them something to get into a lather about. I've seen the statistics and they really aren't happy unless they feel that they've been poorly treated and can pin some flowers to a wall somewhere. I can't believe you are saying that. Isn't that a bit stereotypical and clichéd? Well I think we call it ‘Regional Profiling’ these days, but yes, of course it is, although it doesn't make it any the less true. Stereotypes exist for a reason, after all. That is ridiculous. Indeed it is, but as long as people believe that Scousers are whinging thieves, Brummies and Paddies are thick, Jocks and Tykes are tight-arses, the Welsh hate everybody apart from their sheep on cold winter nights, Essex girls are slags, Londoners are salt-of-the-earth-cheeky-chirpycockney-chappies, anyone from the west is a dozycowpat-slinging-cheese-rolling-yokel and anyone from the east is an inbred child-fucker, they are
never going to get along and the Department will have a very easy time of it. Divide and conquer, my girl, nothing personal. God, my head hurts. But what about the moles? If this serum stuff caused so much havoc, it must have had an effect on the moles? Surely somebody would have noticed; surely it could have been averted before all those poor kids... Well, I wouldn't know, but I expect you are right. It wouldn't have mattered, though. It wouldn't have fucking mattered? Indeed. No, unless they were testing to see if the serum burned the face off a mole, it wouldn't have been reported. They would only have noted anything if it was obvious that it had caused... ..a visual impairment. So, the fact that the mole was probably turned inside out by the stuff was not worth a mention? No, of course not. They would have checked that there was no evidence of impairment compared to before the test and as this was impossible to prove or disprove, would have recorded it as a pass and moved on to the next victim. The head of the mole could have got blown off its shoulders, bounced off three walls and then performed a roman candle impression on top of the filing cabinet and it still wouldn't have elicited any officially recorded comment, as it quite simply wouldn't have been relevant to the test in hand. If they retrieved its head and it scored no fewer in recognising the faces of Heroes of the Departmentalisation from the flash cards they held up to it than it did initially, it could only have been termed a success. And as the furry blighters were unlikely to be able to give
the full names, birthplaces, ranks and titles of said heroes, either time... I need a drink. I'll get them. Two more over here, please! Thanking you, much obliged. He really is cute, that waiter. Isn't he? OK, shit. I'm not sure I want to hear any more. Oh, we are nearly finished now, just a few minutes more and I'd better be off. Enjoy your beverage and I'll skip through it a bit. OK, but please tell me it gets better. Ah, we'll see. Anyway, the march reached London, public opinion went through the roof as these battle-scarred, blind, odious and odiferous children were pictured in every direction you looked. They had them on television, usually with some long-absent father scenting a few quid in a brown envelope, threatening to dissect every dog in England with his Stanley blade live on Richard & Judy. They had them in newspapers talking about their first ASBO and their concern that permanent blindness might impact upon their 'texting'. They had them on magazine covers in borrowed bling, on reality TV programmes, which I have to say are becoming more and more like the old Wild West geek shows than ever, but I digress, and generally they overexposed them like the sleaziest, most desperate Z-list celebrity you've ever seen. Some of them got agents, of course, and have since been quite successful in America. Oh, you mean Rachel Fowler? Yes, now there is a Scouser that really knows how to whinge. Sorry, I saw that look; I didn't mean to trample on your sensibilities.
No matter. I'm not sure I have any left. She can, though; I have it on very good authority that the Department paid for her to have replacement tear ducts - her original ones were destroyed - just so that she could blart her way across the Midwest. You are kidding? No, and even then she complained that it was hard work to get the tears flowing. She had to blink or something and didn't think there was a margin in it.
“An expression begins a passage considered its right across the brow of a man his wife thinks infallibly wrong.” Nenko Joretsu
'Suncream, sir?' Ryman offers a bottle of 50spf to Monroe who is starting to glow in the midday assault. 'Naw, Erik, think I'll skip it. What the fuck are those idiots doing down there?' Ryman follows the lead of Monroe's outstretched finger and sees two hard-hat-wearing workmen, seemingly arguing. Tutting to himself, he walks down the slope from Monroe's purpose-built vantage point and addresses them. 'Excuse me, gentlemen, but can I suggest that you perhaps should work more and talk a little less?' Distracted, the first of the men, not noticing the epic, razor-like creases in Ryman's charcoal trousers starts to say, 'Fak orff, yer cant, who the fackin 'ell do...' Ryman suppreses a smile. 'Ahem?' 'Wot? Oh, fackin' bollock. Sorry, squire, didn't see you there, honest oi didn't...' 'Never mind. Can I ask what the problem seems to be?' 'Well, its like this, mate, I jast can't see what the fack - beggin' your pardon, guvnor - I mean to say, I can't see why we're digging fackin' Regent's Park
ap to make a fackin' car park, I mean, its fackin' criminal, innit? Park like this bin 'ere fer fackin' ever...' Ryman jumps in, to interrupt the tirade. 'Well, admittedly, it is a little unusual, but we do all have to remember that the Leader himself...' Ryman stage-whispers the name as though every inch of the country is covered by listening devices and CCTV, which of course he knows it is as he was instrumental in their implementation. '...made the 'request' that this whole project be completed as a matter of urgency – and personally, I wouldn't want to question his judgement...' Ryman smiles sweetly, seeing the fear the very mention of the Leader's name invokes in the 'proles', as Monroe lovingly calls them. The funny thing is that generally, the 'common herd' are in a lot less danger than the middle class - danger from the Department, that is - apart from the odd, staged, managed 'event', or if perhaps they are from the north and a point needs to be made without the smell of burning pyres tainting the atmosphere, when cocktails are taken on the terrace of the House. 'Would you like me to raise your point with Mr Monroe, or perhaps the Leader himself?' Ryman turns to wave at Monroe who is making a universal gesture, his hand cutting across his throat. 'No fackin' way, blimey, I ain't fackin' taking the piss, mate, his will be dan an' all that – too fackin' right.' His hitherto silent colleague, now looking rather grey, decides he's heard enough and with two
shovels on the floor in front of him decides to take his pick. 'We'll be getting roight on now, Mister, if we may, so we will... C'mon now, Del, stop wasting the noice man's toime, we've got some fekkin' tarmac to be flattening, so we have.' And – tipping his hat – practically runs away. 'Yeah, too fackin' right, and sorry to waste your time, mate. No offence, eh?' Ryman smiles, he does so love having the common touch. 'No, just get on with it and we'll say no more about it.' As he walks back to the observation point, using his Blackberry, he checks on the two builders – both married, four children – the maximum allowed for those of lower IQs – 2 grandparents still living, both with canine history. Using the stylus, he checks a box next to each man's name and those of their family members. In the notes area on the screen he simply writes, 'After the project is complete.' 'All sorted out?' Monroe looks bored now as Ryman joins him on the platform. 'Yes, all done and soon to be dusted.' 'Fucking A. Lets get out of here, I need a beer.'
Oh, reality TV is definitely the new trailer trash. I hate to say it, but it is one of the things I've missed; there seems to be very little on these days. Yes, the bubble well and truly burst on that one. First of all, there was a bit of a racist fiasco, then of course some bright spark came up with Celebrity Gang-Rape, which pretty much put the lid back on that particular genie. Celebrity Gang-Rape? Indeed. It must have sounded such a good idea at the planning stage: gather half a dozen scantily dressed bimbos - all of whom have appeared in a soap or on the cover of Loaded or Nuts or somewhere equally dire - and then drop them sans mobile and Amex into various inner city areas around the country and see which one of them gets gang-raped first. What? Oh, it was regarded as an absolutely brilliant idea, apart from, of course, that it was meant to be a set-up, but nobody thought to inform the local Hairshirts who were the only gangs left. Anyway, as you'd expect, five of the 'celebs' disappeared, never to be heard of again. Shit. What happened to the other one?
What? Oh, yes, that was Heston McGinty. She was the saving grace and the show would have had to be canned, if it hadn't been for her. Why? Did she get away? Well, not really. As you'd expect, all of the Hairshirt-implicating ladies were quickly airbrushed from history, but obviously the show had been scheduled and advertised and the public were greedily salivating for a bit of celebrity-bashing, so Heston was a bit of a dream. I don't understand. What happened then? Well, luckily, after the initial gritty, black-andwhite, slow motion opening to the show, where you saw Heston dropped in some northern town, she happened to be picked up by a coach load of footballers returning from an 'away game' and so missed out on the tender caresses of the Hairshirts. Lucky girl. So, she got away with it and don't tell me they made the whole thing up and the public got a nicely spun recreation? Well, not as such, no. The fact that she was picked up by the footballers was pieced together later. No, she disappeared and was found, by coincidence, back at the motorway services that had inspired Heston’s mother to choose her name. She was discovered naked apart from being bound with red-and-white football scarves and covered with lots of Xs scrawled in marker pen. Was she... Oh, yes, they found her in a grit box on the side of the southbound carriageway. Wouldn't have been found at all if she hadn't been chipped. Chipped? You mean like, err, spuds are, were? Is that common now then?
