The room is inhospitable, all Formica and watered down magnolia. There is faint stink of stale piss and yesterday’s farts. It seems that quite recently somebody has been kept in this confined space for too long. A full hour passes when suddenly and without the fanfare of approaching heel tips the teak veneered door bursts open and in stride two guys; the first is trilby man, minus trilby. His thinning hair is slicked back from his forehead; high templed, you think ‘Nosferatu’. The other is a short arse, with the complexion of a pickled lung. They pull up chairs and lean across on their shiny elbows. They have done this before, many times over. If you didn’t know better you’d have thought they were about to offer you something they had just rifled from the gusset of a Pharaoh’s corpse. The reality was far more prosaic.
“So, let’s have a look at you.” Ferret like eyes bear down on you. “You don’t look the sort to bear a grudge against someone, just because he’s different. But you do, and I’ve got the evidence. Ten infringements. Do you deny and of them?” He makes as if to read his list, but you raise a palm to signal it isn’t necessary.
“I don’t for a moment deny any of them, but they weren’t said in the way you seem to insinuate. I don’t hate any of those people. They’re just names we use every day. They’re just common speech, same as my Dad used, same as my Grandad before him; common speech.”
“That all boils down to how they are received, how they are, shall we say, ‘perceived?’ Intention is not provable mate. It’s how they are heard that matters. And I heard them, every one of them, and I am prepared to testify that if I had been a Four by Two, or a Gippo I would have been deeply offended by your tone.” He leans back on his chair, hands in trouser pockets adjusting his loose change.
“What d’you mean, my tone?”
“Tone. That’s what makes it an offence. Subsection seven:’ Any word uttered in a tone that that suggests the speaker may in any way consider himself different to, or superior to another person will be treated as indicating that he speaks from a position of hate, and will be classed as an offence against the Code’.”
“What is this fuckin’ Code? I’ve never heard of this fuckin’ Code!”
“Well you should have. ARSE has been running two years now. Two thousand successful prosecutions. Maybe you’re just a bit slow? Don’t you read the papers?”
“Persecutions more like! And no, I don’t read the papers. It’s a heap of shit. I’m too busy earning an honest living. D’you know what that is?”
“Be that as it may we have a job to do. Let me introduce my colleague. This is Monsieur Branleur. He’s from Belgium and he’s one of their guys on RPC: Restriction et Prévention Conversational. That’s Conversational Restriction and Prevention..”
“In English that’s CRAP.” You raise a mute smile. “And this is crap like I said, it’s a close down of everyday speech?”
“No mate. Not everyday speech. There’s moves afoot in all areas of government to change behaviour, and speech is just one aspect of behaviour. There’s an agenda to make everyday speech, shall we say, a tad less definite and a little more helpful to the prevailing conditions in society.”
Monsieur Branleur raises an arse cheek and lets one rip. A Belgian Custom.
“Thanks for that, but I’m not following. What prevailing conditions? This town is much the same as it was when I was a kid. How’s it changed?”
“It’s not so heavy here, but as you know there are places where there has been ‘change’, if you get my drift. Big change. And there’s bigger changes coming, millions of ‘em. That’s why we have to iron out the creases. So between us ARSE and CRAP are on the case, and on your case. Get it?”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake! I’ll wake up in a minute and find myself in a neighbour’s garden, too much Double D! I think I’m fuckin’ dreamin’.”
“I promise you this is not a dream. And while we’re on, is it true that you have a subscription to Male Figure Review?” He slips one out and flops it on the table. “Some nice pectorals in there eh? You’ve had a subscription for two years now, according to Mr Patel. Does your wife know……………?”
Suddenly, you feel a long way from home.