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Mind Damaged: Chapters 5-6

by Sarahll 

Posted: 01 September 2005
Word Count: 6446
Summary: If the world continued in the same direction for the next 25 years as it has for the past 25 years, how would it be? Marg & Pam partners in cynicism & oddity are two of London's only rebels left, but they've got their own issues... Why did Pam’s fiancée leave, what is Marg’s problem and just how did Bob Geldoff get to be Prime Minister? This comes out best in a word file because of formatting & the odd table, so shout if you fancy an emailed copy

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5. Down to business.

‘Ok, I’ve got it.’
‘So there’s no commenting on any of her quirks either.’
‘Got it.’
‘And there’s no point in making me try to do something I don’t agree with.’
‘Got it.’
‘And there’s no rearranging stuff in my house. Or complaining.’
‘Marg,’ He insisted ‘I’ve got it.’
‘What did I just say?’
‘No complaining. Got it. Sorry.’
Exercise Two was ‘contract setting’ and so far it was going pretty well. We were in the same room, talking and I was managing not to machete him.
‘Cool, so what are your conditions Norma?’
‘Well, yours were so… comprehensive,’ he teetered ‘that I don’t really know if I can add any more, but…’
‘Great, well that’s that then. Exercise three, let’s see – what a team we are Norma, we’re ploughing through this – exercise three involves the box.’ A shudder trickled down my spine as I glanced over at Blue Box, who I’d been too timid to move out of my seat.
‘Ooh, super, I love box exercises.’ Norman beamed. Brilliant, it’s bound to be great then.
‘We could just skip onto exercise four’
‘No, no, we mustn’t do that, we’d miss out on all the fun. Besides, it’s a compulsory module.’ He looked up at me and sensed my nerves. ‘It’s ok, it won’t bite,’ he jostled, ‘it’s only a liddy biddy box.’ He patted its lid and Blue Box made itself as small and fuzzy as it could manage. Norman turned away to the kitchen and Blue Box spiked out and hissed at me.
‘It’s not that small.’ I chewed on my finger. Norman gave me a quizzical look and handed me a comforting mug of barley water.
‘Here, come sit next to me and I’ll show you how it’s done.’ Norman plonked himself on my seat, but he was being so heroic that I hardly cared at all. I hovered at the other edge of the sofa as far away as possible and kicked up some cushions as a barrier.

At that moment Big Jeff was just passing the carpet warehouse in Docklands.

‘It’s ok,’ he chuckled, cradling Blue Box on his lap ‘He’s more scared than you are.’ I looked up at Norman, wide eyed. ‘Come on, you can stroke him if you like.’ I slowly reached forward, jerking backwards for fear of being spiked. ‘That’s it, nice and slowly,’ he grinned.
I prodded Blue Box at first. Hard and cold. I prodded him again, then let two, three, four, five fingers slide across the surface. Then my palm and thumb. There. Just a liddy biddy box, nothing to be scared of.
‘Sorry little man,’ I thought to him ‘Big Auntie Marg was just being mean and all along you were just as scared as I was.
‘Die you filthy mess.’
‘What did you just say?’ I recoiled and shot a glare up to Norman
‘What? I… um, I said ‘that’s it, nice and slowly,’… what…’ he protested, hoisting the box up to protect his face.
‘Sorry, nothing, I just thought….’ I shook my head, ‘so go on then, operate the thing.’
Norman pressed a button, flicked a switch and slid Blue Box out into the middle of the room.


Pling pling plong. ‘Hey there Marg, hey Norm, it’s great to see you’ve finally made it to exercise three- good job.’ Perfect. A life-size 3D projection of Bushwit himself.
Norman clapped his hands and bounced on the sofa.
‘Shhh.’ I snapped.
‘Oh, sorry Marg, you’re right,’ Norman sat up a little straighter, out reverenced.
‘Now that you’ve learned a bit more about each other you’ll realise that you’re just two vulnerable people, looking to make your life a touch better.’ Norman’s hand crept towards my knee, but its advance was checked by another thwack.
‘Can you not?’ he yelped
‘Shhh. If you’re not going to take this seriously, you can leave the room,’ I spat.
‘Sorry.’ Yeah.
‘You now have some idea of what your partner likes and dislikes,’
‘Plenty.’ Norman mumbled
‘And have set some ground rules to make this operation a success. You still don’t know what the Life Problem of your partner is and I want you to keep it that way for the moment.’ We both nodded obediently as if Tag Waverley could see us. ‘Now, as you know, the Full Effects Programme is the most intense but rewarding Life School programme offered to date. So it will be no surprise to you that much of the programme is based in the real world.’ Goodie, I get to embarrass myself in front of some real people as well as my own personal wally. ‘Here’s your first task.’