Indeed, though it isn't planned to be rolled out to the whole country for another year or two. They are still working on the softening up so that people will see it as a benefit. But Heston was as part of her contract, as they didn't trust the celebrities not to just bugger off for a facial until the series finished. But, naturally, it was a bit of a mystery, especially the crosses which were obviously written in different hands and they rebuilt the whole show around her case – got them right out of the doodoo. So, how did they figure out it was a team of footballers, then? Well, as I say the scarves hinted at football, but it was the crosses that confused everybody, until some bright spark realised that it had to be footballers rather than just supporters, as nobody else would be dense enough to autograph their victim and... ..most other people can write their own names these days. God, its scary isn't it? Indeed, though of course there were plus points, as it gave the Department a good excuse to Departmentalise the whole sport and tax everybody involved, until they were living similar lives to the rest of the proletariat. Shit, that must have hurt; they're worth millions, those footballers. But I thought everybody worked for the Department these days? Oh, they do now, but it was always trickier to bring the rich into line, so it had to be done piecemeal. Well, they were worth millions, they most certainly aren't anymore with the FootballerTax being set at 125% of earnings until there are no traces of savings and then reverting to the
standard 100% above 25K. Same as everybody else. Well, I say everybody... Yes, I can imagine. Tell me about Tippex again, why don't you. Sorry, I know, sore point. No matter, forget it. So, this Heston girl, I think I’ve clocked who she is now. Wasn't she married to a footballer anyway? Is she the blonde from Scouseland? Yes, she is - rather was - and I expect she was married to a footballer; all of those pretty young things are, aren't they? I guess so. So, was that the end of reality TV then? Oh, no. That was just the start of the end, or the end of the beginning of the end, I forget which. The one that actually finished it was a new show: The Big Bad Wolf. Have you heard of that one? No, can't say I have... Well, that was another classic. The idea was similar to the Celebrity Gang-Rape idea, but this time they dusted off the old Big Brother formula one last time and sealed people into a house for a few weeks. The twist being, that they would put celebrities in there along with their stalkers. Christ, did they know before they went in there? Oh, of course not. Where would the fun have been in that? No, they got six celebrities and six of their stalkers and threw them all together to see what form of mayhem ensued. And what did happen? Nothing. Absolutely bugger all; it was the biggest disappointment ever. As you'd expect, once they met them, the stalkers realised what we all knew anyway: the celebrities were generally vapid,
loathsome creatures and more obsessed with themselves than the stalkers ever could be and they spent their time trying to steal each other's stalkers, as they are after all a must have as far as they go these days. You haven't arrived unless some nutter has blown-up photographs of you plastered all over his basement and sends you chicken feet on a daily basis. No, as I say, it totally flopped and that was where the trouble really started. OK, go on then. Well, naturally the production company were losing advertisers at a rate of knots as the public stopped watching, so they tried harder and harder and got more desperate and sordid as time went on. They tried putting hunters and saboteurs, vegans and cock-fighters, Moslems and Hindus, Nazis and Jews, Hairshirts and just about anybody else – and none of it really caught on. So, in a final death spasm, they returned to the celebrity route and came up with one final throw of the dice. I really, really hate to think… Gary Glitter and the Saint Winifred's School Choir. Shit, you are joking aren't you..? Well, no, but luckily the show was pulled before they'd got any further than the trailers. Who is afraid of the big bad wolf, indeed. A shame really, as they had a genuine woodcutter with a genuine axe – could have been the biggest show for decades, but there you are. Some things are just not meant to be. But, where was I before we got sidetracked with unreal reality? Spinning the blind march? Indeed, the blind march. Well, once all of that horrid business had gone off, you could say that
public opinion had well and truly hardened and it wasn't a good time to be a spud, or a spud lover. If they had felt persecuted before, it was hide-underthe-table-and-hope-the-baying-mob-fail-to-noticethat-you've-left-the-door-on-the-latch time. Reactive as ever, the Department started to introduce new edicts and procedures; the headline being that henceforth all spuds had to be licensed at a cost to the owner of ten thousand pounds… How much? Ten thousand and that was per annum. The figure was based upon a calculation of how much it costs to clean the streets of faeces each year. Totally spurious, naturally, but in the climate at the time, effective and widely applauded. In addition to the license, spud owners along with their ‘best friend’ would need to report to their local police station every morning, to sign a register. Naturally, there would be a selection of Hairshirts on hand to ensure that they weren't attacked or victimised in any way by gangs of hoodies and, equally naturally, would round up a gang of hoodies in order to prevent the victimisation, if none were there in the first place. This is stunning stuff you are telling me. It shows the systematic isolation and terrorisation of a subsector of society by the state, for no reason whatsoever. It is incredible. Have you been reading the Guardian? But, quite right, and that of course isn't the end of my beautiful tale. Obviously, all of this pressure was starting to tell on the spud owners, most of whom were, of course, good, Leader-loving citizens and horrified that they, too, had been conned by their scruffy little spud. Naturally, they wanted to divest
themselves of the little beastie as soon as possible, but with the general torching of the dogs' homes, kennels, vet practices that still continued to treat them out of some misguided kind of moral weakness, there really was no viable way out for them. It was at this point, that the Leader showed his clarity of vision and took into public ownership the remaining major kennels in Battersea, Birmingham and Stockport, if I remember rightly. These became 'embarkation' centres, from which any spuds the owners felt should no longer live with their families, could be entrusted to the Department and they would ensure that the animals were inoculated against all manner of horrible foreign diseases, fed and watered and then safely escorted out of the country to live their days out among nice, friendly people who will care for and cherish them and generally pander to their every requirement or fancy. I'm finally getting the picture here. So, what really happened I'm assuming that Billy Butlin wasn't the Leader's role model in this? Indeed, and you are quite right, the actual solution was a lot simpler. Bullet in the brain? Gas ovens. Oh, fuck, you mean they burned them alive, this just gets more horrible by the minute? Don't be silly, where would be the benefit in that? It would cost a fortune to organise and gas isn't as cheap a commodity as it was in the forties, after all. No, as I said: the Leader had a brainwave. Let me ask you something… Do you know how many people attend football matches on a Saturday?
No, I haven't got a clue - hundreds of thousands I would imagine? Millions, when you factor in every children’s and amateur-team game and every school kick about. Add to this rugby, cricket, hockey, hurling and all the other team games and you have a fantastic body of people taking part in group activities. Now, what do they all have in common? Balls? Sorry, are you being facetious? No, I meant it literally. They are all played with some kind of ball, I wasn't taking the piss. Oh, sorry. A little tired I'm afraid. I can get a bit tetchy as the day progresses, but to your answer: no, it isn't balls. What they have in common is an audience and most importantly: a hungry audience that has proven over a great many years, that it is totally without discernment when it comes to what it will willingly pay for and eat as they watch some horrific game or other. It really is astounding the rubbish people will buy, isn't it? Yes, you ain't kidding, but you don't tend to get much of a choice, do you? A shitty pie or pasty, soggy chips or a partially melted Mars bar whatever your poison. Indeed. And, of course, there have traditionally been concerns expressed in the press over hygiene and the like. There was quite a spate of outbreaks of salmonella and E.coli last year, not least at the Cup Final, where there were so many people who experienced stomach upsets that the new Wembley Stadium had to be evacuated due to the danger of people drowning as the toilets overflowed and getting washed away by rivers of puke as they poured onto the playing surface.
Ah, the Mr Porky Cup Final, I heard about that. Indeed, but that was a little unfortunate. The lynching I mean. It was never part of the plan. Lynching? Yes, apparently a few children never quite survived the effects of the game and the grieving families found out where Mr Porky himself held his home – in Essex or somewhere equally dreadful – and crucified him on his own twenty-three-foot-tall day-glo plastic frankfurter. Jesus. Indeed, quite tragic, really. Still, as his business would have been decimated by the ban on Hot, err, spuds a few weeks later, it may have been a blessing. So, what was the Leader's plan then? Well, as you would expect, a well-stoked media caused a massive outcry about all of this and the Department instigated an enquiry, then an investigation, a rapid-deployment select committee which announced its findings, appointed a Football Food Tsar, who put together a number of focus groups, announced a wide-ranging consultation committee, which produced an interim plan for the drafting of a later discussion document that was presented to a quango or two, then circulated to interested parties who consolidated their arguments and all received CBEs. After that, a research project was announced, a requirement for consultancy identified, a tendering process designed, published, revised, agreed, undertaken, completed, offers made, agreed, rubber-stamped then repeated due to some minor crises involving party funding and public school applications, agreed again and once more rubber-stamped,
signed in triplicate and generally announced, presented and discussed at length by the media and general public. Blimey, so what happened next? Well, isn't it obvious? The Leader invited a popular TV chef to come and develop the new, all healthy, organically kosher, low salt, low fat, carbon neutral, environmentally sound pie, which would be made compulsory at every sporting event in the country. Ah, the Keano. They are lovely. Yes, and a brilliant marketing line: Put some bite in your tackle - have a Keano at halftime and ditch the prawn sandwiches, you phoney wannabe middle class ponce. Inspired. Of course, the 'bite' was a pun, given that they are made in Battersea, Birmingham and Stockport in Department-controlled embarkation centres. Yes, I'd kind of guessed. Shit, that is horrendous, though a little funny. Funny? How so?
Ryman looks up from his desk at the gathering of pony tails, shaven heads, goatee beards and trendy eyewear that is milling around the room, speaking in tongues for the sense they are making to him. He notes that each and every one of them is carrying the latest Apple computer in a designer bag and has left his uniform randomly decorated SPHVs outside (a SPHV being of course this years must-have accessory for every pretentious tosser in London, a Single Person Hovering Vehicle, with its phenomenal smoothness but useless batteries meaning that most of them are left on the side of the road for recovery units to recover). He hates these idiots, and it was one of the things he couldn't understand Monroe being interested in, but he was and he had to deal with them. Standing now, he claps his hands to gain their attention. No response, other than the continued talking of bollocks. Again, he claps and this time clears his throat, saying 'Gentlemen.' Still no recognition. Oh well, they should know by now.
'Gentlemen and if any of you are ladies, ladies. I am about to have you all painfully and brutally tortured unless I receive your full attention in 3 seconds.' A bit more notice, but not quite what he hoped. Ryman, in fact, had always felt quite bad at this type of thing. He was ideal with the silent stiletto, but the blunt instrument over the head had never really been his thing. '3, 2 and...' Still no great interest, '1. OK, well don't say I didn't warn you.' Sitting back at his desk he removes a small device from a drawer, luxuriating for a moment in the shine on the handle of the desk. Walnut trimmings. They were perhaps his favourite of the many signs of his success. Standing now, he targets one particularly ridiculous looking fortysomething, replete in Hawaiian shirt and sandals and looking as though he was on a golf course. Raising the device he clicks on the right hand button. The effect is as dramatic as it is silent, as the Taser's tiny probe flies across the room hitting the annoying man in the centre of his chest 'Bull-shit-eye,' Ryman says, surprised that it is aloud. Clicking the second button, the effect is quite literally electric as the advertising consultant jumps a full four feet in the air, landing on his toes as though en pointe, and dramatically morphing into a twitching mass of break-dancing worms, or turned into a marionette with a Parkinson'ssuffering-puppeteer at the strings. Whichever imagery you prefer. He reaches for the joystick and starts to use it to twirl and twist the advertising executive around the
room, deliberately bumping him into each of the other nouveau-hippies and by doing so administering them each with their own little taster of electricity. He switches the gizmo off, confident that he has their full attention; he clears his throat and speaks. 'Oh, good to see you all and very nice of you to come. Would you mind coming through now? Mr. Monroe will be with us shortly.' Indicating the door they should pass through, he kneels to check the pulse of his victim and is a little disappointed to find one. Removing the barbed probe from the man's chest – none too gently – he carefully strokes his hair with the back of his hand. Standing up, he reaches for the telephone from his desk and dials a short number. 'Hastings, would you mind doing me a favour? There are a number of people in Room 117/322c, in building seven. Would you arrange for them to be issued with Battersea-best, please - yes, the orange overalls - and could you arrange for them all to be shaven head-to-toe. What? Oh yes, no need for the niceties, soon as you like. Mr. Monroe will be seeing them in approximately twelve hours.' * Monroe enters the room and is surprised to see the bloodied and it has to be said, very orangelooking collective before him. He turns to Ryman, 'What happened to this lot? They don't look too happy...' 'Oh no, sir, this is most definitely bliss.' 'Bliss?' 'Yes, sir, my Bliss, their ignorance.' 'As you like, Erik, as you like.' He turns to address his latest audience.
