The Welcome Stranger [Barnaby Taylor, 2018]
Two pints, says Mepham as he walks in the door. Billy is already there. And Stu. Make it three, Mepham says as he spots the boys playing pool. How’s it going, lads, he says as he walks over. Billy is lining up a shot. Red ball, centre pocket, he says though he doesn’t need to. Just hit it, says Stu. And hurry up. Stu is always in a bad mood. It doesn’t matter what you do, he always see the bad in things. Billy isn’t so bad. A couple of pints and he likes a laugh. But Stu can be wearing if you are not careful. Mepham stands next to Billy. He puts the pints on the ledge by the mirror. Mepham goes to light a cigarette. His phone lights up. The text message arrives.
God aint glad. w’v foes of d faith n d kngdm.
Mepham looked up from his phone. Stop playing, lads, he says to the boys. You both need to choose, he said. What you gonna be? Alguacil? Alcaide? Billy looked up. What about you, he said. You need to choose as well. I already have, said Mepham. Malleus Haereticorum, that’s me. Typical, said Billy. You would be, wouldn’t you. I suppose you need me to choose as well, says Stu. You know you do, replies Mepham. You know you do. We have been through this a thousand times. We knew this was coming, didn’t we. The phone goes again.
God nos who’s rong n hs sinned. sn a calamity wl occur 2 doze hu av condemd us 2 deth.
Here we are, says Mepham. It’s kicking off nicely.
Not you too, Paul Hewson, I said to myself. The images were grainy. The glasses gave him away. It was snowing in the footage. The garage forecourt was empty.
Bono was talking on what looked like a Mobira Cityman 900. 183 x 43 x 79 mm. Those things have a total weight of 760g. They were nicknamed ‘Gorba’ in Finland because Mikhail Gorbachev used one during a press conference in 1987.
Who would be on the other end of a phone like that? And what would be said? I could only imagine.
As I stare into the longness of my loneliness I am comforted by a book I recently found in an abandoned house not far from where I live now.Though the circumstances of his solitude are not the circumstances of my solitude there is something to be found in the following words from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden:
I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will. (1854)