Almost at the pub door, I flicked my cigarette butt into the road. A pigeon flew down, picked it up in its beak and flew off.
Things rarely impress me these days, but a pigeon with a habit has to be on the list.
I ran into the pub.
“Lads, come and have a look at this!”
Biffy, Corky, Bluto, Narky and Barty all told me to fuck off.
“No, honestly lads, there’s a smoking pigeon out there!”
“A burnt pigeon?” asked Bluto. “So fucking what?”
“It’s not burnt!” I shouted, “It likes cigarettes! Come and have a look!”
“Piss off,” said Narky.
“Christ! What’s up with you lot today? You’re acting like the French have won the World Cup again!”
Gertie spoke up: “There’s a new chief police officer in town. As of today, all the existing police officers have been replaced with ‘an elite force of zero-tolerance, street-hardened officers of the utmost integrity and experience’.”
“So what? I’ve seen them come, I’ve seen them go.”
“The new Chief’s a woman.”
“Fuck.” I said.
A well-groomed man wearing a suit walked into the pub.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I’m a VAT inspector.”
Simultaneously, the seven of us told him to fuck off.
“I’ll be back in half an hour with the police,” he said, turning for the door.
“Wait!” I shouted. “You’re obviously the real thing. We get a lot of conmen in these parts. Would you like a drink? Or do you want to get straight on with the inspection?”
“Well, I’d prefer to make a start on the accounts. I must admit, I was told I’d have problems here, but, now we have our initial misunderstanding behind us, you seem most amenable. I don’t blame you for being wary; I do a very important job and there’s money to be made if one is unscrupulous.”
“Fine,” I replied, “we keep the books in the stockroom. I’ll ask my secretary, Gertie, to show you the ins and outs of it all. She’s very skilled at what she does.”
“The stockroom is down that corridor and behind the second door to the right, sir.”
He went off looking for the stockroom.
“No way, eez! The guy’s a reptile!” shouted Gertie.
“Gertie, you’re not doing it for me…you’re doing it for the Dog and Donkey! You are going to do it for what is good and decent in this town. You are going to do it for the hardworking men of this area who, after leaving the harshness of the factory floor, would go home to face wives such as mine were it not for this haven that is called the Dog and Donkey!”
I paused for breath, took a sip of whisky and continued, “there is but one amongst us that can avert the Armageddon that this oasis of life and free existence now faces! Only you, Gertie, have been blessed with the ability to defeat the evil forces that are intent on our annihilation!”
(I smoke too much.)
“Gertie, you are destined to lead us into battle! There is no other that can match your finely honed oral skills. Tonsil Tina would be smote down within minutes of entering that fearsome stockroom! It has to be you, Gertie! You are the chosen one!…For Dog, for Donkey for freedom!!”
“Hurrah!” the lads screamed behind me.
“Bollocks, eez! I’m not doing it.”
“Here’s two hundred quid. If you keep him in there for three hours, I’ll put a mirror on the stockroom ceiling next week.”
I went behind the bar and answered the phone that had started to ring.
I listened to Blinky’s sister for a minute and then gently put the phone down.
I turned to the men. “So, it begins. The enemy has fired its first shot.”
They looked at me.
“Already, one of our comrades has fallen; our friend and ally, Blinky, has been arrested for indecent exposure and ejaculation in a public place.”
“My God,” said Corky, “these guys sound awful.”
“When I first came to this patch,” he continued, “I was told about Blinky; nervous twitches and uncontrollable ejaculations should be treated by doctors, not by policemen. What kind of society do we live in?”
“Poor old Blinky,” said Bluto.
Corky held his head in his hands.
I could see the dilemma he faced.
“Corky,” I offered, “none of us here would blame you if you walked away from this. After twenty five years as a copper, it must be difficult for you to take up arms against your former colleagues.”
“It’s not that, eez. They’re all a bunch of cunts.” Corky looked up. “I think I’ve left some colours in with the whites. She’ll kill me.”
“You do the washing?” Bluto laughed.
I looked at Bluto. “Give him a break. He’s only been retired a week. These things take time. It even took me a month to stand my ground over the fabric softener issue.”
“Sorry, eez. I suppose I have it all to come.”
“Okay. Biffy, you’re in charge of the bar. Bluto, I think Gertie was expecting some punters today. Tell them to come back next week and they’ll get a free hand job on top of the usual. And help Biffy behind the bar when it gets busy; there’s going to be a lot of frightened men out there.”
"Hang on a minute," I said, "where's Narky?"
"Over there." answered Biffy, pointing to a heap on the floor. "I've tried to wake him, but he's having none of it."
"Oh, right. Well, when he wakes up tell him to, er, erm...clean the glasses!"
I turned to Corky. He looked worried.
“Corky, go home. Go home before she returns. We understand.”
“Are you sure, eez?”
“Yes, Corky. It’s alright.”
“And bring back that tear gas you’ve got hidden in your garage.”
“How did you…I’ll bring it with me.”
Finally, I turned to Barty. “Barty, stand outside and thump anyone wearing a uniform.”
Barty jumped to attention, pulled his head from the ceiling and saluted.
I looked at them: "Right, you all know what to do. I’m off to do some research and then I’m going to sort out this new Chief copper. I’ve been here for over forty years and I've yet to see one that’s up to the job!”
To be continued