'OK, I'm gonna keep this snappy. I want this to be the biggest fuck-off event of a lifetime – or it will be the last fucking one of yours, yer hear me?' Frantic nodding. 'I want this to be the state event that ends state events. I want floats, marching bands, hula hoops, loads of girls with pom-poms, free stuff for kids, fair rides - and I mean Disney, not fucking Jerry Crocko-shit from St Albans - I want real pop stars, not washed up old hags, I want fucking everything and I fucking want it now.' Barbara Streisand starts singing something bluesy he can't place in the back of his head. 'OK, Babs girl, you can come too, no need for the audition. I want Streisand and BB King and Liza and Judy and every other fucker. I want Shirl with her armpits and I want Britney and Madonna and EVERYONE - capice? I WANT CHEESE. GIMME CHEESE.' He rubs his hands back and forth vigorously over his caftan, happy at the flatness of his stomach. 'And fish. You've got 12 days, now get the fuck on with it, what are you waiting for?' With that he turns to Ryman, 'Should I rough one up just to keep them interested?' 'No, don't worry, sir, I've already taken care of it.' Monroe looks around the room. 'You went for the fat fucker, didn't you, you always go for the fat fucker...' 'You know me too well, sir, you know me far too well.' Smiling, Monroe leaves the room as Ryman makes a note in his pad; Monroe's instructions weren't quite what he had in mind.
Far too well. He looks up at the confused group before him and claps his hands, this time - he is pleased to see - getting instant and complete attention. 'Chop chop, time to run along - and I mean run. I've just had your SPHVs crushed. And always remember: the only difference between a god and a dog is organisation. And don't forget to take your instructions.' Laughing, he leaves it to Hastings to see them out.
Well, for years, football fans have called the food 'dog pies' and 'dog burgers' and now that someone has actually improved it - and that TV chef bloke has done a great job, they taste lovely - they really are dog pies... Indeed, 'chew on a Chihuahua', but please, a little quieter, walls as they say have flappy great ears. But, that was the final solution. Of course things continue to be pushed along, an escape of rabid spuds at the Chunnel meant that the Hairshirts introduced a shoot-to-kill policy; even people who only used to own spuds are being told to continue to sign a register at local police stations and will soon be invited to holiday at his Leadership's pleasure in retraining camps, and all unborn babies will be DNA- sampled in utero and closely monitored for alien sympathies throughout their lives. What else? Oh, the brutal dismembering of fourteen newborns in a Norwich hospital after some pikies and their mutts moved into the area, led to the introduction of a curfew, all immigrants are now interned for testing and possible re-education or expulsion, the EEC have been encouraged to widen the policy to all member states and Britain, along with the USA, who of course have adopted similar approaches, are threatening to ‘blow
Alsace, Dalmatian, Chihuahua, Peking and a host of other places to hell’, unless the names of these are amended to something more suitable and of course, the dusting of caster sugar on top of the hundreds and thousands on top of the cherry on top of the icing on the cake, is that the spuds are now considered to have been eradicated. Bleedin' hell. Indeed they will. Of course the process of cultural correction has almost been fully implemented in the UK, Rover cars are now re-branded BMW, there are no more 'doglegs' on golf courses or race tracks, the country is no longer going to the dogs, nobody - as I mentioned earlier - is dog-tired and of course, there is no longer any doggie-doo on the pavements. All in all, the animal, the word and its lovers have, or will soon have been permanently removed from Britain and its language, with the rest of the world about to follow suit. That is so scary. It really makes you wonder who or what will be next. Well, I wouldn't prejudge, but did you hear that Corky no longer appears in the Dandy? Corky? Why would they ... oh, my god. Yes, who indeed would want to be man's new best friend? But, I've got to be off, so you take care of yourself and please, do be very careful of what you say. Yes, I certainly will. Where are you going then? Aren't you dancing tonight? No, well, not here. I'm off to see a friend, we practice together. All the best and I will see you soon. Indeed you will, my young friend, indeed you will.
Doris gets up from the table, air-kisses May-belle and heads for the exit, stopping only to pick up his fur wrap from the cloakroom. It was the latest style and made, apparently, of the finest mink. Doris laughed to himself, it certainly didn't smell of mink when it got wet and he didn't think that, however much processing they did at Battersea, it ever would. Now, where was the Departmental car? He had to get to the palace by 10pm and his heels were killing him.
The Deputy walks into Monroe's office, Senior Service in hand and a warm smile on his face. 'Monroe, my boy, shall we go? Doesn't do to keep his Leadership waiting, now does it?' Monroe looks up from his pool table, jamming the 8 ball into a middle pocket without looking. Happily suspicious. 'Sure, don't want the old boy melting, do we?' 'That we don't, young man, that we certainly don't.' The Deputy reaches up to put his arm around Monroe's shoulders, 'I have to say, I have been very impressed by the way you handled this little project and I am sure that it will do you a lot of good when the Leader is looking for a new Deputy – oh, don't give me that rubbish, Monroe, I know you too well. We both know my days here are numbered and I think you are probably in the pound seats, as we used to say.' Unsure, but liking it, Monroe starts to answer, 'Oh, early days, early days. You've got a few miles left on the old clock.' 'No, I think not, but there we are, kind of you to say so. Shall we go?'
'Sure, lets do that.' As they walk from the office, Monroe calls to Ryman 'Erik, man the phones and I'll catch you later we've got some celebrating to do.' As he slips his coat on, the Deputy winks at Ryman. 'Err, sir?' Ryman calls, 'You've forgotten this.' Monroe turns to see Erik holding a large, golden key out to him. 'The key to the Piazza, sir?' 'Oh, gee, Erik, I'd have looked pretty darn stupid without that, thanks.' As Monroe reaches forward to take it, Ryman says, 'It has been good working for you, sir, but I'm afraid the Deputy here has offered me a new position and it is a little too good to turn down. I'm sure you understand.' Monroe stands statue-like, 'Whaddya mean...' Ryman pulls the trigger on the key and it fires an ounce of lead into Monroe's chest. Monroe, looking startled, simply slides to the floor, twitching as a pool of blood takes minutes to form around him. The Deputy looks down and then checks his watch. ‘Do you think he is dead yet, Erik? Just that time is ticking on?’ ‘Yes, sir, I would imagine he is.’ 'Excellent. Excellent. Quite a beautiful shot that, Erik, we really must hunt together. Have you ever been after Stags?' 'No, sir, I'm afraid I haven't, though I've shot into a few bucks in my time.'
He throws the specially crafted key-gun on top of Monroe's inert body and retrieves the real key from his desk. 'Ah, trés drôle, Erik, trés drôle. Shall we go now? You'll of course need to change in the car.' The Deputy looks at his watch once again, tasting metal as he silently burps. Ryman reaches for a holdall, a sliver of scarlet silk caught in the zipper. 'It wouldn't do to be late, now would it?' Ryman spins the key on his finger before handing it to the Deputy and shrugs his own coat onto his shoulders. 'No, sir, it most definitely wouldn't.'
Doris arrives at the palace, to dance. 'Business complete?' 'Yes, darling, the fool will be scuttling back to South America, bursting to tell his tale.' 'Good, that will please the President, he needs an excuse.' 'I don't know why.' 'Well, they aren't like us British, are they, my dear? Far too stiff and proper.' 'Indeed. Now, do you want me to grease the pole, or have you already been doing your warm-up?'
-----BEGINS----Charlie walks into the nursery, looking through the windows of the incubators at dozens of bright pinhole eyes lost in yellow fluffiness. He raises the glass to them in silent salute, a future generation; they don't know what they have been let in for. Shaking his head slightly, he opens the top of the incubator, a cacophony of excited cheeping greets him as one after another he gently takes the chicks and places them on the floor before raising the glass one more time for each of them and smashing their innocent brains in. ----- ENDS -----
The Leader sits on a reinforced chaise longue, savouring the final moments of a reality show on television. 'What are you watching, dear?' a voice calls from the bathroom, 'Oh, just some CCTV footage. Do you want to see it? They've finally dug out the last of the Hoarders.' 'Well, that took them long enough. Where was he hiding?' Doris walks into the room, towelling his hair, looks at his reflection in a gilt-framed mirror and slowly and carefully places it back on his head. 'Oh, the bastard had been hiding with his mutts in a disused badger's set for three months. The Hairshirts found him, though; they've been so much more efficient since we started using the wolves, of course. That was a fine suggestion, my dear.' Doris preens and fluffs his wig before yet another long admiring gaze at himself in a full-length mirror. 'Oh, we aim to please.' 'Indeed you do.' 'Indeed, we most definitely do.'
Doris catches a glimpse of the television screen just as the Hoarder is thrown, screaming and very much still alive, onto a burning pyre. 'Ooh, that must have smarted.' 'Yes, that will teach him not to flout an edict. I bet that is the last time he keeps a dog.' Doris starts, as ever shocked, though he doesn't know why, by the Leader's obvious madness. 'Indeed.'
“Mirror on the driveway catches light from reflected cars, spilling its joy across the face of a rabbit that eats stolen lettuce, stopping and starting with each passing, dreaming of interstellar space travel.” Nenko Joretsu
The Leader re-watches a recording of the death of the last Hoarder, alone now, apart from the bulldog sitting on his lap. 'There, got the bastard. I knew there was one left out there somewhere, I could just about smell it.' He gently strokes the dog. 'They've all gone now, Churchill, all gone. Oh, I know you should have been dealt with too, my darling, but you were never like the others, Winnie, you were never like the others. I mean, they were stinking treacherous bastards and you could never trust them, but you're different, you've always been different. I was saying to the Deputy just yesterday, I hate those bastard mutts; I'd happily strangle every one of them, but Winnie? Well, Winnie is different - its Winnie, isn't it? I don't actually think of him as a dog at all, he's practically one of us.'
“The underwear smiles at the woman from the Travel Inn floor, he'd said he was a writer but then she'd said she was a publisher.” Nenko Joretsu
The cavalcade moves from the curb, a long windy liquorice caterpillar, sidling along empty streets with no butterfly potential worthy of mention. Doris looks out through the smoked, armoured glass at what he'd always regarded as his city, noting the multitude of changes that had been implemented over the last dozen years. He sighs; every dictator feels obliged to build a fitting monument to his own unique greatness and architecture always had the best chance of survival, after all. The Leader was no different in that, it was just a shame that his tastes were so very - juvenile. Yes, childish, that was what it was, strangely odd for such a sensitive man. In the car behind, the Deputy is less concerned about the surroundings, instead sweating over the detail of the evening's events. He didn't doubt that Monroe had done a thorough job, his methods may have been a little gauche, but he always delivered. Had always delivered, he corrected himself. Turning his attention to the pavement he notices a family of four making their way along the side of the cars. Both of the children, he realises, are using the latest Nike 'Styx' - the coolest fashion accessory among the blind, young, urban and style conscious - and, he thinks, are no doubt making a
complete racket with their downloaded Styctones. It never ceased to amaze him how everything, no matter how tragic, could be turned to a profit. Still, he invested a few 'bob' in a couple of the leading Styctone companies, including the one responsible for the dirge he kept hearing through his office window, the Liquidised Frog, and had a healthy portfolio of 'urban leisure' producers, so he wasn't going to complain. The Faversham family were making their way along the Western Avenue, each proudly wearing the latest commemorative 'Champions League Winners' West Bromwich Albion football shirts with 'Rooney' writ large across the shoulders. Smethwick and Wednesbury, as the Deputy had noticed, were both using the latest and trendiest Styx to navigate their way between the yellow cobbles, having being among the first of the children to be blinded on the infamous march and had, as he guessed, replaced the manufacturer's standard beeping - a kind of radar that allowed them to 'see' objects in their path - with something noisier. Dave, their stepfather, was carping about their choices 'You see, that's wot I carnt anderstand, innit? Its all very well them been blind and all thart, bat why the fackin' 'ell do we 'ave ter listen ter that fackin' racket? I mean, wots wrung wiv the fackin' beeping', eh?' Kylie, his partner, rolls her eyes, 'Yor satch a cant, Dave, wots wrong wiv 'um havin' sammat nice ter listen ter? Ar mean, they dent get match, do they, eh?'
