Basquiat yanked the rabbit from the hat. He checked for ticks and put it back. In the corner sat Jat, laundering Basquiat’s cravat. Basquiat chucked the hat at poor Jat; the rabbit arced out and came down with a splat.

“Clean that,” growled Basquiat. Old Jat did just that, asking that Basquiat lift his black boots off the mat.

“Less chitchat than that, muskrat,” came Basquiat’s brickbat.

Well, that was that. “This autocrat brat is due a hard twat,” thought the doormat Jat. But a twat of what format? Sabotage the thermostat? A cricket bat up the habitat? Chuck him off the ziggurat and leave him for the rats? No, not that brand of combat. Jat fancied a bit of tit-for-tat, so he shat in Basquiat’s cravat, ironed it flat, and left it for the aristocrat to find under his placemat.

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Jane walked into the bank and calmly joined the queue.  At one window, a middle-aged cashier was dealing coolly with a middle-aged customer.  Friendly chit-chat, but at no detriment to the efficiency of the transaction, a transaction which they had surely conducted, respectively, thousands and hundreds of times previously.  Jane was buoyed.

At the other window, a builder laboured under the mistaken impression that his hefty red and purple wad was somehow impressive to the pretty young cashier, a woman who, after all, sat by a drawer full of cash in a room full of cash next door to a room full of jewels and gold for forty hours a week, and who was, frankly, already sick of the sight of money just seven weeks into the graduate scheme.  Jane was dismayed.

Ahead of her in the queue were a greasy, frustrated man pointedly flicking a cheque; an Orthodox Jewish man clutching some sort of leather document wallet; an old lady’s zimmer, as placeholder for an old lady, who sat nearby on a boxy sofa thing; a cheerful-faced twentysomething and her toddler, in matching Strokes t-shirts; and another builder.  Jane contemplated trying a different branch.

But no. Remember what Tommy said.  Patience.  She took a breath and another run through her mental checklist.  “Good things come.  Good things come…”

Remember back in the day when all the lads were getting the ‘Fronds of Japheth’ hairstyle?  Ah, yes, a little bit before your time, I suppose.  You know what I’m talking about, though?  The one with the spicate crown, fluffy at the edge.  That’s right, yeah, just like Perry Mondragon when he lifted the cup.  Haha, reminds me of a funny story, actually.  I was staying in Harrogate, doing some contract stuff for ICI.  Hold up, here comes Clive.  I’ll tell you it later.  Wotcher, Clive.

“What’s the point of owning a moat if you’re forbidden from throwing the locals into it and watching them flail for their lives before ultimately succumbing to the same watery grave which imprisons their fathers, grandfathers, uncles and second cousins?”

Deary me, not a day used to go by without Dad coming out with that lot.  He’d go on for hours: moat this, locals that, morbidity, corpsehood and servitude the other.  He was a damaged man, my dad, not that such a term existed back in his day.  Back then he was known as ‘passionate’, ‘dedicated’, ‘hardworking’.  In his promotional literature he boasted of ‘having worked closely with’ the full gamut of regional worthies.  Deary me, he was emir of the entire oblast; I’ve no idea whose favour he was attempting to curry with this absurd rhetoric.

But on he’d go, “chuck ’em in the fuckin’ moat”, “send ’em to their deserved, wet fate”, it never ended.  Even today, decrepit and spent and obsolesced by democracy, he lies sprawled on his cushions, moat-muttering.  When the rotten old bastard finally kicks the bucket the estate is mine, and the identity of the first object over the battlement – splash! – will be obvious to the intelligent reader.

One moves forward.  It isn’t easy.  Inch by inch one inches, inching inchily to the next inch, the next inch, the next.  After an injury like this, the inch becomes one’s sole unit of measurement.  The lavatory is 180 inches from the bed.  The front door is 400 inches from the lavatory.  The fridge is 450 inches from the lavatory.  The lavatory is 310 inches from the settee.

Accompanying this reduction in scope is, obviously, the firm assignment of the lavatory as the focal point of one’s domestic existence.  Further, as one is necessarily housebound, the lavatory thus becomes the focal point of one’s entire existence.  You see, the machine’s crossbeam punctured, amongst other things, one’s bowel – a horror which one might expect to be superseded by the fresh and sudden uselessness of one’s legs – but yes, the lavatory is one’s constantly necessary, and necessarily constant, companion.

In fact, the loss of mobility one can deal with, and, frankly, one’s training prepared one for such an eventuality.  It’s the servitude to the lavatory to which one vehemently, ragingly, fruitlessly objects.

There was Angela, whose legs were one short.
There was Bhav, the Junior Minister for Sport.
There was Craven, the head guard at Gupping House.
There was Daz, a music teacher, diminutive, Scouse.
There was Ethelbald, a grumpy, obsolete king.
There was Farid, a lumpen oaf with a sling.
There was Gert, an insalubrious old lush.
There was Hera, in certain light the spit of Ian Rush.
There was Ingmar, heir to the Bündethrashet billions.
There was Jasper, the bastard, in the red by millions.
There was Kaspar, a Norwegian marksman on a sortie.
There was Little Les, a local favourite with an IQ of forty.
(There was me, of course, for quorum reasons.)
There was Norfolk, the Duke, a man for all treasons.
There was Oyvind the butcher, who went to school with Neil Stuke.
There was Pavel the goat, and his goatminder Luke.
There was Quackins the dwarf, symbolic head of the treasury.
There was Ronson the DJ, compiling a bestiary.
There was Simon of Athens, erroneously invited.
There was Timon of Athens, so rarely recited.
There was Ulrika, who I met on a bench.
There was Vern Fisher, munching a delicious tench.
There was Wendy, from Bourton-on-the-Water.
There was Xerxes, with his ruddy licentious daughter.
There was Yorick, alas.
There was Zoë, pissing in a pint glass.

“Fuck’s Mick playing at?”

It was a valid question.  Thanks to a well-drilled line of industrious professionals protecting us ahead, plus our fabled Ecuadorian duo up front, it had been a quiet opening twenty-five minutes for Ian, myself and our keeper, Sully.  Indeed, my fellow centre-half and I had had little cause even to speak until now.  But now, now, as Ian barked his valid question, it dawned on the entire stadium, wave-like, that all was not well with the referee.

Mick Jigger, a forty-two-year-old father of four, a P.E. teacher from Barnstaple, a bald man, a football referee.  Here he was before the twenty-two of us – before the twenty-two thousand of us – stood with his legs straight and his torso leaning forward, hands gripping just above the knees, and neck craned unsettlingly upward, as if he were staring into the eyes of someone eighteen inches shorter than himself.

Seemingly frozen in this position, his mouth gaping and his eyes glassy, he somehow appeared undistressed.  Alert, but calm.  Present, but distant.  Suddenly from his mouth there emerged a long, shiny, thick, moist, flexible, green object – inch by inch it continued, until after maybe eight feet it terminated in a cheeky little face and flopped finally to the turf.  Bewildered, I looked over at Ian.

“Dunno, looks like he’s swallowed some kind of limp serpent at some point.”