:: Article

Burnt Offering

Can’t believe it’s another day. Another day of this. Another day of what the fuck’s going on. Of why are they watching me? Still watching me? On buses. In shops. Everywhere I go. All straight faces and innocent glances on the surface. But underneath. Watching underneath. All a bit conspiracy theory, granted, but under all that normal, business-as-usual bullshit, I see what’s going on. Of course I’m not the only one. I know that. Probably not even worth talking about. Way down their list. Way down the bottom with the whack jobs and nut cases. Way down, right fucking down among the scum. So why’m I down the arse end of nowhere being watched? Along with the crack heads and fuck-ups? Are they amateurs? Are they somewhat confused? Are they fucking perplexed as to the nature of my allegiances? Been playing toy soldiers too long? Bleeding cowboys and Indians? Fucking Gulf War Syndrome? What do they think I am? Unpatriotic? Scum of the fucking earth or something? Some sort of delinquent? Some sort of sympathiser? And why’m I being chosen, targeted, watched day and night? Yet apparently so fucking unimportant as to not warrant the level of surveillance I would naturally expect. All of a sudden so fucking unimpressive they send children to do their errands for them. Surveillance fucking sweatshops. Practising on me, is that it? This a fucking rehearsal? Breaking the new recruits in, testing them, blooding the little fuckers. This a fucking training exercise, a footnote in the fucking manual. How’d I get caught up in all this? How’d you get mixed up in all this Dave, I ask myself? All you wanted to do was buy a pair of shoes. I hate fucking shoe shops with a fucking vengeance. Memo to self, buy the fucking brogues and get out. Resist the fucking urge mate. Show them what you’re made of. Pull yourself together. Get one over on me? On Dave? There it was staring me in the fucking face. But do I do anything? Do I fuck. That’s why you’re down the fucking list, my son, you’re a sad little fucker, standing in your brogues thinking about getting another pair of the fuckers. Brown brogues, black brogues, purple sprouting broccoli brogues, what’s the fucking difference? Don’t debate it in your head, mate, you sad fuck. Let ‘em know whose boss.
 
Another day. I’m watching people’s shoes now. At opportunities, up close. Laces, no laces. Do I give a fuck? Could be wearing slip-ons for all I care. Getting to know me. Getting under my skin more like. Thing is about parasites they get right under your fucking skin. In their nature. Right under right fucking inside they get. Gives me the creeps eyes burrowing into your flesh. While I’m down there I check out the socks too. Imagine. The fucking socks. Keeping their feet warm while they’re watching me. Would they watch me less if I ignored them, stared straight a-fucking-head? Let them live their lives in peace? Is that it? Want to go about their business unimpeded? Look them in the eye might disturb them? Sensitive that way are they? Put them off their dinner. Right in the eye and say sorry do you fucking mind I’m trying to live my fucking life here if that’s not too much to ask. Hold my head high walk tall Queen and fucking Country, would that stop them paying me so much attention? Wind things down a bit. Deescalate the fucking tension. Well as he asked me nicely, asked me to stop watching him. He seems a decent sort so we decided on reflection decided to leave him along. Let him go about his business. He was only trying to buy a pair of fucking shoes. Brogues I think it was. Yeah a pair of fucking brogues. I remember now cause funny thing was he was already wearing a pair of brogues. And he’s way down the list anyway. Not fucking likely. Cause I was wearing brogues? Is that it? All to do with shoes, is it? What you not allowed a second pair of shoes in this country any more? I’ll take mine off in that case. Hand them to you nice and peaceful say thank you very much it’s been nice being watched by you and here’s the fucking brogues off my feet, ta ta oh and by the way I’d like to buy a pair of fucking brogues please now if it’s not too much fucking trouble.
 
Girl in the shop again, standing there like I don’t know what. Who does she thinks she is. Acting the innocent like I don’t know what she’s thinking, don’t know who she’s watching, staring at my brogues, looking like she’s looking at the ground like she’s shy. Just a little shy girl who doesn’t know where to put her eyes, but she’s not she’s fucking not. It’s a joke a fucking joke. A humorous incident to tell the lads. Lads you’ll never guess what but I’m being watched, that’s right they’re keeping fucking tabs on me. I’m way down the list of course but they’ve got a girl in a shoe shop watching me. That’s right. I found it funny too. A humorous incident. Lads will get a kick out of this I thought. Stooping a bit aren’t they? they’ll say, watching a fuck-up like you.
 
Where’s the service these days? In the fucking shops, I mean. When you try to get some service. Some basic fucking service. Ignore you don’t they? Just having a look can’t keep their eyes off you. Fancy me do you?  I think I just might do some damage I just might do that that’s what I’m thinking. Some fucking damage. Since they’re putting in the hours. So as not to waste their time. Must be hard work staring at me. Ignoring me when I try to get some service. File must be a fat fucker by now. Fat enough to do some damage. My bit my part. Damage instigated by yours truly. Heart-to-heart piece of my mind. My bit for the standards of the country. Don’t like to disappoint them. Powers that be. Not in my nature. Traditionalist I am, end of the day. Right down to my fucking brogues. My beautiful fucking brogues. She’s a tasty bit of chicken though don’t you think Dave? Girl in the shop. Tasty bit of chicken? How’d she get mixed up in all this Dave eh? The old surveillance racket. How’d she get involved get given the assignment? Get cosy with the filth. On the payroll. Dirty business that watching Dave filthy fucking dirty. Playing with people’s lives. Count your blessings Dave my old son, cause they’ve picked a tasty bit they’ve pulled a nice bit of crumpet out of the hat for you. What? I say, can’t be. They have. That one they’ve got watching me? That girl in the shop? Can’t be. Butter wouldn’t melt. Eyes wandering all over you they were Dave. Never. New to the game would you say? Being broken in? Blooded? Tasty bit of chicken all the same, nice bit of fat on a foreign bird like that. Like the skin crispy do you Dave? How you like it is it? Birds imported these days did you know that Dave? Brings disease into the country that does. Not like you to turn down a traditional roast Dave. Put you right that would nice traditional roast. They’re off their game here Dave. Taken their eye right off the ball. Little brown chicken like that crisp up a treat with a smooth talker such as yourself.
 