'Fack off, you old slag, they get fackin everything', dent they? I mean, it ain't like they're fackin' really blind, issit, its…' 'For fack's sake, Dave, moind yar fackin' mouf there's fackin' people lis'nin', you stupid cant, you nar the fackin score, dentchya?' Dave looks sheepish and not a little worried as he looks around. Relieved that the official Departmental cars have gone, he speaks a lot quieter. 'Its awright, thur ain't no cant lisnin.' 'Bat wot abaht the fackin microphones, you daft cant? It ain't like they turn them fackin' things off, issit? You stupid bleeder. If you fack ap mar incapacity…' 'All I mean to say is that they dent need them noisy fackin Styctones - they do mar fackin ‘ead in. I mean, I wouldn't mind if they had the same fackin' ones, but shithead there has got his saying, 'Fack' every time the fackin stick hits the grand and princess fackin perfect there has got hers saying, 'Love Me, I'm Cute' – I mean, it sarnds loike a fackin nat-hars, dannit?' 'Ah, babe, thar jast fackin' kids, int they? Know what I mean … jast fackin kids…' The Leader sits across three seats at the back of a custom-reinforced Rolls Royce, the world looking magnified through the bazooka-proof glass surrounding him, but unnoticed, as he is preoccupied, talking to the sole of his left shoe. 'But, Dwight, I know that you loved your country and adored your wife, but times have changed since then and the world has moved on. It is the 21st century now and the old ways are simply no longer our ways. We live in an electronic age, a
new age of reason and we have to treat our citizens a lot better than you did in your day. Nobody is going to accept the primitive approaches that you got away with back then.' The shoe looks back at him with a vaguely nervous feeling, deep in its sole. 'It is like I was saying to Winnie the other day, unless we take a strong stance against these elements, we can't possibly hope to keep control of the situation. Oh, I know what you are going to say, I've heard it all before from Winnie, but a firm hand is the only approach.' He looks searchingly at his shoe, which, to its credit, tries to look interested. 'But what do you think, Dwight? What is the famous Eisenhower-view on our approach to such things?' The shoe remains impeccably silent and the Leader sighs. 'Oh, you do disappoint me, Dwight, truly you do. I thought better of you. You see, this is my city now and I have had to build it in my own image and if you or anybody else can't see what it means to me - and I ask for so little, Dwight, so very little - well, they will just have to deal with the consequences.' With that, the Leader starts to hit the window with the heel of his shoe, which remains defiantly unmoved. Doris jumps out of his chair. 'Please, do you have to do that – I nearly pissed myself?' The Leader ignores him, starting to hit himself across the face with the bottom of his shoe, over and over, until a slightly amused, yet vaguely concerned, but still generally bored Doris reaches across and takes the shoe from his hand.
'Look, dear, there is no need for all that, now is there?' The Leader's gaze jumps around the car, whilst Doris worries that he is sounding like June Whitfield . 'But why won't they listen, Doris, why the fuck do they never listen to me? I don't want much, I don't need their fear, I just want to be loved, Doris, I'm a lover, Doris, can't they see that? I just want them to love me as I love each and every one of them – and I mean that most sincerely – is it so much to ask?' Doris coos as she mops his brow with one of his discarded socks. 'No, dearest, no it isn't. They've never appreciated you, have they, dear? They've never understood what kind of world you've saved them from. There, let Doris take it all away, let Doris make it better.' The Leader starts to curl his dramatic bulk into Doris' arms, who leans forward to whisper in his ear, having first given him a peck on the cheek. 'There now, it'll be OK, darling; it will be all nice and dandy. We're going to go along to this silly party of the Deputy's and then we can go home and do a little dancing. I've got a new polka to show you.' She kisses him again, all over his enormous face and grimaces. 'Have you changed your aftershave, dearest?' The Leader sits back in his seat, calmer now, but confused. 'No, I still wear the one you gave me for Leadermas.' 'Well, I think maybe...'
Doris spits into a tissue and retrieves the Leader's shoe from the floor, nose wrinkling in disgust. 'I think that perhaps you have trodden in something again ... the tread of your shoe is full of it.' * The cars arrived at the 'New Tower', a massive construction built on the site of the regenerated meaning demolished - Tower of London, visible throughout the capital, acting as a constant reminder of the Department's love for its people. Pulling into an underground car park, the car carrying the most beloved of the world's dictators, is immediately surrounded by concentric circles of personal protection officers, second level bodyguards, caterers, members of the special forces, Hairshirts, police officers and yet more caterers. Moving as one to form a protective donut, the car and its twitching buffer against the rest of the world drops out of sight as the platform on which it stopped descends through the floor and is rapidly transported a hundred metres underground. Finally, and only after the arrival of traditionally dressed Beefeaters, is the door ceremoniously opened and the Leader and Doris invited to extract themselves from the car. Doris, shaking his hair and smoothing his dress turns to the Yeoman and asks, 'Where is the Deputy then, dearest?' 'He has arrived via gate 77, ma'am, and will join you above. Ma'am.' 'Thank you, shall you lead us on?'
At this, Doris pats the man's hand warmly, an act that means he never again leaves the Tower, as the Leader – like most self-appointed deities – proves himself a jealous god. Emerging from the gilded goods lift that had taken them to the 321st floor - the first 300 floors of course being retained for the housing of those that have been invited to the Tower at the Leader's personal displeasure, with the remaining twenty floors being given over to the catering corps - they step into a dimly lit room, to be met by the Deputy and a dozen other terrified officials. 'Pleasant journey, sir?' The Deputy starts to sweat. It had taken a lot of courage to address his obviously pissed-off superior, but he smiles slightly as Doris answers with a wink, 'Not too bad, Deputy, but I think that perhaps we should move along now?' Doris arches his eyebrows in the Leader's direction and mouths, 'Now.' The Deputy understands instantly. It is clearly one of those days. Typical. He had been hoping to get through it alive. The Leader emerges from his torpor and asks, 'Is Monroe joining us, Deputy? I thought he would be here for this.' The Deputy and Doris exchange a look and again it is Doris that responds, 'Don't you remember, dear? He had an appointment with the American ambassador and couldn't be bothered to change the time. Something to do with the price of pork bellies.' He glances at the Deputy, 'He said he'd ‘Catch you later…’
The Leader's face turned aubergine. 'Did he? Did he really?' 'Indeed.' Moving swiftly, the Leader grabs the nearest Beefeater by the scruff of the neck and hits him square in the face with a hammering right hook, before twisting his head until a sharp crack echoes around the room. Doris rolls his eyes; that had been the fourth this month, they would soon be running out. The Leader shakes his shoulders and – pleased that he still has it – smiles as he turns back to face the Deputy. 'Well, we'll have to see about Mr Monroe, Deputy.' 'Yes, sir.' 'Would you handle that for me? You can explain it to the Americans, of course.' 'Yes, sir, I'll do that immediately.' Doris smiles, pleased that they had tidied things up nicely. He addresses the Deputy and points to the wall of black velvet curtains before them. 'Shall we?' The Deputy gives a small bow and wonders whether he should have organised popcorn. 'Sir?' The Leader re-awakens from his daze. 'Yes, yes, lets get on with it.' The Deputy gives a small clap and the Yeoman of the Guard moves forward with a golden key on a velvet pillow. Taking the key, the Deputy offers it to the Leader, 'Sir, would you like to...' The Leader shakes his bulky head, 'Give it Doris, he's good with his hands.'
Doris picks at his dress in mock humility, looking down as the curtains silently glide away to reveal a balcony the size of a football pitch. The Deputy hands the key to Doris, who spins it on his finger for the second time that day. 'Shall we then?' Doris moves toward the balcony and an honour guard of scarlet-clad Beefeaters fan out to provide a wall of colour, marking a pathway into the daylight. Doris lightly runs his hand over their uniforms as he passes; unable to resist the dyed peacock feathers he designated the new uniforms to be made from. 'Aren't they beautiful, dear? He turns toward the Leader, who is startled from his own preoccupations, but answers, 'Yes, Doris, you did a marvellous job.' Doris preens, as the peacocks now cannot. 'Oh, do you think so? You aren't just saying that, are you?' He fans himself with the hat of the nearest Beefeater. 'Well, what does everybody else think?' The Leader looks into the horrified faces surrounding him and all answer positively as one. Doris fans himself once more and gives a little curtsey, 'Thank you, kind sirs.' The Deputy, anxious, nods toward the lectern at the front of the balcony. Doris takes a step forward, up and onto a low platform and the Leader and Deputy follow his example. They all take a moment to silently look out and across what used to be the Mall, Regent's Park and a few other postcodes. Finally, the Leader speaks,
'There isn't a lot there now, is there, Doris?' Doris shrugs and looks at the sweating Deputy who answers, 'Oh, but we need to wind it up, sir.' The Leader looks confused, 'Wind it up? We've only just fucking got here. What I want to know is why the fucking hell we bothered coming for this?' He points out across what looks to be a yellow, cobbled landscape, with a large car park or helicopter-landing pad marked out in red cobbles in the centre. The Deputy jumps. 'No, sir, I mean, err, no – I didn't mean that that was it, sir, I mean we need to wind it up to make it work – with the key, I mean, sir...' He points toward the key Doris is again spinning on his finger. 'In there.' He moves his finger, tracing an arc until it is pointing at a small, previously unnoticed hole in the wood of the lectern. 'You need to put it in and give it a quick twist, Dor...err, ma'am.' Doris giggles, 'Ooh, that sounds fun, doesn't it, dear?' The Leader, for the first time in decades, lightens up. 'Doesn't it, Doris, doesn't it?' 'Indeed.' The Deputy looks around, slightly pinker than normal. 'Perhaps, sir...' Doris rolls her eyes at the Leader and conspires a wink at the Deputy as he says,
'Oh, lets get this over with, shall I?' He mimes the turning of the key and the Leader laughs like a stuck bull. 'Oh, why the fuck not.' Doris shimmies forward, catches sight of his reflection in the Perspex of the outer 'bubble' and sighs as he realises that even on a balcony the Leader, and he, can only ever really be a captive of circumstance, but quickly remembers that this isn’t that type of book. The reflection looks back at him, a smirk staining the rouged lips, a painted eyebrow somehow managing to look sardonic. He looks a total hag, he thinks, and for the first time realises what he has become. A faux, ersatz belle de jour, nuit and anywhere that the lights are dim enough to pass for anything other than the vilest trannie. He feels the eyes of the room on his chiffon-covered back, but pauses a moment longer. What was it he really wanted from life? All that ambition, energy and networking, where had it really led him? He had said it many times and in many ways, but he had snared himself the love of a dictator, when all that he had really wanted was the ring of a prince. He sighs as he leans forward, hearing the gentle tearing of his skirt as he negotiates the edge of the keyhole, finally managing to waggle the key enough for it to slip noiselessly into the hole. He stands straight upright, daring the embittered, desperate fuckers to even snigger. Of course they don't. The Leader would have had them for spud food. He suppresses a snigger at that, thinking of that poor fucker in the 'gale and where his destiny was
leading him. Nowhere worth a visit, that was for sure. 'Drum roll.' Doris waves his hands as he makes the request and a team of drummers step from behind curtains and begin to play like raindrops on a conservatory roof, first the bass, then the kettle, tambourine and finally, bodhran. 'OK, OK, enough already, you're giving me a fucking headache.' The Leader brings the regular beat to an abrupt end way before the crescendo and Doris points his tongue in his cheek in recognition. Time to get this farce over with. He clears his throat. 'Gentlemen, I'm not quite sure what will happen, but I am about to turn the key and...' He looks around the room, feral. '...don't forget to clap. I do like a bit of a clap after a performance.' He turns the key. Nothing happens. He turns the key. Nothing happens. He turns the key. Nothing happens. And then, it does. * Despite themselves, the gathering in the room takes a step forward en masse and peer out and down from the balcony at the cobbled scene below.
