Whatever Your Religion, There's No Need to Eat a Sweet

Lucian woke up. He looked at the watch by his bed. It told him that it was midday. That meant (a) that he hadn't slept for a full eight hours and (b) that it was rather earlier than he normally got up. He toyed with the idea of being super efficient today and getting up now, cracking on with the day, no messing about... but he had only had seven hours' sleep and, well, after all... what was there to get up for? Being awake simply reminded him of all the things that made him angry. He thought of the letter he'd received that had turned his life upside down:

"Dear Lucian,

On behalf of all of us at Nestlog's HQ, we'd like to thank you and your team for all the hard work and dedication you've put in over the years.

As you know our company is going through a painful but necessary period of restructuring..."

He thought of the letter he had received yesterday from Channel 4:

"This is just to let you know that we are currently in the process of getting back to all the candidates whose applications for the position of... RUNNER... interested us. We are doing this in order to create a shortlist. Sadly, yours was not one of the applications which interested us in any way. We recommend in future that you apply for jobs in areas where you have some aptitude." After that there was handwritten bit: Go back to cereals. Alena."

Lucian lay there trying not to seethe. They hadn't had to be so nasty about it. Why couldn't they just have said, "It was a fiercely competitive field this year" and all the usual stuff he came across? This had felt quite vindictive. And that horrible woman Alena... true he'd quite fancied her but what an ice vixen!

No, no, he mustn't think about all that. It'd keep him awake. So he let himself drift back into his usual fantasies:

Your fun is short-lived, however, as you hear a sound you'd never wanted to hear again as long as you lived - it's the sound of a man panting in between barking like a dog. You look up, your imaginary steering wheel still in your hands, and there is the owner of the Greek farmhouse gasping for breath as he opens the door to the sweet shop.

'Ding' goes the door as he enters...

Soon he was fast asleep again.

'Ding' goes the door as he enters...

'Ding' - went Lucian's doorbell. Lucian woke up. Had he dreamt it? 'Ding' it went again. He rubbed his eyes, put on his dressing gown and walked wearily to the door. It was neighbour, Yuri.

"Hello, Lucian," said the older man. "Sorry to disturb you. They've got us mixed up again. I've got some of your letters here. You haven't got any of mine, have you?"

"No, I don't think so. Cheers, man."

"Righto," said Yuri as he left.

Lucian returned to his bed and sat there. There was no way he'd get any more sleep now.

He washed, dressed, shaved himself, made the bed, opened the curtains and then sat on the bed trying to work out what he'd do with the day.

Finally you find yourself at the farm house, and not a moment too soon. The needle on your gas gauge lies flat, though you could probably run on fumes for a little while more. With a sigh, you unlock and open the door of the rental, and trudge up to the farmhouse...

Lucian was wide awake but dreaming. What else was there to do?

He then realised that he had kept putting his electricity bill to the bottom of the pile. He picked up the letter. There was so much red ink on it that it nearly burnt his hand! His name was in red, the address was in red, when he opened the letter they had printed it in dark red on a dark pink background so you could hardly read it. All the words were in capitals.


Lucian almost felt irradiated just holding it.

His mind then wandered back to Channel 4 and how unpleasant they'd been.

Lucian smoked a cigarette whilst thinking of what he could do to get back at the world. He started to laugh. He laughed so much he nearly choked on his cigarette.

* * * * *      * * * * *       * * * * * *       * * * * *       * * * * *       * * * * * 

Alena came into her office at Channel 4. There was a girl there whom she didn't know. Must be the new runner.

"You are?" snapped Alena.

"I'm Jennifer," said Jennifer. "I'm the new runner. Pleased to meet you."

"I obviously wasn't in the room when you were interviewed," said Alena. "If you don't close the door we'll all get rather cold."

Jennifer closed the door.

"The tea doesn't make itself round here," said Alena without even looking at Jennifer.

Jennifer had just put the kettle on when the 'phone rang.

"The 'phones don't answer themselves round here," said Alena. Jennifer rushed to answer it. "Yes, she is. May I ask who's calling?... Yes, hold on a moment, please." She cupped her hand over the receiver. "It's Noel Edmonds," she said.

"Give me that!" snapped Alena. She snatched the 'phone out of Jennifer's hand and put on her sweetest, flirtiest, giggliest "I'm-speaking-to-a-celebrity" voice: "Oh, Noel, long time no hear -ha ha! So what gives in Crinkley Bottom?"

"Whatever your religion, there's no need to eat a sweet," said a rather peculiar voice. The 'phone was then slammed down.

Alena was really annoyed. "It wasn't Noel Edmonds at all. It was some idiot pratting about," she said as though that were Jennifer's fault.

The post arrived. Jennifer was learning. Without needing to be told that letters didn't answer themselves she picked them all up. One was addressed to Alena. She handed it over. It was a red envelope. Alena opened it and recoiled immediately. It claimed to be from All Nuclear Electricity, an electricity company that Alena didn't use either at Channel 4 or at home. Both she and Jennifer realised that their hands had gone red. It clearly wasn't really from All Nuclear Electricity - somebody had knocked this thing crudely up at home and used really cheap ink.

After they'd both scrubbed their hands under the cold tap at the edge of the very messy room, Alena sat down and Jennifer rushed to make her some tea. Alena was warming to the new girl. She was getting the idea.

The 'phone rang again. Jennifer rushed to answer it. "Yes?" she said. "Oh, certainly. Yes, absolutely. Well, it's lovely to talk to you too. Hold on..." She cupped her hand over the receiver. "It's Alan Yentob," she said.

