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a novella

Erik Ryman


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us know at
Published by bluechrome publishing 2008
PO Box 109, Portishead, Bristol. BS20 7ZJ
First Published by bluechrome in 2008

Copyright © Erik Ryman 2008

Erik V 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

Many thanks to Nenko Joretsu for the white noise.
also by Erik Ryman

God’s Game
Doctor Mooze
The Tsetsefly Chronicles
The Recidivist
for Cerys
“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
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.'
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
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 as working well. 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 seen as 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-billion-pound 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-year-old boy from Coventry,
having thought that he was bidding for the illustrated
Bible shown by way of an example on the web site. (This,
he had only wanted to burn as part of a satanic ritual.)
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
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-in-our-
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
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...'

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 -----
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.
'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
'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
'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-per-

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, have 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 now,
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
'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-making-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, now 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 mean-spiritedness 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
A wink in the Deputy's direction and a final bellow.
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.
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
'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.
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.


But that was a long decade ago.
Things change.
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-the-minute 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-in-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.'

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 -----
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
'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
'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.'

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 -----
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, in-between 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
Well, what did I say? Was it because I said
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?
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
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
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
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-the-
month 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? Now 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 now, 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
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.
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.
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 is it? I thought we didn't talk about
that anymore, that really wasn't my fault and you know
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-whispering-grass, 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 ... now 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
now 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 now 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
Thank you, but it really wasn't like that at all, it was
more a case of...
The Internet? What about the bloody Internet?
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,
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
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
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?
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
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 now, 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 Agincourt-like.
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
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
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-second-sound-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
...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 Eastern-European, but he drowned himself, so now
I think his empire is mainly owned by a corporation of
some sort.
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 four-poster, or an Uzi up the jacksie if
they don't co-operate?
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
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
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
'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 super-glued 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 now, 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.
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
'Don't forget to log those.'
'No, sir.'

Hastings waited, unsure whether that had been his
superior's final comment.
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
Haines blushed and started to cough an apology, only
to be silenced by Hastings' raised hand.
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 that 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 numbers. Bates equally
felt uncomfortable with the need for betrayal, but the

Deputy was beyond his capabilities now and he felt he
had no choice but to inform his 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
well 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,
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 uber-savant. 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
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
'Yeth, Master Monroo, musta bin playing mar
Banjo on the roof o' mar ol' jalopeno car afor cummin,
tass wat I mussa bin dooin, Master 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-DL-116/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 for now, 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 so-
called 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. For

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...
..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
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... 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
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-the-country-behind-a-war-against-

some-jumped-up-dago-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
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
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
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,
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
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.
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
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
I do vaguely remember now 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 bullet-pointed, 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.
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
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.
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
celebrity-to-top-themselves 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-a-Sloosh 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 hung-over 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
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
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

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
Sorry, but I mean the French, they are our allies
Shut the blazes up.
Listen, I said, Shut up. Look over at the door … now
what do you see? And for heaven's sake whisper, you

Oh, I see, sorry. So, they are Hairshirts then, yes?
But they've got..
Shush, for Christ’s sake, you'll get us killed.
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
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
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
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
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.
Well, you thought I was going to say that they had
spuds with them and you told me that they were wolves.

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
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
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.'
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
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 now and I'll tell you the
Fine, schtum it is, I won't say another word and I
Good. Now, 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-the-month 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 - 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?

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
'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
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
Plllleeeeaaaaasssssseee bbbbbeeeee

ffffffoooooorrrrrrr tttttthhhhhhheeeee
mmmmmaaaaasssssttttteeeeerrrr ooooffffff
ttttthhhhheeeeee kkkkkiiiiiinnnnnggggg ooooooffffff
cccccooooooooollllllll, ttttttthhhhheeeee
aaaaaaannnnnndddddd lllllliiiiiggggghhhhhttttttt,
yyyyyooooouuuuuurrrrr ffffrrrrriiiiiieeeeennnnnddddd
aaaaannnnnnddddd mmmmmmiiiinnnnnneeeeee,
ddddiiiiirrrrreeeeecccccttttt fffffrrrrrooooooommmmm
Lllllllaaaaasssss Vvvvvveeeeeggggggaaaaasssss
Nnnnnneeeeevvvvvaaaadddddaaaaaa, ttttthhhhheeeee
ooooonnnnneeee aaaaannnnnnddddd
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
centuries-old 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.
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 now.'
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
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.
Ryman opens the door and - now 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
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
'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.
' 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
'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,
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 in your official cars.'
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
Everybody now gone, Ryman knocks on the door to
Monroe's office.
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.'

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 hit one.'
----- 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
of any Saturday-night-nutters 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.
You must have seen them - a red cross dripping blood
with the mangled carcass of a cocker spaniel crucified on
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.
Yes, an easy mistake. 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
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
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
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 hurt
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.