Secrets? Old Dave? Queen’s whereabouts, PM’s movements, at any given. Gordon fucking waiting-in-the-wings Brown’s thoughts on the matter? Give us a break.  Salt of the earth I am. Traditionalist. End of. Sturdy. Reliable like a pair of old-fashioned brogues.
 
Word in your shell like Dave. About those secrets of yours. We know you have them, we all do, but thing is we’ve been watching you for some time now as it happens. Over by the brogues loitering. Can’t make your mind up can you Dave? With regards to colour. Too much choice that’s your problem. Sign of weakness that is. And they have to ask you. If you’re that way disposed skulking about I mean. Obliged to. Move you along if you’d be so good. But about all this watching well you understand it’s nothing personal. Routine police work. So no hard feelings then Dave? Soon as you choose, confidential if you like, we’ll start winding things up if that’s all right with you. So how you feeling anyway Dave? In yourself I mean. Been a bit traumatic has it? Unsettling? Don’t know if you’re coming or going? Can’t say that in your position I wouldn’t find it the same. A bit unsettled that is. Be a bit disgruntled I would. Bit edgy fly off the handle liable to do anything.

Once they got you they got you good. Collar felt fair cop. Cuffs out eyes down get in the van. Different story inside. Seat Dave hand on shoulder cup a tea Dave help yourself to a biscuit. Boys in blue sympathetic to my predicament. Boys in blue on my side. Saving face stopping the rot. Checks and balances, cancerous advance know all about it. Ours not to reason Dave, fuck or be fucked. Cause of the problem sewn up in the bag. Scale of the problem more like but boys in blue come up trumps. Gentlemen’s agreement took me aside. Said plan as the nose on. Staring at me all these years right between. Under your hat mum’s the word. Named no names but I knew who they meant. Let them down big time. Sorry they ever. Rubbing their fucking noses in she was. Bolt from the blue. Bad light bad for the force youngsters disheartened. Dragging us all down got to take action.

Admired my brogues they did my spit and polish. Very complimentary envying the lustre. Best of British. Symbol what we hold dear. Traditional values symbol the good old days. Showed character what I was made of. And how it’s all been affecting you Dave? The situation? How’s it been affecting you? Whole surveillance business girl implicated excreta brought you down has it Dave? Right fucking down I’d say Dave. Feel like banging that chicken? To rights good and proper? Like to work with us would you? Prepared to go all the way get your hands dirty? What’s going on I said what the fuck’s going on? We was watching you Dave see if you were the one. Right man for the job up to the task. See if you got the bottle for it. Been on the lookout. Right place right time traditional values honest bloke such as yourself perfect such an undertaking. What job’s that then I said? Chicken job Dave. What barbecue banged to rights chicken job? Has to be done Dave has to be. Crisp up nice and tasty will she? A treat Dave tasty as fuck. Relying we are. Can’t let her go knows too much no going back inside information. Standards Dave thin end of the wedge. Course of justice. Taking you for a ride was she? Can’t let her away with it Dave. Duplicitous untoward with regards to the aforementioned? That’s right Dave taking the piss she was having a right old fucking giggle at our expense.
 
See the irony Dave I said see the irony my old son. Tables turned brogue’s on the other foot. Facts of the case turned on their head right upside fucking down. Followed her I did. Found out I did. Where she lives where she squats rat hole where she fucking ruts. Dirty place it was too filthy fucking dirty. Keep calm Dave I said keep fucking calm mate you’re keeping an eye that’s all keeping tabs. So there’s no funny stuff no monkey business. Thing is you can’t be sure. Allegiances where the loyalty lies. What they’re up to what they’re thinking what they’re planning. Subversion sedition all manner of mischief. Always better safe Dave too much at stake. Rife these days Dave religion confuses them in the head. Mixed up in the fucking head they are don’t know if they’re coming or going.

Job well done mate I said justice seen to be. Sleep safe in our beds now. Went up a treat too. Death traps them old buildings pure kindling accident waiting to. In her bed died in her bed they said smoke inhalation blanket coverage all over the papers following day. Muddied my brogues getting in through. Dirtied them right up. Still case closed fair play banged to rights crisp as a fucking cinder.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

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Benjamin Robinson was born in 1964 at an undisclosed location in the North of Ireland. He was kidnapped at the age of two by a group of Militant Protestant Evangelicals who planned to use him as a spindle in their linen factory. At the age of fourteen, disguised as a tablecloth, he fled to Dublin where he currently resides in Ireland’s last remaining hovel. Formally a house of ill repute, the building is legally protected from renovation, and the only house in Ireland officially recognised as containing the ghosts of Swift, Wilde, Yeats, O’Casey, Joyce and Beckett. 

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, February 25th, 2007.