The van pulled round the corner onto Mile End Road, just as Norman crossed the road.
‘Dammit,’ Big Jeff threw his fist into the dashboard, ‘he’s gone into the station.’
‘Don’t worry, there’s still time. We’ll get him the other side.’
‘Where’s he going?’
‘Ok, Sunday afternoon, possible trip out to his Mother’s?’
‘No, he’d get a bus, then join the Charles III from Dalston Kingsland.’
‘Agreed, so Life School?’
‘Finished three weeks ago’
‘So that leaves the salon- he’s due for a wax, the spar, or visiting Magnus’
‘He was with a girl.’
‘Could be. Who is she?’
‘Dunno, she’s not on our list.’
‘Excuse me?’
‘Nope, sorry Big J, she’s not one of ours’
‘You told me we had that age range covered. You told me we were safe here.’
‘No Big J, I… these things happen. I…’
‘Get someone down to visit her straight away. I want a staker here until she comes back. Then we turn on the charm.’ Big Jeff put his head into his hands ‘And as for Mathers, we’ll just have to wait for him to surface.’

‘What level are you on the Laandan Index, Norma?’
‘I’m not sure what you mean’ he shouted, as we stood swaying into each other’s armpits on the Central Line.
‘The Laandan Index, you know, the one that rates how much of a proper Londoner you are?
‘Oh, the London index, I didn’t catch your accent there for a second.’
‘Well that’s two points gone already if you can’t even speak Laandan.’
‘Hey,’ he flicked into whinge mode without really understanding what he was whinging about, ‘Don’t take two points off me without giving me a chance. I’m a Laandaner and I can prove it.’
‘Prove it.’ I whipped out my lab coat and goggles.
‘Well, for starters I’ve lived here for five years,’
‘Mmmhm,’ I jotted on an invisible note pad
‘I know the Underground about as well as I know my own mother’
‘I know all the little back street places to go for the best cocktails’
‘And I’ve been to all the attractions at least twice’
‘Aha. Mmhm. Right.’ He tried to peer round onto my note pad but I had its invisibility shielded by the visibility of my left hand. ‘Two for the time you’ve been working here, plus two for actually living here, three more for your knowledge of the city, minus two for lack of Cockney, and minus 1.5 for visiting tourist attractions. Who do you think tourist attractions are for exactly? That, my friend, makes you a 3.5.’
‘What are you?’
‘Six, hoping to upgrade to a 6.5 in the coming months.’
‘Oh.’ He was clearly disappointed, ‘what do I have to do to beef up?’
‘Well, look around you here. What do you see?’
‘Fair point. Well, what do you hear?’
‘The train, the tunnel’
‘You talking?’
‘Talking. That’s right, but not me- everyone’
‘Ahhhh…’ he nodded eagerly, ‘what’s that mean?’
‘It means it’s Sunday.’
‘Ahhhh, everyone’s talking about God.’ I threw him a look as old fashioned as his statement.
‘Everyone’s talking because everyone’s not from London. Everyone’s a tourist, which is automatic minus 2 to zero. Lesson One: Real Londoners don’t talk unless they have to, especially when they’re on the tube.’ Norman frowned, trying to take it all in. Boys generally are slow learners I find. ‘Now, see what happens when we stop at the next station?’ I continued as we pulled in, ‘Look, she’s got up too soon and is now pushing past people who will also want to get off.’
‘Good morning once again and a very warm welcome to good old Tottenham Court Road. Hop off here for the Northern Line, that’s the black one, or maybe pop up to ground level for some browse shopping. Why not head for Stile & Robs’ kids section, one of the discount jeweller’s, or, fancy a drink? We’ve got some really lovely cafés. If you’re leaving us here, have a very lovely day.’ I juddered at the moronically cheery tube announcers that had been introduced at weekends ever since the Olympics. It almost made you prefer to walk.
‘And now they’re trying to get on before the others have got off- complete mess.’ I scraped my feet out of the way and let out a loud ‘Tut’ as a suitcase thumped past my leg. ‘They do deliver you know,’ I thought-shouted at her.
‘This train’s now ready for the off, please mind the doors everybody.’ Bliblibliblibliblib.
‘Now, what did you notice there, young protégé?’
‘We could pop to TCR later for a coffee and a muffin?’
‘No, Norman- Lesson Two: Know the rules. ‘Stand on the right up the escalator’ and ‘move down inside the carriage’ are just as important to the functioning of our magnificent city as ‘Never return his first call,’ ‘do the exact opposite of politicians’ and ‘Don’t bring strangers home.’’
‘You didn’t do so well on that last one.’
‘Know the rules’ I laughed, ‘so you know how to break em.’

