Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Tricksters, part 4

It’s the same scene, but a week later. All three are sitting in the same places, but instead of a hallowed silence and muffled television, grim faces and contemplation, now there is a sense of jollity and relief, raucous noise and laughter.
Surrounding them are empty beer cans, a half dozen on the floor and another half dozen in a tower on the coffee table. A pile of chip papers sits next to it sending out a smell of stale grease and vinegar. Greg has his voice back.
‘That felt wonderful’, he said for the third time that evening and laughed. The others laughed with him. ‘Did you see the look on his face when the third delivery was made?’
The question, as often with Greg, was rhetorical.
‘He deserves this’, he continued. ‘The way he’s treated us, as if we’re nothing, as if we’re the muck that’s come in on the bottom of his shoes. He must have hated not being listened to, as if he was some sort of crazy, demented old man who’s forgotten that he even ordered pizzas.
‘He must have hated that lack of power, of no longer being the one who could make the decision, of having to plead with a pizza delivery man of all people. That must really have cut him deep.’
‘It was funny enough when the first guy turned up’, Alan said. He had been there watching from the very beginning while he waited for Pete and Greg to show up.
‘He just looked very confused to begin with. He had a look on his face which suggested that he wondered if he had indeed ordered the pizzas but just forgotten. After all his name and address were correct. By the second delivery he was starting to cotton on.
‘I can’t believe how lucky we got with the fact that he was actually hosting a party. I loved the bit where he said “I haven’t got time for this, I have guests”, at which the delivery man replied “That’s probably why you ordered the pizzas”, except he said it in broken Polish.’
They giggled again, but in his own head Greg was reliving it all. The texts written by Pete were spot on, conjuring images of a confused man who wasn’t quite sure what he was doing or what he wanted. Of course this was exactly what the delivery men expected when they got to his house, and it was exactly what they got.
Greg hadn’t fully understood it at first, but he saw it in action he realised what a masterpiece of scriptwriting it actually was. He mentioned this to Pete.
‘Thanks. Funny you should mention it actually.’
Pete had been wondering all week how he was going to get this subject out into the open. The previous weekend had been something of a cathartic experience for him, having never mentioned Paul and his tragic end to anyone since he had come out of therapy.
Although he had felt that he could get on with his life quite happily without that sense of extreme guilt which had plagued him before, especially with his goal of continuing Paul’s work as some type of memorial, he had still felt unable to speak openly about it. And he realised a week previously, he had been holding himself back solely to keep Paul’s memory.
‘Oh?’ Greg said, intrigued.
‘I handed my notice in yesterday. At my job. And I’ve enrolled on a scriptwriting course.’
Greg was just about to speak when Alan spoke up.
‘Make that two. I’m leaving the police.’
Greg and Pete looked at him in shock.
‘What?’ Alan asked.
‘You of all people seemed so set in your ways’, Pete answered. ‘I thought that the Met was like your second home.’
‘That was the problem’, Alan replied.
‘But I thought you loved the camaraderie, isn’t that why you joined in the first place? What are you going to do instead?’ Pete continued.
‘Going to train to be a primary school teacher’.
‘But I thought you said..?’
‘I know what I said’, Alan cut in.
In fact he knew full well what he had said. That any man who went into teaching must be queer, or at least a paedo. That it was a job for women because it didn’t require any heavy lifting. That it was a job for women because it meant that they were available to pick up the kids at the end of the day when the men were doing proper jobs. That it was a job for women because they weren’t capable of working fifty-two weeks a year.
‘But it wasn’t me.’, Alan continued.
‘Yes it was’, Greg said, ‘we heard you’.
‘Yes. I mean, it was my dad. He said all those things and I just repeated him. That’s what I’ve been doing all my life, copying him. It’s about time I did what I want to do, and if he thinks I’m queer, or doesn’t want to talk to me or see me again then it’s his problem, not mine. I’ve got to stand up to him’.
‘Crikey!’ Pete said. ‘What’s brought all that on?’
‘Marie. She came here to repair the boiler.’
‘A woman repairm..woman?’ Greg said.
‘Exactly’, Alan said smiling. ‘It shocked me too, at first. But she’s...well, she’s just amazing. And it’s got me thinking. And then your story last week Pete got me thinking even more. Life’s too short to be copying your parents. Why should I be living up to my dad’s standards when I don’t agree with them? My life’s got nothing to do with him.’
‘How’s your dad taken it?’ Greg said.
‘Doesn’t know yet.’
Greg’s question had been going through Alan’s head all week. How exactly was he going to break it to his father that he had both quit the police force and intended to begin training to be a teacher? A primary school teacher at that. He would probably disown him. But lately Alan had come to a conclusion, albeit yet without too much conviction.
‘But then to be honest I don’t really care how he takes it. I love Marie; I think she might be “The One”. And if she thinks that I’m doing the right thing then my dad can, well, you know...’
The room quietened as all three were lost in their own thoughts. After a moment, Alan and Pete found themselves both staring at Greg. He looked up.
‘What have you learned from this?’ Pete asked.
‘Yes, have you undergone any personal changes?’ asked Alan.
‘Should I have done?’
They had no answer to his question. Greg grinned.
‘Have actually. I’ve learned that I am entirely happy with who I am and what I am doing. I wouldn’t change a thing. Last week’s sore throat got me to realise that I am nothing without my voice. I love to speak...’
‘We’d noticed’, Pete and Alan said in unison.
‘Well, there you go then. You already know that I wouldn’t want to do anything different. My voice is my talent. I can weave anything with the words that I cast, I can hold anyone spellbound. I proved that tonight.
‘Although Pete’s words were spot on, I don’t think that there could have been anyone else here who could have spoken them with the right nuances and expressions, emotions and intonations than I?’
As there was no response, he continued.
‘Quite right. No one. So why on earth would I want to change from a job where I get to speak for all of every day? I get to tell people that they can do any job in the world that they want, to highlight their strengths, give them advice on their weaknesses, and mould them into exactly the candidate that an employer wants. Or at least, thinks they want.
‘And with those employers, I get to tell them what they think they want. I make sure that they pick the worker that I want them to have simply because they believe what I’ve made them believe. Who else has that sort of power? The power to persuade, the power to convince, the power to trick?’
‘I guess we’ve all been playing tricks lately’, Alan said. ‘Some of us on ourselves.’
‘I’ve never seen you show that depth of sensitivity before’, Greg said with sarcasm.
‘He’s got a point’, Pete added.
‘Still. This is isn’t some kind of moralistic tale is it?’
‘If it is, can I use it for a script?’ Pete asked. ‘I’ll pretend it’s made up. Honest.’

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