The red of what had seemed to be a landing pad seems brighter somehow, more intense and Doris glancing at the Deputy - defies the effects of weekly Botox injections and manages to raise a questioning eyebrow. The Deputy, having missed the dress rehearsal, shrugs; god only knew what Monroe had put together. Below the balcony, sitting on a newspaper, Dave and Kylie watch Smethwick and Wednesbury fencing with their Styx, having given up on the pretence of blindness when the chance to jump from one cobble to the next trumped what was left of the Ice Cream money offered by the Department. 'Fack, Love Me, I'm Cute, Fack, Love Me, I'm Cute, Fack, Love Me, I'm Cute, Fack, Fack, Fack, Fack.' Wednesbury produces a flurry of sabre lunges and has almost knocked Smethwick to the floor with the power of the strokes, before a quick, 'Love Me, I'm Cute,' catches him across the knuckles and his Styx clatters across the cobbles. An air raid siren of a voice starts to whine. 'Maaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmmm. Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmm. Teeeelllllllllll hhhhhheeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrr.' Rubbing his knuckles now to ensure that they stay red, he lunges at his sister and grabs her weapon from her hand, before hitting her over the head with a series of violent blows. 'Love Me, I'm Cute, Love Me, I'm Cute, Love Me, I'm Cute, Love Me, I'm Cute, Love Me, I'm Cute, Love Me, I'm Cute, Love Me, I'm Cute.' Dave has had enough.
'Far facks sake, you fackin cretins, SHAT THE FACK AP, AND I AIN'T TELLIN' YOO AGAYN.' Kylie shakes her head, 'Ah, Dave, they're only playin'. Leave 'em tha fack alone, eh?' Dave turns toward her, 'Thar dooin' mar fackin 'ead in, shat 'em tha fack ap, for fack's sake.' He sits back down and reaches for a can of Brainaddler Super, farts as he opens the can and belches loudly. Kylie isn't impressed with Dave's performance, 'Ah, far facks sake, you dam cant, do ya 'ave ta do that?' Dave shrugs, as all the characters in this book seem to shrug, vaguely indifferent, but without the need for any more of the painful dialogue. 'Do ya fink any facker is gonna do anyfink here, or wot?' Kylie shrugs as well, but without even the usual minimal interest. 'Fack nars, you got any wallys?' Dave reaches for the cool bag, 'Yeah, thar in 'ere, next ter the whelks.' Doris turns the key once more and notes that something is definitely starting to happen. 'Can you see it, dearie?' He addresses the Leader, patting his arm and pointing at the now pulsating red light of what he still thought of as the landing pad. 'What? I can't see anything, Doris.' And then he can, as a ticking and tocking great wall of sound begins to reverberate across the cobbles and the red circle of light stretches
tentacles across the acres of floor toward the tower. The Leader and all in his shadow, which is just about everybody on the balcony, take an involuntary step forward as the ticking and tocking slowly merges and morphs into the beauty of a child's music box. Dinging and tinkling, the cacophonous sound slowly forms into a shimmering, repetitive tune, ding-ding-ding-dingding-di-di-ding, dong-dong-dong-dong-dong-di-didong, over and over, the eyes of the whole assembly glazing and glistening, ding-ding-dingding-ding-di-di-ding, dong-dong-dong-dong-dongdi-di-dong. Slowly, a hexagonal mass begins to form in the cobbles, perhaps three or four miles across, the cobbles fading into yellow and out to red stripes a quarter mile wide, slowly, turning and rising an inch at a time, the soundtrack still hypnotic ding-dingding-ding-ding-di-di-ding, dong-dong-dong-dongdong-di-di-dong, over and over, ding-ding-dingding-ding-di-di-ding, dong-dong-dong-dong-dongdi-di-dong, the platform slowly turning and rising, music tinkling, the stripes forming, ding-ding-dingding-ding-di-di-ding, dong-dong-dong-dongdoooooooonnnnnnnnggggggg. And then, as if by some far-off magic, all movement stops, the inner light of the cobbles dims as the music slows and fades. There is silence. Doris looks at the Deputy who raises his eyebrows, yet forgets to shrug. There is more silence. Somebody coughs. The Leader, finally noticing the lack of entertainment, turns to Doris,
'Do we take it that that was it, then?' Doris looks at the Deputy who blankly shrugs, forgetting his eyebrows. 'I don't know, dearest. Maybe we should just wait a minute and see what happens.' 'But I'm hungry...' 'Deputy, perhaps some nibbles?' 'A fine idea.' The Deputy claps his hands and swathes of bearers flood the balcony, each carrying morsels for the Leader and the collection of dignitaries. The Leader looks pleased. 'Excellent. I'll have the crispy venison, nothing quite like deep fried Bambi on a cold winter's day.' He is immediately handed a whole hock, which he begins to devour. Doris casually wanders back to the dais at the front of the balcony and is joined by an equally casual looking Deputy. 'What the fuck is going on?'I'm off for lunch The Deputy flinches at the hissing assault. 'I don't know, I thought you sorted all of this out with Monroe...' 'I only sorted the workers out; I never got near this part of it. What did Monroe tell you about it?' The Deputy, still looking immaculately calm, begins to wrack his brains. What had Monroe said about the plans? Only that it was idiot-proof and that he wouldn't trust the fat cretin with anything electric... One lamp, at least, becomes illuminated. The Key. The Deputy hisses back at Doris, 'It needs to be wound up - the whole thing is clockwork - we just need to wind it up.'
Doris, for once, is speechless and simply leans forward and starts to turn the key. The music whirrs back into life. Dddddiiiiiiinnnnnnnggging-ding-ding-ding-ding-didi-ding, dong-dong-dong-dong-dong-di-di-dong. The lights brighten, the cobbles glow and the hexagonal platform resumes its gentle ascent once more. The Leader claps, spilling grease across the floor and scattering a selection of Departmental staff in search of cleaning products. 'Oh, well done, Doris, it is working again. I hoped that there would be a bit more to it than all that.' Doris simpers as he moves into the crook of the Leader's arm. 'It is all clockwork, dearest. You know how you like a bit of clockwork.' 'Indeed I do, Doris, and may all your Ls be silent.' Silence. If this were a Vic Reeves sketch we'd be talking tumble weeds. But, thankfully, it isn't. Dave and Kylie look up from where they are enjoying their jellied eels at the edge of the now glowing-red cobbles. 'Whatcha fink these fackers are doin'?' Kylie shrugs. 'Dunno, but they'd look wicked darn our paff, wunthey, Dave?' 'Yeah, too fackin' rite.' Dave, looking over both shoulders sequentially, quickly extracts a knife from a sheath sewn into the seam of his jeans. He checks all around once more for cameras and determinedly starts to try to dig around one of the cobbles.
'Keep yer fackin' peepers open, princess, this'll be sorted in two shakes of a lamb's booty...' Doris leans on the side of the balcony, shaking his own booty in the direction of one of the Beefeaters, who is paling by the second having seen the writing on this particular wall far too often. 'Deputy sweetie?' The Deputy looks around from his Senior Service packet and sadly knocks the cigarette he had been extracting back into place. 'Yes, can I be of service?' Doris steps toward him and talks in a stage whisper, 'You can cut that crap out, sunshine.' 'Sorry, Doris.' 'No matter. Look, is it just me or is this all going on a bit? He's getting bored...' The Deputy looks out and across the glowing carpet of cobbles and notes that they are taking on a faster tempo as they flash messages across the floor before them. Slogans. Typically, it had been Doris who noted them first. 'Hail The Leader' was the first, quickly followed by 'Department Rules' which the Deputy assumed to be a typical Monroe - American - perspective on irony. Quickly these had rotated - much to the Leader's delight through a variety of slogans and sayings with 'Thy Will Be Done' even extracting a small round of applause across the balcony. But... Well, it had gone on for fifteen minutes now and the wording got a little desperate.
He could easily imagine Monroe getting slowly more and more drunk as he was writing the list for the programmers and whilst he could have laughed at the Leader being kept waiting, and maybe even see it as Monroe's last piece of manipulation, 'Fat Arse' even if it was only displayed for a millisecond, was taking things a little far. 'Wait a minute, something is finally happening...' Doris, looking down on the landscape, was again the first to see the words disappear to be replaced by concentric circles rotating and pulsating inwards, to give a tunnel-like effect. Very pretty. 'Dahling, have you seen this?' The Leader looks up from the impromptu cockfight a couple of the Beefeaters had arranged for him at short notice. 'I'll be with you in a moment, my dear, I've got money on this.' Doris rolls his eyes and whispers once more to the Deputy, 'I hope he does win for that poor bugger's sake.' Dave gives up on the cobble and watches Wednesbury hitting Tipton with something. 'Oi, Tipton, far facks sake keep yer fackin' defense up, you cant.' Kylie looks up from her magazine. 'Wot's he hittin' 'er wiv, Dave?' 'Dunno, lav. WHAT THE FACK IS THAT YOOV GOT?' Kylie spills her Special Brew across the magazine. 'Fackin' 'ell, Dave.' She picks the magazine from the cobbles gingerly, ensuring that none of the nectar drips on her clothes before funnelling it into her mouth.