‘They’ve surfaced Big J.’
‘Right, where are they?’
‘Oxford Circus.’
‘Well let’s get gone then.’
‘Big J, there’s another unit just at Bond Street, shouldn’t we pass it to them?’
‘No,’ he barked ‘This one’s mine.’

Norman and I stood back to back, surveying the scene. Still plenty of people around for the time of day, so that might make it easier. Not even the might of the oPod had managed to kill off Oxford Street, no matter how many other town centres it had napalmed. Yes, that’s right; crusty, frantic, crime laden Oxford Street was still here, a front line against the Virtual Revolution and a monument to the Good Old Days of high street shopping. You’d expect I’d love it here; the freedom of choice, the chaos, the mêlée, but take a closer look and you’ll see it’s just as damn controlled and predictable as life on an oPod. Glossy adverts at every possible angle you could construct, the taste of money fleeting through the air and the stab of ‘You can’t afford this- get it on credit’ leaping out from every nicely up-lit corner. Lives being corroded by nameless people in shameless corporations firing out poisonous ‘Products to bring you fulfilment.’ The smell of burning as a bonfire of individual decision making power, critique and the right to refuse to wear Bushwit clothing cast a thick soot across the hearts and minds of the shopper. Oh, wait, maybe the smell was coffee. Either way, this was a special kind of hell that I’d have to bear.
‘Ready?’ I shot over my shoulders
‘Yup.’ Norman lied, creeping further down into his collar.
‘Ok, ten paces, then we go. Do not turn around, or you’ll give us both away. I’ll want to make a quick getaway, so I’ll meet you back at home when we’re done.’

And indeed I did. I even got a lift back.

