Mentals, Part 2
He sits down at the other side of the bar, at the table opposite me. We are now pretty much alone. We exchange the obligatory glance.
'Quiet isn't it?' He says.
'Yes,' say I, and - trying not to make it sound too pointed, 'I like it quiet.'
I don't want to be rude to this chap, he seems alright. But what I want to do right now is stare at the wall, enjoy my drink and empty my mind of the day's events. If I were feeling especially chatty I would be halfway home and about to begin discussing the finer details of the economic fall-out involved in Tired Mam's latest shoe-purchasing escapades.
'Quick one after work is it?'
I sigh inwardly. Then decide to make the effort.
'Erm, yes. Snatching a few minutes to myself. I've two young children, so, you know. The real work starts when I get home.'
'Ah yes,' he says, 'been there myself young man. I have two daughters of my own. They haven't spoken to me in seven years.'
I stiffen slightly, and give him a closer look. He seems outwardly normal, but this is an awful lot of personal information to be giving a stranger in the pub. I thoughtfully take a sip of my drink, temporarily forgetting (being tricked into forgetting?) its potentially noxious contents. Seems a shame about his children though - wonder what happened? I decide to keep an eye on him.
He notices my cigarette.
'Well,' he says, 'at least you can still smoke in here. If he had his way, no-one would be allowed to do anything in this country.' I say nothing. 'Tony Blair.' He adds, by way of explanation.
'Mmmmmm.' I say.
He looks to his left and right, and then leans toward me.
'You realise of course,' he says in a low voice, 'that Tony Blair is a criminal?'
I try not to panic at this point. The chap may still be O.K. He may just have some strident non-nanny-state opinions and have a firm position about Iraq and the dubious international legality of the action. Everything may still be alright, I think.
The chap is warming to his subject.
'He is acting outside of sovereign law. Do you know what that means? He is acting against the Queen.'
I am now starting to worry. Can I be sure this is even happening? Have the two sips of my sweating-sausage-fingers-nutjob-barman-infected drink conjured up this illusion? I try to remain calm and rational. To freak-out at this stage would only facilitate the progress of the mento-nanobots. Must remain calm.
'I've written letters,' he continues, 'to Her Majesty. I never receive a reply. It's futile. MI5 intercept all of my post.'
'You won't know this. He doesn't publicise it. Tony Blair is a 33rd-degree Mason.'
Shit. Oh shit.
'Check. It's true. Then ask yourself why he doesn't publicise it.'
'Check where?' I ask, foolishly drawing myself in. He looks at me in a benign manner, as if I were a simple child.
'Why, the internet of course.'
Ah. Yes. The internet. Of course.
'But I shan't let them stop me. I will expose the truth, no matter the cost. I have already lost my health, my wife, my house. They have bankrupted me, I currently have debts of over £70,000. But they shan't stop me.'
I am no longer curious as to why his daughters no longer communicate with him.
And now I am very worried. Is this happening, or have I lost it? If it is happening, was this chap O.K. when he came in? If so, then this is a worryingly short amount of time to succumb to evil Doctor Spazzfinger behind the bar. How long do I have?
And then it dawns on me. Oh yes, there is a conspiracy. But not in our government. No, it is right here in this very bar. This chap and the barman are acting together. It's a two-pronged Rain-Man-onslaught. No-one can withstand both the infected drink and the molecules of mouth-gibber spewing from this man in my direction.
'When I gave Northumbria Police the documentary evidence of MI6's assassination attempt against me, they did nothing. And then claimed that they had never spoken to me in the first place, and did not possess the evidence at all. I ask you - how else could you explain my bad leg?'
My palms are sweating as I pull on my coat. I mumble something about a bus, and burst onto the deserted street. I fill my lungs with good, clean, sane air. The sun is shining. Perhaps everything will be fine. I shake my head at the lunacy of the past few minutes, and at my own idiocy.
'Fuck me,' I say to myself, 'I am one cunting fucktard magnet today.'
Of course the street is not deserted. The two pearl-and-twin-set old ladies look at me as though I were some sort of abomination. The look they give states that they believe me to be irretrievably MENTAL.
Oh God. I hope there is an antidote. Some sort of serum or something.