Monday morning found Blabbsford-Bubble feigning interest in someone’s career path, day one of an indirect taxation course, everyone having to tell their partner about their lives in the department.
Blabbsford-Bubble’s mood resembled the river outside: metallic grey-green, even under blue. Azure didn’t affect that river’s blandness. Blabbsford-Bubble thought: Engulfing British-Civil-Service mediocrity bleaches it grey.
As the lips addressing him worked without effect, he recalled his penis gliding between the buttocks of a woman he’d met in a nightclub. That penis had moved while that woman had slept, those lips moving, the river seeping towards its dull destination.
The course controller halted proceedings. Blabbsford-Bubble was horrified: Everyone had to reveal their partners’ career paths.
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Person after person spoke, Blabbsford-Bubble thinking: They listened!
Truth wasn’t available. He suddenly felt alert.
“John,” he said, “distributed pornography in Russia while playing for Locomotive Moscow.”
“John’s” laughter inflated Blabbsford-Bubble’s imagination.
“He left Moscow,” Blabbsford-Bubble continued, “after a scandal involving Bulgarian prostitutes and Russian clergymen, the films he made about the love-making between the ecclesiastical and the Bulgarians being stolen by the Mafia after a shootout that left twelve dead. John escaped to Norway where, after giving parachuting classes to tourists keen on throwing themselves off fiords, he met the renegade poet, Luis Porksword-Prong,” (the course controller guffawed), “whose inherited millions were used to buy a jet that he and John flew in to the Glastonbury Music Festival where John, gone on LSD and vegetarian hamburgers, had an epiphany: he needed the VAT 460, a form that saves inspectors from perpetual insipidity. From a helicopter Jesus John descended into Glastonbury’s masses to announce that fulfilment results from accurate rendering of accounts.”
This differed from the mandatory: “He worked at Liverpool docks before moving to Heathrow….”
“While being lowered,” Blabbsford-Bubble continued, “clutching a VAT 460 — what else would he have been clutching while on this path towards realisation? — John said: ‘Sinners: Accurate rendering creates fulfilment.’ The impact on the department’s collection of revenues has been tremendous.”
Humphrey Blabbsford-Bubble got applauded for this originality.
At the break, the course controller said: “What a great way of breaking the ice.”
A great way of avoiding embarrassment as well, Blabbsford-Bubble thought.
“John” was at the other end of the table. He was smooth-skinned and blonde; he smiled constantly.
“My name isn’t John,” he whispered. “It’s Gordon.”
“He called you John?”
“He didn’t listen to anything I said.”
Gordon and Carol giggled; Humphrey leant forward and whispered to the course controller: “John needs help. Discretion caused me to invent something.”
The course controller’s eyes shivered with inquisitiveness. He loved helping. He wanted to unite all in brotherhood, this humanitarianism inspiring Humphrey to add: “John is a good guy. But under that charming facade…..”
Humphrey looked down; then back up.
“Animals,” he whispered.
“You mean? —”
“I’m afraid so,” he said. “And his dream is to be a dog handler with a drugs team.”
Humphrey adored sudden creation.
He got removed from the course. Married Gordon had three children and no pets.
In his new post, Humphrey recorded cheques the department received onto forms that data processors input into computer records.
One day, he said: “Ladies and gentlemen” and silence fell.
Fifty-four faces faced him. The sudden stillness conveyed the situation’s gravity.
“I,” he said, “have just performed an act that can be described using three different words with the same pronunciation. Now, what have I just done?”
The silence quivered with ignorant curiosity.
“I,” Humphrey said, “have just checked a Czech cheque.”
He continued his checking amid laughter.
Extra free time in his new position improved his writing.
“The taxpayer,” he said, “supports me. I adore spontaneous grants.”
His first book was dedicated to “John”. At its launch, he announced: “John’s life is life-changing. Forget yoga.”
The book was called: Dog-Handler’s Paradise.
It began with: “John, will you ever get married?”
“I’m married to my job,” John replied.
They thought he was joking, but the nervous dogs knew better.
Gordon wasn’t happy that a book that sold 26 million copies about a man romantically inclined towards canines had a main character that looked and spoke like him. Suspicions about Gordon began to arise. Even the course controller thought: Maybe that maniac was right.