‘Thank you officer,’ I stepped out of the riot van ‘And I really am sorry about all that.’ She looked at me with sympathetic disdain.
‘Madam, I understand that Life School can cause you to do some funny things, my brother’s gone through a phase of answering everything you say with a koala noise. But just don’t get carried away next time, ok?’
‘I’ll stick firmly this side of the law next time,’ I said, saluting, ‘I mean… the right side, that is, not the side I’m on at this moment… that is, the side of the judges, rather than the side the criminals would think is right…’ The look was turning more to disdain than sympathy. ‘Hey, officer?’ I continued, reflecting on a perhaps not 100% wise choice of salutation, ‘whilst we’re here, do you think I might have my Punky Munky toenail clippers back?’ Just disdain now. ‘Right, well, thanks anyway, have a nice day y’all.’ I waved off the officer and her cargo of burly miscreants. Nobody waved back.
‘Well, well, well…’ Norman stood on Steven Gately with his arms folded ‘The reprobate returns empty handed. And to think- it’s the society hater who you’d bet on for this one, not the nice, quiet, well brought up, gentlemanly one.’
‘You calling me badly brought up?’ roll up those sleeves and we’ll scrap for it.
‘Ohnonononooo’ he sauntered ‘Merely… a lllloser.’ Brilliant, even the biggest bore on the planet’s managed to outwit the system better than me. ‘But tell me, how close did you get?’
‘Enough of the sneering Mister Wow, I was going for something seriously cool. Much better than the free fork I expect you lifted from M&S.’ The sneering failed to diminish and I began to suspect that I’d underestimated him. Instead I’d have to regale him with my Robin Hood tale of mischief and danger.
‘When we parted company I knew exactly where to go,’ I kicked out my best nonchalant detective voice, ‘But I knew I had to do my research first. So I bought a magazine as cover, took a bench and started my stakeout of the House of Pain.’
‘You went all the way down to London Dungeons?’
‘No, I was talking about S&R ladies’ department. It’s a metaphor. Shut up, you’re ruining the ambience.’ I cleared my throat. ‘I sat there for hours, carefully studying the ebb and flow of the store…’
‘You’ve only been gone 45 minutes’
‘I sat there for minutes’ I glared, ‘carefully studying the store, until I knew its very heartbeat and only then did I step inside to find my target. I scooped up a basket and natural as you like started shopping.’ I paused to sweep back my hair. ‘Oh, I put a few things in the basket of course, as a decoy, but then I came across… the perfect target.’ Norman was staring up at the ceiling, but I could feel the excitement springing from his weedy little arms, ‘I put the perfect target in my basket and knew it was my chance, now or never. I marched calmly to the checkout, dropped my bag into the basket and handed the assistant the decoy items. I paid, I was nearly in the clear. And I would’ve got away with it if she hadn’t insisted on taking the basket behind the till. Anyway, a struggle ensued, the toenail clippers hit her in the eye, I panicked and knocked into a coach party of pensioners, there was some spillage, well, quite a lot of spillage actually and… here I am.’
‘Toenail clippers?’
‘You said there were toenail clippers?’
‘That was the perfect target, toenail clippers?’
‘They were worth £40, they’re not the cheap ones. And…’ I sniggered, ‘they had Punky Munky on them.’
‘Oh please, amateurs.’ Norman swept forward an enormous object as tall as me, with a bed sheet over it. ‘Voila!’ He whipped it off.
My jaw dropped open. Norman had come home with an Edition 66, life sized Darth Vadar mechanised sex toy.
‘This, mon cherie, is how it’s done.’ More sauntering, ‘I was walking away from you, confident that all I had to do was pick the right store and the right moment, when I felt a hand on my back. I turned round to face a big gruff bloke who was asking for directions to Harrods. Before I could answer, he’d slipped this cloth over my mouth. I managed to kick his legs out and whacked him one in the face, but it was no good, there was another guy on my back and I was already too weak.’
‘Didn’t people notice, in the middle of Oxford Street?’
‘Oh they noticed alright, but they thought it was a stage show and some of them started throwing money at us. Anyway, when I came to, I was rolling about in the back of a van. My hands were tied, but I quickly got my penknife out and freed myself. It was pitch black, but I could just about make out someone next to me. I shook him, but he wasn’t moving and when I found his face I realised it was old Darth.’ He gave the model a knowing elbow. ‘As soon as we stopped at what must have been the next traffic lights, I tried opening the door, but it was no good. And that’s where Darth got this crack on his head, released me from my captives and broke my fall.
And what do you know? Of all places, those ruddy crooks manage to drop me off just at the end of Friar’s Street!’
‘You did all that?’
‘Yup.’ Norman announced proudly
‘With no help from anyone else?’
‘Goodness, I mean, that’s so…’ I sniffed ‘…so beautiful that I…’ Norman shuffled closer and eased his arm around me ‘…I think I might just… cry. And to think, you could have been hurt,’
‘Well, of course I was hurt a little…’
‘Or horribly horribly mutilated,’
‘Or killed!’
‘Or all of that. Or indeed any of it, if you’d actually done the task, rather than picking up that jammily well timed order from Stile & Robs that Pam and I placed earlier today.’
‘Eek.’ He trembled, noticing the fumes emerging from my nostrils.
‘You yellow bellied, chicken livered hillbilly. There was no attack was there?’
‘In fact, the delivery men were very well spoken and pleasant weren’t they?’
‘And they even offered you a discrete food rub in the back of their van, didn’t they?’
‘And you took it?’
‘And then they brought you and your ridiculous oversized order back home at no extra cost.’
‘Yes.’ Norman had shrunk to knee height.

‘That was a lucky one Big J’
‘Yeah,’ he laughed ‘I thought we were for it when I saw the look on his face’
‘Yeah, when he noticed that crack on Darth Vadar’s head I thought we were a gonner.
‘That’ll teach you not to drive so fast.’
‘But it was an inspired move, that foot massage, you should report it as best case to the big man.’
‘Aw, shucks, it wasn’t that good’ Big Jeff blushed, shielding his face with his crimplene sweater, ‘besides sweetie, I thought it was your lullaby that saved the day.’

For the love of shoes.

So Pam and Freddie were a step closer to that magical moment of togetherness. The second calling point on Pam and Freddie’s route to love was all Bob Geldof’s fault.