Dave is more interested in what it is that Wednesbury is holding - a cobble. 'Har the fackin' 'ell did ya get that art?' Wednesbury speechlessly signs an unscrewing motion. 'They fackin' an screw? Fack me.' Dave scratches his head, concerned to be upstaged by somebody else's son. 'Roight. Get that fackin' bag, princess, and lets get sam ah these fackers away before sam facker notices.' Doris points at a black spec that seems poetically to be a million miles away. 'Can you see that, honey?' The Leader follows his finger, but is distracted by a sudden, jerking movement to the left of where he was looking. 'What in heaven's name...' Doris follows his gaze, as the platform that previously seemed a metre high, raises high up and into the sky, a vertical stripy wall emerging from the cobbles. 'Shit indeed.' Doris holds his breath as the platform - stage? grinds to a halt and with a clunking and clanging stops. Dave looks down at the small pile of unscrewed cobbles and then at the one he has up and until that point being unwinding. 'Fack me.' Slowly he looks at a wide-mouthed Kylie, who seems to be doing a fine impression of a blow-up doll and then looks back down at the cobble.
'Do it back ap, Dave, fer fack's sake.' Dave, manfully, starts to turn the cobble anticlockwise and with a hiss and another series of clanks and clunks, the platform starts to rotate. 'Fackin' 'ell, Dave, turn the facker off far shitsakes, sam facker is gonna notice'. Doris claps his hands and the Leader and Deputy stand forward as the melodic tinkling begins to waft across the gap and up to their perch on the balcony. Smoothly, the music box, which Doris has finally realised he is looking down at, turns faster and faster until it reaches 33rpm and its red-andyellow toothpaste stripes begin to soften and stretch … at least, optically. 'It's wooden, isn't it?' The Leader speaks softly, with awe, and all realise the rhetorical nature of his question. Dave watches as Kylie and her children scarper across the cobbles, Styx forgotten, leaving a splashed Special Brew track behind them. 'Far fack's sake, Kyles, I only turned the fackin' stone? It ain't mar fackin' falt, issit?' The Leader looks enraptured by the rotating music box and a gleam of recognition lights his eyes. 'This is going to be very special, Doris, I have guessed the surprise.' Doris and the Deputy exchange their usual shrugs, but they, too, quickly return to the music box; in time to see the top starting to rotate in the opposite direction to the base. 'Ooh, that's clever...'
Like a sentient jigsaw the top starts to show lines, then cracks and, as though a magician’s puzzle, slowly the pieces come apart and disappear mechanically, leaving a black chasm in its place. 'Is it a gun, do you think?' Doris asks the Leader. 'I don't think so, dear. I think we are about to have a visitor.' And so it proves as Doris sees something somebody? - move within the darkness and slowly, painfully rise into the air below them. 'It's a puppet. I can't believe it's a puppet...' Doris looks enquiringly at the Deputy whose face now wears the same beatified expression of recognition that had overtaken the Leader's vast visage. 'Don't you recognise him, Doris? It is somebody very special.' Doris looks harder now as a wooden head emerges, with an obviously wooden face and then shoulders that are equally carved from the same block - all the time spinning slowly on a rising box within a box, and an apron and two arms and a toolbox and, and... 'Shit, its Chippy Minter, isn't it?' The Leader and Deputy both nod at the interruption as the music continues and Chippy Minter rotates to a halt below them. The music fades and in its place an echoing clanking noise reverberates across the park and then also fades. And then, there is nothing. Dave looks up at the striped wall before him from his place on the floor, holding his twisted ankle and rubbing his head.
'Wot tha fackin' 'ell is goin' on 'ere, then?' 'Look, over there, what is that?' The Deputy and Leader reluctantly look where Doris is indicating and see something slowly flying at a level with the balcony; it is moving in their direction. 'I really don't know, dear. It seems too slow to be a missile.' The Leader looks enquiringly at the Deputy, who shakes his head. 'That seems a little unlikely, sir.' Doris turns back toward Chippy and the music box as faint, operatic music begins to build around them. 'What now?' 'I believe it is Puccini.' The Deputy scratches his head. Opera had been banned in the early days, along with all things Italian, after a young reporter compared the Leader to Mussolini in his 'fat ridiculousness'. Most odd, who would be stupid enough to... 'Its a gondola.' The Leader laughs and shakes his head. 'My, Monroe really pulled out all the stops with this one. I almost forgive him.' Doris looks sharply at the Deputy. '..but not quite.' The Deputy sighs as the gondola - for that is what is floating across the sky - draws to a halt next to the music box and is instantly surrounded by a flurry of pyrotechnics and lasers. Doris claps, despite himself and looks carefully at the levitating gondola.
'I wondered what Monroe wanted with the surplus Harrier.' The Deputy nods. 'Yes, but it is very effective.' 'Indeed.' The fireworks build to a final crescendo and all stops, the late breeze slowly wafting the smoke away to reveal that Chippy has climbed aboard the 'boat' and been replaced by a mandolin symphony orchestra that breaks into the theme from Born Free. Slowly, the gondola floats away from the music box stage, with Chippy at the tiller, smooching to the music as he loops a casual loop and pulls off a quite masterful fly-by of the balcony. 'He's a bit flash that Minter chap, isn't he sweetheart?' The Leader doesn't seem to hear as he taps his foot to the sound of a hundred mandolins, mandolas and basoukis. 'I've always loved the mandolin, Doris. My Mother used to play, did you know?' 'No, dearest, I didn't. She must have been very proud of you though, sweetie, very proud.' The Leader seemed set to cry at that and noisily blew his nose. 'Oh, I'm afraid she never lived to see – ' He waved his arms around him in circumnavigation. ' – all of this. But, perhaps, she was quite a remarkable woman.' Wide-hipped, was the general, concealed, consensus among those listening in. 'She once wrestled a baboon, you know.'
Doris didn't. 'Professionally, I mean, it wasn't a hobby or anything like that. No, she used to travel across the country with a circus, often raising the Big Top single-handed if she arrived ahead of everybody else. I can see her now, guy rope over one shoulder, a row of tent pegs in her mouth, pulling ropes and knocking the pegs in with the heel of her Scholls. She was quite a woman.' Doris looked at the Deputy in alarm - was this for real or had the man finally cracked? The Deputy wasn't sure himself. 'Sir, but about the baboon, did she really fight one?' 'Wrestled. She never raised her hand in anger, not even if it was part of the act. Not that it was a setup, she really did wrestle one - many times in fact - and only lost the first couple of bouts as the baboon kept hanging from the trapeze and taking swipes at her. She soon worked that one out, though. She wasn't going to have some baboon making a...' '...monkey of her? Oh, very droll, sir.' The Deputy laughed smugly. 'I was going to say 'fool of her.' I'm not joking, Deputy, I never joke. Not about anything' Dave started to hobble across the cobbles - he'd be glad to get back home, away from this wall. What was that all about anyway? What was the point of putting on fireworks and music if you stick a wall in front of it? Well, apart from Pink Floyd maybe, they did it, but at least it went up whilst they were playing and they knocked it down again. Arty twats.
'Thank fack for that,' he thought, realising that he only had another hundred metres to go before he reached the end of the cobbles. 'These fackers are shit to work on, nar wander those facking Victorians were sar fackin' miserable all the fackin time.' Leaning on one of the Styx he hadn't been able to bring himself to leave behind, he reached into his pocket for a cigarette. Not that he was meant to smoke anywhere other than in one of the 'Fumidors' these days, but there didn't seem to be one around and anyway, why should he pay twenty quid to stand in a revamped fone box for five minutes and come out smelling of the disinfectant they put into the air-con. Tossers. He'd rather risk the six months inside, at least there you were allowed the odd roll up if the warders didn't have the bottle to come into your cell after lights out. Lighting his cigarette, Dave jumped as the cobbles started to glow in front of him. Not all of them this time, but a circle around the perimeter about ten feet wide. 'Wot thar fack is goin' on nar...' Doris looked down at the cobbles as the gondola started to manoeuvre alongside the balcony. They were lit again at the edge, a single circle this time. He really didn't know where this was all leading. Monroe had kept him and everybody else in the dark about what was going to happen and all he really knew was that Monroe had seen this as a way of usurping the Deputy, without realising that he had a few friends of his own. Arrogant prick.
Dave threw his cigarette to the floor unfinished, a sixth-sense telling him that it was time to get moving again. The sooner he got out of this place and gave Kylie a slap, the better he'd feel. But, too late. On the balcony, the Deputy looked down on Dave standing within the final flashing circle and almost willed him across the line. The man obviously couldn't know what was going to happen and the Deputy didn't know for sure, but he had a good idea that the flashing was leading somewhere. 'Doris, twenty pounds says that that man down there won't get across the circle before something horrible happens?' Doris looked suspicious. 'I thought you didn't know about all of this. What's going to happen then?' 'Oh, I don't know, I just have a feeling that Monroe would have gone for a final splash and that 'ring of fire' must be there for some reason...' Doris looked at Dave and noticed that he was limping and carrying a Styc. 'Oh, come off it, he's blind and he can't walk. That isn't fair, is it?' 'Well, I hadn't...' 'Of course you hadn't, you wouldn't be trying to rip little ol' me off, now would you?' The Deputy laughed. Doris of all people didn't have a hope of carrying off the Scarlett O'Hara. 'No, of course not, Doris.' 'Well, I'm glad to hear it, sugar. But a wager, well, perhaps if you were to offer, say ... 3:1 in my favour.'
The Deputy looked closer at Dave now. He really was hardly moving, yet Doris rarely lost a bet as he usually had a little knowledge on the inside. Doris smiled to himself. Never bet against the prole surviving, that was what he thought. Cockroaches and the undernourished under-classes would survive anything. The Deputy smiled to himself as he noticed the change in the frequency that the cobbles were flashing. The poor man was really in mortal danger, he'd better act quickly. 'You have a bet, Doris.' Dave sat down on the floor and rubbed his ankle. This was doing his head in. He still had fifty yards to go, but it was killing him and he didn't think he could hop that far. Chippy turned his painted face toward the balcony as the gondola slid alongside and Barney McGrew and one of the Pues quickly tied the boat up. Reaching into a cunningly concealed hole in his leg, he removed a set of pipes and started to play. The Leader held Doris' hand as he stepped into the gondola to the sound of Mary, Mungo and Midge, which Chippy had been practising for weeks. The sliding scale needed for the 'descent-of-the-lift' had proven to be a little tricky and Monroe had to have an extra note added to the pipes specifically so that the tune could be played. Chippy looked, but Monroe wasn't among the guests joining The Leader and Doris on the boat, which was a shame in a way, but more of a relief if he was going to be honest about it. He noticed that Doris and the Deputy had run to one side (he could never
remember the nautical term) and were watching a fellow crawl across the cobbles - he had better be quick or he was going to be in a bit of trouble. Dave sat on the floor, defeated, and started to search his pockets for his cigarettes. What a fackin' waste of a day. As he had expected, the Deputy watched the circle of flashing cobbles as they formed a uniform ring of steady light and slowly seemed to meld into a single unit. Quickly he turned to Doris. 'Double or nothing?' Doris looked at him coldly, having finally seen what the Deputy had already guessed. 'Fuck off.' Turning on his heel, he crossed the boat to where the Leader was dismembering a deep-fried rabbit carcass and sucking out the long, alien-looking entrails, which had been carefully stuffed with Parma Ham and oak-roasted garlic. 'You must try these, Doris, bloomin' gorgeous...' Doris declined just at the point the cobbles began to rise, forming an outer wall a dozen feet in front of the crawling Dave, who was beginning to consider the day not one of his better ones. 'Whatta fackin' shit 'un,' he thought. The wall rose to a full 3 metres high and stopped with a clank. 'It looks like a donut.' The Leader scratched his ear absent-mindedly. 'Doris, why have they built a donut?' 'I don't know, dearest. Do you know, Deputy?'