Alena put on her sweetest, flirtiest, giggliest "I'm-speaking-to-a-celebrity" voice: "Oh, Alan, hi hi hi! Any more thoughts about bringing Blake's Seven over to Channel 4?"

"There's no need to stick chewing gum under your neighbour's pew," said a rather peculiar voice. The 'phone was then slammed down.

"It wasn't Alan Yentob. It was that moron again. I'm getting sick of this," snapped Alena.

It wasn't a good day for poor Jennifer to start. For the rest of the day they were plagued with calls from alleged celebrities which turned into "There really is no need for these... these histrionics," interspersed with calls from real celebrities which is why Jennifer had to keep handing the 'phone over. On one occasion she was sure it was the idiot and slammed the receiver down. It turned out it really was David Gest. She had to apologise profusely.

There were also taxis pulling up with Alena's name, pizzas appearing that had allegedly been ordered by Alena and even a Linguaphone course on "Teach Yourself Afrikaans" which you could trial for 14 days and then either pay for or return if not satisfied. All Nuclear Electricity rang up at one point to ask why Alena had sworn down the 'phone at them and blocked her caller ID (none of which she'd done). Books, towels and catalogues appeared from Argos, Amazon and various other people all of which needed to be paid for on receipt.

It was near the end of the day. Alena had promised to take Jennifer to a local café in Borehamwood to thank her for putting up with a pretty awful first day. Actually it had given Jennifer a unique chance to prove herself. Alena hadn't been sure about her new runner at first and had considered re-opening some of the applications that had been rejected but whoever was trying to make life difficult for them had given Jennifer the opportunity to demonstrate her ability to remain calm under any circumstances.

Just as Jennifer was ready to put her coat on the 'phone rang again. "I'll get it. You go to the café. I'll join you there," said Alena.

"There's no need to light up a cigarette," said the put-on voice at the other end. 

"Do you know you've actually learnt some new words? Well done!" said Alena.

"I'm a sort of serial nuisance, I suppose, aren't I? Oha, oha, oha!" laughed the voice in a very strange kind of way.

"You're very sad, do you know that?" said Alena. "Crank calls and putting on different voices and sending me pizzas and taxis when I'm very busy. But then I suppose you don't know what busy means, do you, you pathetic little... hello? hello?" 

The person at the other end had clearly hung up.

* * * * *      * * * * *       * * * * * *       * * * * *       * * * * *       * * * * * 

Lucian lay back in his chair. He lit up a spliff and laughed and laughed at the day he had just had. He felt so much better! Now with this new positive energy he'd be able to face the world tomorrow and do something really meaningful with his life. But for now he'd allow himself the chance to bask in the glory of having humbled some people who needed taking down a peg or two. After a while (an hour? two hours? it was difficult to tell) he pulled himself together. He'd have a quick shot of whisky and allow himself a quick daydream...

The woman checking the tickets asks you for yours and you say that the dog ate it and point to the dog-man. She nods boredly, bars his entrance and you fare-dodge your way to Dover in England.

Once there a train takes your car to Mill Hill Broadway...

then get on with his life.

Lucian made a good start to this new life. He separated the mess on his bedroom floor into "Belongs on the top shelf", "Belongs on the bottom shelf", "Belongs in the recycling bin," "Belongs on one of the shelves in the hall", "Needs to be paid" and so on. He actually completed the operation so that everything that had been on the floor had now become separate neat piles on the bed. He actually vacuumed the bedroom floor!! It looked great. He was buzzing.

He allowed himself another whisky. 

Rummaging through your glovebox, you find what you're looking for and slip it into the rear waistband of your pants. It's mostly concealed by your baggy shirt, and shouldn't be noticeable. You look around and notice a small farm off in the distance...

Right, that's enough of that. He was impressed how quickly he wrapped up this latest daydream. He began to transfer each pile from his bed to its correct place. The last pile that needed to be dealt with was "Needs to be paid". He looked at each. There was the electricity one. He'd start a new pile of "To be sorted tomorrow" and that could go in there. There was a library fine. He'd set off right now with a cheque and post it through their letterbox.

The walk to the library and back felt good. It was rainy, dark and cold but he was determined to complete his mission. A little bird chirruped at him from a tree as though giving him some encouragement. He waved back. "Thanks, man," he said.

He got back in. There was only one final letter to sort. He opened it. The envelope was used to create a new "recycle" pile and was then actually immediately transferred to the recycle bin. He opened the letter.

Dear Lucian,

Be aware that it is an offence for any other person to open this envelope.

Please find attached an Application Contact Status form which I require you to complete. Allfracklog Gas are sorry to inform you that your gas will be cut off in ...13 DAYS... if you fail to pay the amount mentioned below and which we have made repeated attempts to collect..."

Lucian was seething with rage. His rage turned to laughter, however, as ideas started to form in his head of his revised plan for how he'd spend tomorrow... he saw a letter covered in red ink going to the gas company claiming to be from the electricity company... he saw Alena being rung up by somebody claiming to be from the gas company... he saw... he saw... looking for a job could wait. He needed to teach these people a lesson or two first.

Feeling much happier he drifted back into his world of spliffs, whisky and daydreams:

As you turn to the west to face the cliffs far above the azure blue waters of the Ionian Sea, the scorching summer sun sets before you in a cascade of golden flame.

                                                               THE      END

The End

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