These were, of course, the days when the fight against animal cruelty was in the process of hitting big in the popular psyche. It had all started just weeks before when the Rt Hon Lord Bob Geldof, having defeated poverty in Africa, hit a cat whilst cycling to parliament, suddenly sparking a mass protest movement for those unknowing members of society who, roundly weary of Lord Geldof's do-gooding (this was, after all, just the year after Geldof had discovered the cure for cancer) believed they were embarking on a ferocious party of hedonism by doing the exact opposite of whatever his next campaign proved to be.

Geldof himself was quite pleasantly surprised (if slightly perplexed) to see a “No fur, More purr” campaign sweep across London and that night was able to put up his feet and relax next to Felix and Mittens, glass of sparkling water in hand and tick one more epic world problem off the list.

Life couldn't have felt sweeter for him that night. Not, that is, until shortly into his first term as PM when recalling that incident, Geldof finally stumbled upon the elusive secret of politics that so many before him had failed to grasp; that he could manipulate the whole country by himself behaving exactly opposite to his vision for his country. And so it was that for a short while at least, we became a nation of friendly, sober monogamists. No shoplifting occurred, the usual Friday night rabble were tucked up in bed by 11 and Big Brother series 54's viewing figures shot down to 1. The miniskirt market crashed and McDonald’s finally went under. What was the need for any of that when Bob was spreading around enough vice for the lot of us? Bob, of course, went about his duty with the solemnity of any head of state, or Irishman, contenting himself with the knowledge that the epic world problem list was disintegrating as speedily as his music career had done all those years ago.

Anyway I digress. Animal cruelty. Some months after this became an issue that was as fervently sewn into the hearts of middle England as a handful of brainless blokes kicking a ball around a field for 90 minutes, some weird wonder brought out shoes that were best described as, well, Teddy Bear Tart Boots. It started off with cat shaped ones in honour of the unfortunate suffragette to the cause (somewhat ironically nicknamed Fluffy by the press, since this was meant to be an anti-animal cruelty movement). So there they all were, the ‘It’ girls and guys, wandering Soho in boots with implausibly high heels, and implausibly soft fur , with an actual cat face and ears at their toe end. And it wasn't long before dogs, koalas, chimps and all the other cool animals also found their immortality in such works of art. Ah yes, how we below the Teddy Bear Tart Boot poverty line sobbed at not being fortunate enough to wear objects of such majesty and grace. How I spent my Friday nights alone, knowing that if I ventured out with mere Gucci mules, I would struggle to find anywhere undignified enough to let me enter.

If one good thing came out of the whole movement it was that Lord Geldof was eventually rewarded with a very different, but equally as serious as you'll no doubt agree, issue to put back onto his list of epic world problems; social inequality in footwear fashion. At least balance was restored.

And if two good things came out of the movement, the second was the result of Emma Mendelssohn buying herself some Chihuahua boots on April 17th 2018.


‘It’s a beautiful day, the recorded bird sounds are singing and life is g-o-o-d.'
‘Pam, why you speaking with a man’s voice?’
‘Because I am a man.’ Oh my god. I knew it. I’d always suspected there was something a little too butch about the girl. Guy. That would explain why she never wore skirts and sheds completely new light on her time locked in the toilet with Betty Bimplebop in boarding school. Jesus, that’s why Betty had come out grinning so violently…
‘Marg, are you ok?’ Pam’s new man voice persisted
‘Yeah, yeah, I’m completely fine about it, I knew all along.’
‘Knew what?’ I looked up and my vision gradually caught up with what it was seeing. The jovial round face of David the One-Eyed-Cyclops was peering at me.
‘Yeesh Pam, you could have warned me that you were David all along. If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have bitched at him, you… quite so much, about Pam… erm, you.’
‘Marg, I’m David, not Pam.’ David was always a very good explainer, ‘You’re Marg, I’m David, this is Gerald and this is your desk.’ I waved at my desk, then at Gerald.
‘How long have I been out?’
‘Well, put it this way, you’ve got ten minutes before we’re on for our monthly review.’
‘Aw, crap.’ I sprang into action, frenzying for nubbins of paper, computer files and scraps of my brain that were still milling about under the desk.
‘Don’t worry Madge, I’ve got it covered,’ he gave a toothy grin, waggling his oPod. Bob bless David!

It had also been the day of a monthly review when we were first introduced to David the One-Eyed-Cyclops. We'd heard a lot about him from Cumin, my over serious boss; bit of a hotshot apparently, very focused, was really going to make things happen. He was joining me in the Product Initiatives team, just an arm's throw (depending on how far you can throw an arm) from the something-to-do-with-people department. So it was with great anticipation that we awaited David the One-Eyed Cyclops' arrival. It was a Wednesday when he first walked into our lives and into the coffee machine, splattering a hot beverage over Candy Mason and her new chicer than chic turtle boots.