The Deputy looked across the whole of the scene before him, but kept his thoughts to himself. At this point, Chippy pulled the throttle and the gondola lifted higher into the air so that the whole of the scene below could be viewed as one. The new tower seemed to form a bat hitting the donut caused by the walls. Dave shielded his eyes as he watched the gondola reel around the perimeter of the new wall, the sound of the jet engines hiding the noise of the water that started to pour from holes in the outer wall, though he soon noticed as the remaining cobbles started to fountain great plumes of coloured water high into the air. 'Fackin' 'ell, that's me fackin' baggered.' Doris handed the Deputy a note as he watched the water begin to fill the gap between the inner and outer walls and realised that Dave was indeed 'baggered'. The depth increased foot-by-foot, until it formed a multi-coloured moat around the centre stage. Dave tried to swim, but knew it was hopeless as he had never learned to. He blamed Rolf Harris, all those adverts had put him off for life and it was Rolf's toe sticking in the air as his myopic eyes searched for the camera that he saw before him as he went under for the third and final time. Chippy looked down at the water and noted that it had stopped filling. Taking a final circuit around the outer wall, he pressed a button on the dashboard
and gently, the inner wall started to recede into the water, exposing an island in the middle. 'Look, Doris, its the image of Venice.' The Leader pointed at the island as Chippy settled the gondola onto the surface of the water, the jets causing a tide to lap the outer wall. The craft bobbed up and down for a minute before settling into the rhythm of the water. Pushing a lever, Chippy started the motors and the gondola spluttered to a start and began to move toward the island. 'That is absolutely beautiful, just look at the architecture, look at the terraces, the tenements, the archways - everything - it is stunning.' Doris listened to the Leader and could do nothing but agree. Monroe had done a magnificent job and the island they were sailing toward was quite simply beautiful. 'Who'd have thought he had it in him...' The Deputy nodded his agreement. Who indeed. Dave looked up at the surface of the water, a glittering barrier between life and what comes after. Moving in the tide, his head bouncing off the cobbles of the bed of the lake, he felt the water sucking into his tortured lungs, burn for a moment, before sending a cooling heaviness across his chest. It wasn't at all unpleasant and he realised that he felt very calm 'Sar this is wot it fackin' cams darn to then, issit? That fing corlled loife?'
The words flowed around his mind as his body slowly stopped the struggle for breath and relaxed into a cool, cosseted place. His eyes blurring the light from above into a shimmering molten melding of beauty and achingly just out of reach salvation. 'Firty-noine yers, then, eh? Fackin' firty-noine yers. It ain't so fackin bad, issit? Orlroight, it ain't me free score an' ten, bat, oi 'ad a fackin' larf, dint' oi? Ah meen, Kyles is a decent fackin' sort and even tha fackin' brats, I mean, gord lavvem. Fackin' noisy bleeders mind, but fackin' 'ell, kids'll be fackin' kids, wunt they, eh?' Feeling something drag across his chest, he moves his hand through molasses to reach for the Styc. 'Fack me, I carnt fackin' grab it, mast be week as a fackin' babby ah mast. Shit.' Dave moves his hand harder this time and manages to move the Styc so that it falls beside him, gently lapping against his leg. 'So that was fackin' it, then. Loife. It didn't fackin' really matter mach in the end, eh? Jast sam fackin' waste of toime. Still, least I never fackin' hadda work far a fackin' livin, be really fackin' pissed if oid dan that, tellin'yer. Nah, dent need none a that fackin' shit, does mar head roit in. Gonna miss ol' Wednesbury though, good fackin' kid, that 'un. Wooda loiked to see that 'un growin' up. Kid to be fackin prard 'a, that 'un.' Dave, eyes closing, starts to roll across the lake bed. 'Oi can see fackin' lites - fack me. Shit, I never far a minnit fort, nah, not far a fackin' second, that there wood be samfin' after. I meen, fack me, it ain't evern fackin' hot.'
Opening his mouth, lit cobbles jammed into his dying eyes, Dave emits his final mortal breath and belches silently. 'Pissin' 'ell, I can still taste that fackin' kebab, they ortta fackin' shat that shite'ole darn, tastes loike fackin' dog meat.' The Deputy throws his cigarette into the turbulence as the gondola navigates through a gap in the citadel wall and slows to a halt alongside a dock lined with firemen. A brass band starts to play and Doris looks to her left, seeing a bandstand teeming with further firemen, this time wearing brass hats and highly polished buttons over their blue serge uniforms. It all looked horribly familiar. Chippy bowed in the direction of the Leader, but his words addressed them all as he said, 'Sir, ma'am, we have arrived. If it pleases you, we may now alight.' Doris stares at the crashing of the waves against the walls at the hub of Monroe's donut and wonders momentarily whether Dave had managed to escape the flood. It seemed unlikely, but perhaps he should get somebody to check. It would be awful if he could have been saved and nobody tried - he'd have lost his bet for no good reason. The Leader stood straight and stretched his arms above his head. 'Lets go then. I'm getting a little hungry...' The Deputy rolled his eyes at Doris, it was hardly news. 'OK, dearest - lead on McDuff.'
Chippy bowed again as Doris wondered whether he was entirely made of wood. As the dignitaries stepped across the gangplank out and onto the dry land of the dock, Pue, Pue, Barney McGrew, played a four-part harmony on mandolin. 'Is that The Theme From Bagpuss, Doris?' The Leader looked in disbelief. 'I absolutely love Bagpuss, that is really marvellous. Thank you for that, gentlemen, you have quite made my day.' Chippy winked at Doris, seen only by the Deputy, who sighed, knowing he would be searching for termites by the end of the day, which would of course play havoc with the walnut furnishings in the tower. As the party sauntered forward, away from the dock, the Deputy walked alongside Doris, whispering from the side of his mouth. 'Is it just me, or are you expecting something...' '...Nasty?' Doris shrugged. 'It's Monroe we're talking about. I'm expecting a dirty bomb at the least, and god only knows what that madman planned.' The Deputy nodded before reaching for a Senior Service and lighting it with a Zippo. Doris stood for a moment, transfixed by the flame and for some reason was immediately transported back to the mid-nineties, standing on a balcony on Lilliput Avenue, watching moths pirouetting around the sodium-lights from his shared flat in Chichester
Court. He wondered what had happened Houshang and Emett, but only momentarily.
The Leader came to an abrupt halt before them and Doris watched the ripples of fat wobble for a full ten seconds before asking, 'Why have we stopped, dearest?' The Leader simply pointed and shook his head. 'I can't believe it, Doris. It's the flower seller. It's really her...' Doris looked at the Deputy, who stared blankly ahead. 'More surprises', he muttered. Doris, looked at the transfixed Leader and asked, 'The flower seller, sweetie? What flower seller?' The Leader looked through him. 'There has only ever been one flower seller, Doris. Only ever one.' With that the Leader pushed through the bodyguards that were still forming a donut within a donut around him and rushed forward toward the elderly lady, sitting calmly among her petunias at the base of a monument. Doris looked around as he followed the Leader into what was obviously a small town square, noting the multi-coloured bricks and clockwork-looking cars. As Doris looked on, the Leader halted before the decrepit old lady and bowed slightly - the buttons from his jacket chipping paint from a nearby shop and cracking the glass of a Starbucks to the left of the traditional butcher's shop. They really did get everywhere. The flower seller looked up at the Leader and smiled.
'I knew you'd come. You were always meant to come.' 'I always knew we'd meet.' Doris looked perplexed. Who was this woman? The Deputy nudged him in the ribs and pointed up at the clock, which was showing one minute before midnight. 'I don't think that is a coincidence, Doris, do you? Standard CIA trick, I fear, watch out for exploding Freesias.' Doris was a little hurt and instantly became insanely jealous of the flower seller, who was clearly trying her best to usurp him in the Leader's affections. But she was still talking. 'They took away my dogs, you know? My little dogs, they did nobody any harm.' The Leader looked grey. 'It wasn't meant to be that way, it really wasn't. If only I'd known you were here, I'd never have let them...' His voice trailed off as he remembered the fourteen Keano pies he had eaten for breakfast. He pulled himself together. 'I am truly sorry.' The flower seller nodded. She already knew that. 'Shall we dance, sire?' She held her hand out toward him and gently he took it as they moved in unison in a clockwork arrangement. Doris borrowed another cigarette from the Deputy and tapped his foot in time with the music. The Leader and the flower seller had been dancing for a full hour now and he knew from his own experience it wouldn't last much longer. He tried to ignore the
whole scenario and take the Deputy's point that the flower seller wasn't real and 'only clockwork like everything else here' on board, but he had to admit that he was extremely jealous - if only to himself - and that he wouldn't be putting up with this for very much longer. The Leader bowed as the music toppled into a stilted crescendo, and the flower seller – her name was Cilla, he had discovered – sat back down at her monument and started to prune her roses, singing a quiet lullaby at odds with what had been quite a raucous tune only moments before. The Leader looked at a froid Doris and sighed; he should have known that he would be pissed off. But he wasn't having him spoil his evening; this had been too good a time to have mutilated by stroppy women, well, men. 'Doris?' He held his breath despite himself. 'Shall we move on? Cilla tells me that there is something around the corner worth seeing...' Doris stubbed his fag out on the floor and ground it into the yellow cobbles with his nine-inch heel. Cilla is it then. 'Oh, if you've finished your little trot around the place, yes, if you're happy why the Devil not - let's go and see what else there is to have a look at. Maybe there are a couple of young pole-dancers you fancy a quick loop-the-loop with, eh? Why the fuck don't we go and have a look?' The Leader looked crestfallen, he should have known this fairy tale was too good to be true. 'Don't be like that, Doris, I was only dancing and she means nothing to me, err, really...'
