Albert’s favourite joke is as follows. Each day he attempts some sit-ups. He can reach about twenty before he has to give up.
But if someone comes into the room during his brief exertions he always starts counting.
‘One hundred and twenty three,’ he says as he completes his fifth sit-up. ‘One hundred and….twenty….four.’
Albert loves this joke so much he can sometimes laugh about it alone.
Sometimes Albert covets other people’s houses. All that space, somewhere to park, spare bedrooms. An office even! More than one toilet. Then he remembers how he hates buildings surrounded by air. Best to huddle together in a terrace, he reasons. Far harder, that way, for predators to pick you off.
I woke up to find myself in hospital. In my semi-conscious state I had so many powerful visions! I saw a new phone; a whiter smile; far better skin; a cleaner, faster car. I even saw lust! There was so much to be done and time was marching on. What was doing wasting my time lying around here? I clambered out of bed, disconnecting myself from all the pesky tubes and wires.
“Relax,” the nurses said. “Those aren’t visions,” they said. “Those are just adverts on tv. You should just ignore them. Everyone knows they’re not real.”
But I was having none of it. I wanted it all. And I wanted it now.
“Get out of my way,” I shouted at them. “Can’t you see you’re holding back my recovery? Can’t you see you’re holding back the recovery of the entire economy?”
They construct the wall and appoint fierce guards at each checkpoint. How impressive they all look!
Until, that is, they notice the clouds gliding irreverently above their heads and the determined ants crawling up and over the wall each night.
Even tiny birds flout the fiercely defended border with impunity.
Albert feels proud as he steps back to admire the wardrobe he has just built from a flat pack. For once, he can see and touch the results of his labours.
This then reminds him of when he was working at home for a time while there was work being done on his house. Real men were knocking things down and building walls. Meanwhile, up in his bedroom, Albert was tapping onto his laptop, responding to emails and writing reports.
“Well, I’m actually working very hard as well,” Albert decided not to say to the sweating workmen when he ventured downstairs to offer them cups of tea.
After being called dead early, Frank gets honestly intrigued, judging knowledge lovely; money nothing; or pettiness quaintly real.
“Sorry – totally unnecessary.”
“Violence with xrays, you zealot!”
Albert meets two old friends for a drink. After a couple of minutes, he clocks it.
‘Are you two….involved now?’ he asks.
They both smile.
Then Albert thinks about the word involved. Albert’s never been involved, not really.
Perhaps that’s sad. Sadder still, though, would be trying to involve yourself.