Two things struck me as he apologetically dabbed Candy's skirt with a nearby cloth. Firstly, that he did indeed have one eye.

In the middle of his face.

And secondly, that that's exactly what a Cyclops, and particularly a one-eyed Cyclops would have- one eye. In the middle of his face.

So it was with a mixture of intrigue and comfort in the unfamiliar that I set about getting to know David the One-Eyed Cyclops. Nice enough bloke actually. Slightly foppish hair, but a beautiful big brown eye and a whimsical smile that always kept me entertained. Sure, he had his oPod, his model lifestyle and his neat little relationship like the rest of them, but he knew something of the quest for individuality, so I tolerated his company with pleasure.

It soon emerged that David was more of a hotpot than a hotshot. From what I could gather, much to David's embarrassment, in a bizarre twist of political correctness, he had been promoted and recognised purely because of his lack of a discernable second eye rather than because of any kind of talent in product development. Passing an initial interview by virtue of a good hair day and nonchalant interviewer, David had found his progression up the career ladder a frantic one. Multi-eyed colleagues around him assumed that because he had made it to their level in business despite the obvious impediment, he must be some kind of genius. As such, they pushed him ahead on the basis that there was something about him that their brain could not possibly be advanced enough to process. Either that, or colleagues were so unable to cope with the prospect of working with someone whose custom-made sunglasses were quite significantly cooler than their own, that they had to push him somewhere, and upwards was the only place that anti-discrimination policies let oddities head these days.

Perhaps sooner or later we'd end up with a ruling class so ‘unique’ and clueless, that the only people left not to discriminate against would be the regular normal people. So, forced into a sticky place, they'd end up relaxing discrimination laws resulting in their own demise and eventual resurgence of the people who actually knew what they were doing.

Maybe I’d write Geldof a letter about it.

Working closely with David turned out to be an interesting affair.

In team meetings, my best ideas were frequently misinterpreted as having come from David's mouth and soon David had become the humble and impossible to begrudge hero of the department. Nonetheless, David was stirringly good at organising, so I tended to leave most of the report writing to him.

As the clock eased past 11 o’clock, I sat with my arms folded at my desk.
‘Come on Madge, we’re going to be late.’ I shook my head and pursed my lips. Ah, to be six again…
‘I’m not going.’
‘Look, I know Cumin was a little harsh on you last time,’ Yep, even I felt that my being used as a chair for two hours was verging towards an unacceptable punishment for David’s grammatical error in the report, ‘but he’s a businessperson. He’s your boss. Hiding from him’s not going to do anything.’
‘Who’s hiding? Not me. I’m at my desk working.’ David sighed.
‘Look, I’m going to go present this and I’ll try to fudge your absence, but I can’t promise anything.’

Te-he, I am in for it now! I rubbed my hands in glee, feeling like a master criminal. Although a master criminal would probably ‘Mu-ha!’ rather than ‘Te-he.’
‘Mu-HA!’ I tried it for size.
Gerald gave me an odd look.
‘I’m playing Fish Blaster,’ I gestured at my screen, suspecting that slacking from work would be much more widely acceptable than admitting I was masterminding my own kamikaze leap into the jaws of doom.
Gerald nodded.

I wondered how Norman was getting on.

It wasn’t long before I was hustled towards the boardroom by some of Cumin’s more forceful minions. I stopped outside the door to kick of my shoes, ruffle my hair a little more and pop a really big toffee in my mouth.
‘’Sup Cue?’ I swaggered into the room and kicked a chair down to Cumin’s end of the table. I crashed down next to him, clicking onto his laptop and giving his shoulder a friendly jab. ‘What’s hanging?’ I munched.
A pale, wide-eyed Cumin stood up and took a step back from the table. He stared at the disconsolate David, at the imbecilic Marg Muggleton who seemed to now be using her toes to operate his precious laptop and back to David.
‘Marg…’ David hissed ‘are you trying to get us both fired?’
Cumin took out a comb and scraped back his hair. He smoothed down his jacket.

Wait for it.

