Some time ago, I ran into the chap whose maid I used to treat to ice and lollies (in that order) and other amuses-bouche. I had spotted him before at the corner of my local one-way street and the Terrace, although there were other streets and corners about. It may have been an arbitrary act of my brain to put two and two together. Balls to it all, I am no Poirot.

The chap was carrying The Chap, so I was required to respect him, although I immediately struck up a plan to take it from him, like the bishop in a chess game (or the battleship in Monopoly - those are all the pieces I know off). We both invited the other party – for it was at once clear to him that I was after something he had in his possession, whilst he must have been after something I had of his (hidden agendas are the one universal category I believe in). It increasingly became clear to me that I was an open book to him. I tried closing it, but the tattoos I had recently acquired (I didn’t pay for them, in fact, my trainee tattoo-artist neighbour grafted them onto my forehead in return for a gift (which turned out to be a smelly scone)) were as wrong as they were revealing: “trust no-one”! I particularly resented the hyphen as it came with a little footnote (my neighbour was also obsessed with typesetting) which read: “i.e. this husk of a man.” Thorough in its description of some man’s activities, certainly, especially since the grafting tool had run out of ink right at the end of the word ‘husk’, so the words ‘of a man’ were really only an unsightly scar.

We entered said establishment vigorously. It must be said I felt rather proud of my companion’s vigour, as one does altruistically with a full stomach (I only found out much later that the scone I had eaten was rotten). A beverage had to be chosen, so I set about it with great speed. Read and learn. In this type of situation it is essential to create a diversion, lest one insists on foolishly spending actual copper, so I kicked the first clean-shaven man I encountered in the shins, quietly scolding him for his lack of facial hair. The plan behind this artificial fracas was to create a more dramatic incident than my future borrowing of some real ale could ever be. I understand these situations not from a legal point of view (I find ‘precedents’ simply too repetitive and boring), but from a moral one: once one has established how low one can sink, it becomes a happy surprise, nay a revelation, when one climbs the ladder of misdemeanours towards ultimate innocence. However, it is all about the transition from the ‘quiet’ reprimand (my shin-kicking went unnoticed to all others) to what I call the ‘taking’ of the response. If the kickee responds in kind, you have won: a silly, seemingly unprovoked attack on your person will most certainly be rewarded with a free drink (take my word for it - soliciting pity is my day job). If no response is forthcoming:

1. kick again, but harder, 2. kick someone else and repeat the above step if necessary, 3. punch (or any other method you prefer; I once applied licking, to no avail) the first one in the back of the head, and point at the second person, 4. if none of these actions amount to anything, you are probably in the wrong establishment (you can keep kicking the paralysed patients now).

[...] Anyway, as we sat down at a table on the other side of said pub, it vaguely transpired I knew this man from somewhere. Was it the gasman I had successfully avoided for seven months who had returned? I grew thirsty, although the dry throat could have been the effect of several different anxieties I was currently entertaining (for those who are as lucky as having an anxiety forced upon you: you lucky bastard. The process of choosing one is hard, almost like travel).

After a while, I remembered to mention the fact that recently, certain publishers had been found using poisonous ink for their magazines, especially The Chap magazine. He didn’t seem to be listening at all, and rather gruffly kept changing the topic. Suddenly he offered me a huge amount of money – for something I mustn’t continue, he said non sequitur-like (there may have been a tattoo on my face I wasn’t yet aware off, I gathered). Although increasingly rather ‘rough’ in the mouth, my companion simultaneously grew friendly with me (what with all the bear hugs and pinches to the balls). As he kept using my own shin-kicking trick on me (steps one and three) (but I was not going to fall for it – I’d rather a pair of black shins)*, when suddenly we both realised each other’s agenda: he lost the maid I treated as my own (he kept rather unintelligibly calling her ‘my wife’). Had he not been listening when I told him she was a terrible hand, especially around the bedroom (I didn’t tell him she was particularly lazy in picking up my old socks and newspapers. Now that I think of it, she didn’t do any cleaning at all)? I think I must have exhausted him, when he settled the bill and graciously handed me The Chap (however, at the time I swore it was an almost nonchalant throw towards my position on the floor).

It turned out to be last year’s August issue. Balls.

  • I almost forgot: this is one of the reasons some people don’t give you the pleasure of a response to the above process. They occasionally will stab you in the dark at a later time.