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
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.
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 stage-managed
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
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 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
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.
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 a certain, unqualified success
But what about the children, what happened to
Well, that wasn't so agreeable. Unfortunately, within
an hour of their being sprayed with the serum...
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-fat-smothered 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 track-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-headedly-politically-
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-chirpy-
cockney-chappies, anyone from the west is a dozy-cowpat-
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

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
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
'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
'Fak orff, yer cant, who the fackin 'ell do...'
Ryman suppreses a smile.
'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
'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
'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
'No, just get on with it and we'll say no more about

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
'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.
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 of
course 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-and-white,
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 doo-doo.
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 Footballer-Tax 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
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
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-under-the-table-and-hope-the-baying-
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
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 is 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
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
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.
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.
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
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, 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
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
Again, he claps and this time clears his throat, saying
Still no recognition. Oh well, they should know by
'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 forty-something, 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's-suffering-puppeteer at the strings.
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 that 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 the 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

'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
Monroe enters the room and is surprised to see the
bloodied and it has to be said, very orange-looking
collective before him. He turns to Ryman,
'What happened to this lot? They don't look too
'Oh no, sir, this is most definitely 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 Crock-o-shit from St
Albans - I want real pop stars, not washed up old hags, I
want fucking everything and I fucking want it now.'
Barbra 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 -
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
'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 dogs at the Chunnel
meant that the Hairshirts have introduced a shoot-to-kill
policy, even people who only used to own spuds are now
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 now 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
newborn babies 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 invade Alsace, Dalmatian, Chihuahua, Peking and a
host of other places, unless the names of these are
corrected 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
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
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
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.

“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 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
'Sure, don't want the old boy melting, do
'That we don't, young man, that we certainly
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
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
'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
'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?'
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
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.

The Leader re-watches a recording of the death of the last
Hoarder, alone now, apart from the bulldog sitting on his
'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
'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.'
'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
'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 disinterested.
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

'Look, dear, there is no need for all that,
now is there?'
The Leader's gaze jumps around the car.
'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

'Have you changed your aftershave,
The Leader sits back in his seat, calmer now, but
'No, I still wear the one you gave me for
'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 ... 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
after only 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
'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
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,
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?'
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,
'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.
The Leader awakens from his daze once more.
'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 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 now, 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 use 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
'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
'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?'
The Deputy looks around, slightly pinker than
'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
'tator, when all along 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.
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.
Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmm. Teeeelllllllllll
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
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
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

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 tinkling, repetitive tune, ding-ding-ding-ding-
ding-di-di-ding, dong-dong-dong-dong-dong-di-di-dong,
over and over, the eyes of the whole assembly glazing and

glistening, ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-di-di-ding, 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-ding-ding-ding-ding-di-di-
ding, dong-dong-dong-dong-dong-di-di-dong, over and
over, ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-di-di-ding, dong-dong-
dong-dong-dong-di-di-dong, the platform slowly turning
and rising, music tinkling, the stripes forming, ding-ding-
ding-ding-ding-di-di-ding, dong-dong-dong-dong-
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
'Excellent. I'll have the crispy venison, nothing
quite like deep fried Bambi on a cold winter's day.'
And 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
'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...
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.
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.'

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
'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 sleeve 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
'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.
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
'Fat Arse'
even if it was only displayed for a milli-second, 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
'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
'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?'
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
'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 anti-
clockwise and with a hiss and another series of clanks and
clunks, the platform starts to rotate.
'Fackin' 'ell, Dave, turn the facker off far

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-and-yellow 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
'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
The Deputy nods.
'Yes, but it is very effective.'
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
The Leader doesn't seem to hear as he taps his foot to
the sound of a hundred mandolins, mandolas and
'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
'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 unlit, 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
'Doris, twenty pounds says that that man down
there won't get across the circle before something horrible
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
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
'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

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
'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,
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
'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
'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
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...'

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 to 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
'I knew you'd come. You were always meant to
'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

'I don't think that is a coincidence, Doris, do you?
Standard CIA trick, I fear, watch out for exploding
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
'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
His voice trailed off as he remembered the fourteen
Keano pies he had eaten for breakfast. He pulled himself
'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,
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

'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-on-Jerry-
'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,
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
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
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

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,
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

Chippy was ranting now 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

The Yeoman of the Beefeaters decided that he'd

better follow and ordered his men to join the fleeing

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 mandolin-driven 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.

Up 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

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 looked at the now 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. His disguise, he had thought,
was foolproof.

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

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
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?
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
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.
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.

Charlie leaves the barn, faint grey marks
on his feathers and wisps of downy yellowness
floating in the summer sun behind him like a
His work
only just
----- ENDS -----
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