‘Well, I’ve never seen anything like it.’ I braced myself for the full barrage. There’s no way he’d blame Golden Boy David for this.
‘David.’ Cripes. ‘I must say I’m surprised at you.’ No, it’s ME! THIS WAY! David gulped and internally made peace with his meagre life.
‘This is absolutely inspired.’
‘Really?’ David yelped, suddenly resurrected.
‘Oh yes, I totally get it, very cool, and such a witty way to pitch the idea, yes, very original… inspired… we could use that scene in the ads…’
David and I chucked each other a crazed glance as Cumin tested different angles with his fingers as a viewing box.
‘What you’re saying to me… is that the new chic in footwear… is no footwear at all.’
‘Yeah, and we can make our money by providing personal sections of carpet for people to walk on outside and foot spas to clean their feet at the end of the day.’ I muttered sarcastically.
‘That’s brilliant David!’ he gave him a manly back slap. ‘You’ve got it all figured out. I don’t know how you do it, but you never fail to impress me. You are heading for big things my man.’
Cumin laughed and stepped out of the room, no doubt heading straight for the patent office.
‘Big things!’
David and I were left in stunned silence.


Back in more innocent days of footwear fashion, Emma Mendelssohn dressed as Little Bo Peep, her brand new Chihuahua boots and Maximus Desimus Meridius, were on their way to a house warming party in Brixton. The Chihuahua boots, as with all worthwhile fashion accessories, were working their way towards Emma’s bone marrow every step she took and they still hadn’t found the house.
‘I think it must be somewhere down there,’ Maximus waved his sword down a poorly lit avenue.
‘It’s not down there, that’s back to the tube station. I told you to bring your oPod, but would you listen? Now I can barely walk and we’ll miss the champagne and strawberries if we’re not there soon.’
‘Look, let’s find someone to ask directions,’ he sighed.
‘I can’t walk another step, so you’ll either have to get me a taxi, or carry me.’
‘Yeah, plenty of taxis around here Emma.’
‘Don’t take that tone with me after all I’ve done for you.’ Maximus sighed and crossed the road. ‘Where are you going?’
‘To find someone to ask directions.’

Pam was coming to the end of a very bad day. She’d been reprimanded at work for daring to use her brain; she was still getting letters from that Plop fellow begging for ‘just one’ visit and her homemade cookies had turned out like miniature nuggets of brick. Yep, a most terrible day, she concluded, trudging home. Until something at the other end of the road caught her interest.
‘Nawwww, a puddy cat.’ She sniffled, bending down to coax it closer. Instead, it ‘skmeowk’ed through her legs and across the lane. As she turned round, the cat, in slow motion of course, had found its way underneath the sandaled feet of… a masked Roman warrior? Maximus saw it too late and put a hand out to steady himself, but flailed for what seemed like minutes in the nothingness of thin air. Pam, figuring that she should also move in slow motion, ran for the scene and let out a ‘Nooooo…….,’ whilst also taking note of the warrior’s rather scrummy-looking nipples. Maximus came crashing down on his loincloth, bending his plastic sword. Pam clattered onto the scene moments later.
‘Ooh, goodness, are you hurt?’ She touched his arm, more because she suspected it might be plastic than because she thought it was injured.
‘Nope,’ he struggled up. He looked at her for the first time and smiled, ‘but it’s really nice of you to ask.’
Pam giggled and pulled at a curl of hair. He glowered into her dark eyes and felt a little jolt.
‘Say, what’s a lovely lady like you wandering around a neighbourhood like this for?’ He edged closer.
‘What’s Maximus Desimus Meridius doing so far from Rome?’ She edged closer.
‘He’s looking for a party on Broad Street, but he’s lost. He’s looking for directions from beautiful Brixtonian Princesses.’
‘I don’t know any Princesses. But I do know an Empress.’
‘Perhaps that fair maiden could tell me where Broad Street is?’ He took her hand and put it to the mouth of his mask.
‘You’re taken.’
‘What?’ Maximus panicked, remembering that he’d left Emma just a few hundred metres away
‘Maximus, he has a wife. He’s going to see her in the afterlife.’
‘Oh yeah,’ he recovered, ‘but she is nothing to you.’
Pam giggled again, transfixed by the eyes through the mask. Hans Zimmer music wafted into her ears.
‘So, um, the directions?’ Schreeech, Maximus pulled the record off the turntable.
Take off your mask and I’ll tell you.’ Pam carefully replaced the record. Maximus hesitated. ‘Slave! Show yourself!’ she sniggered at her own joke.
Alrighty, you asked for it.