Doris did a mean impression of white-trash-onJerry-Springer. 'Oh, I fucking noticed that. Yes, I could see that you were only being polite.' He spat the word with venom normally reserved for bell boys and waiters. 'I'm so pleased that you can spare me the time, sweetie.' The Leader shook his head. He'd had enough. 'I think you forget yourself, Doris.' The Deputy looked at Doris imploringly, he knew the look far too well. But then, so did Doris. 'OK, OK, lets go have a look what else there is then...' The Leader smiled. He hated confrontation and knew how lucky he was that Doris had backed down so soon. He would have hated to kill him; of course, it would have spoiled a beautiful evening, however inevitable it really was. The Leader and Doris walked hand in hand in front of the Deputy, who again reached for a cigarette. His feet were killing him, he really didn't know how Doris wore those monstrosities; he must have calves like melons. As the party turned the corner, the clock chimed a belated midnight and Doris paused as two bronze bell ringers marked the hour by hitting a brass Alsatian's head with ruby-clustered meat cleavers the light hitting the rubies seeming to pour down onto the dogs in a parody of gore. A long forgotten Chippy pressed a button on a remote control that was built into his wrist and
seemingly from nowhere, a large tent filled the landscape before them, with the theme from Barnaby The Bear being piped from all around. The clanging of the hour finally stopped and the bell ringers were returned to their homes by the clockwork roundabout their feet were braised to. As the party ground once more to a halt, the Deputy looked carefully at the vast tent. The billowing wind that had started to enfold them was lifting the skirt of the tent so that he could catch glimpses of what was within. Was this to be it? he wondered. Was this Monroe's crescendo, or were there more games to be played? He had always admired Monroe in a strange way. Polar opposites they may have been, but they did share certain ambitions, and he felt that they had, perhaps grudgingly, seen something of themselves in the other. Of course, they could never have been friends and the ending had been preordained as soon as Monroe had arrived from America, but... Doris looked at the tent for a while. Was this the finale then? What was it that was going to be in the tent? He'd worked with Monroe for too long not to expect the perverse, never mind the unexpected, so what form was it going to take? Chippy stood at the back of the crowd of the great and the good and listened to Arthur Lee's voice singing Hey Joe in his head. There was only one button left that he hadn't pressed, carved in the shape of a boil on the nape of his neck. He ran his hand across the wooden hat he was wearing, or in truth was part of, and waited for the chorus. The Love version of the song had always been his
favourite - Hendrix was good but, in his opinion, lacked the clinical insanity to really make the song believable. Doris looked around the square and for the first time really noticed Chippy. There was something familiar about him - in the way he was playing with what should have been his hair if he'd had some. The Leader stepped forward toward the tent, transfixed by what he was dreaming was ahead of him. Cilla had whispered that it was special and that she would meet him inside, but he wasn't sure that Doris would take her reappearance too well. The Deputy lit a cigarette. He truly didn't care what happened next and looked at Doris. He had been surprised at how he had reacted to the Leader dancing with the flower seller, especially given that their relationship was meant to be so open. Chippy stroked the boil. Doris looked at Chippy. The Leader turned a gentle, beatific pirouette across the cobbles and wondered whether his trademark back flip would be appropriate. Cilla stepped out from behind the tent flap and at the top of her reedy voice shouted, 'Two-Three-Four...' The tent canvas fell to the floor and a band started to play It's Not Unusual entirely on mandolin, as a
forty-foot-high stage was revealed, surrounded by what looked to be football-field-sized fish tanks suspended on trapeze wires. Cilla started to sing richly into her wireless microphone and the Leader drew to a halt as the fish tanks started to rotate, lit brightly by spotlights like neon glitter balls. Buildings on either side of the stage suddenly started to gloop tender lava, Cilla's flower seller garb fell to the floor with a shimmy to reveal a full Vegas-style cocktail outfit made from sugar-spun diamonds. Doris gawped, as the Leader, spellbound walked forward toward Cilla and – taking a second mike from within her amply filled brassiere – started to doo-wop as though his life had led to this point. The Deputy looked at Doris and then at Chippy who was laughing manically and tapping the hat on his head in time with the music. He looked again at the tanks and realised that each was filled with a Blue Whale - even a small one, which looked more fetal with all being obviously pickled in aspic, or more probably formaldehyde. Chippy was ranting and hitting his head over and over whilst simultaneously goose stepping up and down an imagined corridor, taking care to kick what he thought of as the Deputy's door at each passing. Cilla finished the song and ripping her skirt away, revealed a set of pins that nobody imagined were possible.
Doris looked at Chippy and all became clear as he saw him finger the boil and mouth, Gun in my hand, gun in my hand... over and over. He knew he had to do something. Taking a breath, he followed Cilla's lead and ripped his own skirt away, daring everybody there to mention Nads. Kicking his heels off, he scurried across the square to the Deputy, who had been looking for a light – his Zippo giving out at an unfortunate moment – and started to slap his balding pate. The Leader and Cilla looked on, stopping mid flow, and watched in horror as a pissed-off Deputy started to chase Doris across the cobbles. The Leader couldn't understand what was happening and started to move behind the fleeing couple. Cilla, too, was drawn to them and followed in his noxious wake, although she couldn't of course see his quarry. The Yeoman of the Beefeaters decided that he'd better follow and ordered his men to join the fleeing group. The town firemen mounted their engine and started to ring the bell. The Leader's caterers and personal security detail also decided to follow and the clanking of the cutlery trolley syncopated nicely with the mandolindriven groove.
Doris only had one thought in mind and that was to flee. He knew Monroe was going to reek his ugly vengeance on the whole place, but if he could only get to the gondola... The Deputy had had enough and wanted to smack the tranny tosser in the mouth. Who the fuck did he think he was? Just some trumped-up office boy with a nice line in patois and bitchiness. Chippy stopped fingering his boil, concerned that his prey were leaving the site of his greatest triumph. On the stage, the band was looking at each other. What should they do? Michael, who had played in jazz bands all his life and only taken this gig to avoid Battersea, whispered something to Courtney and they both giggled before breaking into the Chase Theme from Benny Hill. The opportunity had been too good to miss. Doris ran past the clock tower, across the town square, catching his blouse on the corner of a table where some stuffed pig nibbles had been laid out in case the Leader had been caught short. His blouse fell away revealing a trademark 1950's suspender and bodice set as he headed toward the dock and with the band now joining the chase, a parody of 1970's comedy caterpillared its way around the dock, up and then down the 3,182 steps of the clockwork lighthouse, up the 39 steps and down the pole of the fire station, three times around the town hall clock tower, in between archways, under
bridges, over bridges, to their destination back across the gangplank and into the gondola. At the back of the musical parade, Chippy looked at the gondola and smiled. So it would have to be Plan B. The Deputy jumped for the gangplank and walked onto the deck to see Doris puking over the side and his anger disappeared. He looked so vulnerable. The Leader caught up and as he too reached the deck, looked at the flower seller and in this light, well, she looked kind of old. Not his type at all. He went to comfort Doris. Doris looked at the millpond flat water as he wiped his mouth on the Leader's silk handkerchief and saw Chippy standing behind him. 'Was that it then, Monroe?' Chippy looked startled. thought, was foolproof. His disguise, he had
The Leader looked at Chippy. 'Monroe? My boy, you are a genius. They told me you couldn't come...' Monroe started; he had thought that was his biggest secret... The Deputy looked at Monroe and shook his head, but it was the Leader he addressed. 'Sir, I think I'm going to have to resign.' The Leader laughed.
'But why, Deputy? This has been a fantastic achievement.' Doris nodded. 'Indeed it has.' The Deputy shook his head. 'But, it was meant to be a piazza, sir, and though there were cheese and fish, it wasn't quite what I had in mind when I briefed Monroe here...' The Leader looked at Monroe and smiled. 'He is quite right, of course, Monroe. Though, who's fault would you say it is?' Monroe began to pull at his Chippy costume, cursing the Locktite glue he'd used, gutted that the last lapdog in England had always been destined to survive.
The fat man stands in the palace. Winston, his pet dog, snuggles into the nape of his neck as he gazes at his reflection in a large, gilt-edged mirror. 'Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is Leader of them all?' Winston makes a cooing sound and a low contented rumble in his throat, as though the words he had heard a hundred times gave a comfort that he otherwise lacked. A shadow of disgust passes across the vast visage of the Leader and when he speaks it is with a barely concealed and largely congealed menace. 'Still not talking then, eh?' Running his fingers through thinning hair, the Leader slowly reaches forward and strokes the balding pate above the angry face looking back at him. His face darkens further and Winston looks up, recognising the signs of his master's rapidly growing aggression; an aggression that begins to rumble around the room. 'You fat fucker! Won't you talk to me then, you bastard? Won't talk to me when I'm being so fucking nice? Well...' With an unexpected agility and speed, the fat man grabs Winston by the ears and smashes his head violently into the glass of the mirror, over and
over, frenzied beyond reason and with a crazed Angel Dust energy, smashing and beating the pulp of the dog's muzzle into the deep red-stained glass. Frustrated that the bullet proof glass hasn't shattered as he intended, the fat man, holding the still twitching Winston by the neck forces his enormous hand up the dead dog's arse and using Winnie as a makeshift boxing glove starts to throw jabs at the already scarlet glass. 'So you want to fight, eh? You want a bit of action, do you?' Bobbing and weaving, the Leader - already beginning to pant through the exertion - throws punch after punch at his bloodied reflection, getting more and more frenzied as his opponent refuses to hit the Louis XIV canvas. 'So you think you are hard then, think this is all I've got, do you? Think this is it, do you, punk? Well, lets see...' The jab, like a pile driver thump-thump-thumps into the glass, harder and harder he punches as Winston's brains fly across the room and dribble down a million pounds worth of antiquities. 'So, you think you can have me, do you? You think you're the man, do you? Well TAKE THAT.' Buzzing like never before, the Leader throw a final flurry of punishing jabs into the fat face of his opponent and then follows up with a haymaker, flying from the soles of his feet ... using his unprotected right hand. 'FUCKING HELLLLLLLLL.' The shattering sound is of bone, not glass, but the Leader catches sight of the agony in his vanquished foe's face, before he himself hits the ground and the pain becomes an irrelevance.
* The Leader sits on the floor, cradling the pulped remains of Winston in his shit-covered, bloodied arms. The pain of his hand causes him to wince, but the tears are for the dog alone. 'I'm sorry, Winston love, I'm so very sorry. I didn't want to hurt you, but once the order was given it had to be followed all the way, it just had to be.' Snot and tears running down his face, he sobs for his own loss, oblivious to any of the obvious ironies. 'The stupid thing is, Winston, I don't ever remember giving the order. I don't ever remember telling them that it had to be so. As dog is my witness, I just wanted everybody to worship me, that was all. Is it too much to ask? A god can't serve two masters, can it? But that idiot Deputy of mine can't get anything right. I mean, I asked him for a pizza ages ago and do I get one? No, the stupid fucker is too busy pretending to be Bob the fucking Builder. I don't know, I really don't know why I bother.
-----BEGINS----Charlie leaves the barn, faint grey marks on his feathers and wisps of downy yellowness floating in the summer sun behind him like a halo. His work only just begun. ----- ENDS -----
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