‘Well, well, Freddie the customs officer.’ Pam lept back, arms immediately folded.
‘Security,’ he corrected, ‘customs is the other side of the airport.’ He coughed, ‘I mean… I am Maximus Desimus Meridius, commander of the armies of the north and loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Areillius. Husband to a murdered wife. Father to a murdered son and I will have…’
‘Oh shut up.’
‘Not gunner. I will have my vengeance…’
Pam shot forward, covering his mouth with her hand.

Freddie knocked her hand out of the way and she overbalanced, toppling into his face.

‘Don’t kiss me.’ She slammed him against a dustbin.
‘Or what?’ He pushed back
‘I’ll bite.’ She growled
‘Then, I’ll bite back.’
‘I won’t let you.’
‘What makes you think you’ll stop me?’
‘Coz you can’t bite with potato peel in your mouth.’
‘Pardon?’ Pam grabbed a handful of rubbish and crushed it into his face.
Blinded, he fumbled onto a black bag and swept it in Pam’s direction. It crashed onto her forehead and burst open, goo-ing something syrupy down her neck. Enraged, Pam launched herself at him, kicking and spitting like a wildcat. The two locked together in a desperate tussle, mashing Shreddies into clothing and broccoli into hair.

Pam landed on top.

Her arm pressed into his jaw line.

‘Don’t you ever kiss me again.’ She panted. Firmly pinning his body onto the pavement, she grabbed his chin and forced her mouth onto his snarling lips. They locked together for a second, the pulse fluxing from the other. Grabbing, devouring, tasting.

Pam pulled away, sat up and landed a heavy fist in his face.

‘Jeez woman, what was that for?’
‘I told you not to kiss me.’
He grabbed her again, pinning her arms to her side, pulling her thrashing body close, holding her, consuming her lips, until the struggle stopped and they were locked in embrace.
‘Get a room you two,’ a voice came from the other side of the road. Freddie jerked his head away and looked up.
‘Emma… I…’
‘What the hell are you doing? I turn my back for one second and you’re eating the face of some… street urchin.’
‘Emma, it’s not like that… I…’
‘And you reek! Anyone would thought you didn’t give a damn about me, or the Fancy Dress competition.’
‘Don’t be…’
‘Just wait until your mother hears about this. She won’t stand for you treating her favourite daughter-in-law like this.’ Freddie, still clutching Pam’s shoulders, looked at her for a moment, catching the hurt in her eyes. Then turned to run after Emma, lettuce scattering from his armour.

And Pam was left with nothing more than a look. A look of ‘I’m sorry’? A look of regret? A look of vengeance?

‘… In this life or the next.’


To this day, people still argue why Bob hit poor Fluffy the cat. Some people say that the cat had been yelling racist slurs at Lord Geldof and he'd been forced to retaliate in the only way he knew how. Others say that Bob had seen red after his campaign to revert Mr Whippy's 99ers to the long forgotten price of 99p had failed. And others still argue that the real argument we should be having is just how Geldof managed to upper-cut a cat whilst cycling at 25mph.

Well, despite handsome offers of kitty-nip from the Sun, Mr Fluffy (as he now likes to be known) never did reveal the true nature of the dispute, so conspiracy theorists must go on conspiring. Maybe with a name like Mishter Fluffy he ended up in the Russian porn industry. Alternatively, as rumour would have, and as I like to believer, Mr Fluffy now occupies a quiet wing of Geldof Heights.

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Comments by other Members

Sarahll at 12:25 on 01 September 2005  Report this post
First person to get to the end of all this mumblebumble gets a special edition Tag Waverley replica wig!!


Um... what I mean to say (in my own special way) is THANK YOU very much for persisting if you've got this far :0)

Sarah xx

Luisa at 16:33 on 07 September 2005  Report this post
Hi Sarah,

You're welcome!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your work. There were a lot of laugh-out-loud moments. Marg's voice is coming through very strongly and comically, and I feel for poor Pam, who is going through a convincing crisis. My favourite character so far is Norman, though. (!)

I particularly like the forms at the end of the chapters.

I would suggest cutting down on Marg's thoughts in certain places, especially the scenes with more action in them, to give a change of pace to your writing. Sometimes there's a bit too much Marg-thinking going on.

I don't think I've made enough comments to earn my Tag Waverley wig, especially on the later chapters, so I'll reluctantly hand that prize (how much?!) on to someone else.


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