“…I was just saying to Meerkat here,” said the man in the lovat green cavalry twill suit, “that it is impossible to consider the meaning of life without reference to the impact of Bobby Moore’s spurious arrest before the 1970 World Cup finals.”
“Hang on…” said the man in the meerkat ‘T’ shirt, as his friend in the moleskin waistcoat placed three pint glasses onto the sticky dark wood table, spilling just a little as he did so. “I…”
“’Ere, I hope that’s yours,” snapped Cavalry Twill. “Don’t want to go paying for a pint and finding that most of it has been slopped onto the table.”
“It’s just a drop,” said Moleskin, none-the-less pushing one of the full glasses towards Cavalry Twill, “and anyway, you paid for nothing.”
Cavalry Twill sucked on his pint noisily before placing the glass down carefully on the soggy beer mat. “No peanuts?” he asked. “No pork scratchings? Not even a pickled egg to share?”
“I forgot,” said Moleskin morosely. “I’m sure that you will rectify the omission when it comes to your own turn to buy a round. Unless, of course, you have mysterious ‘other business’ in the Gent’s again.”
“Leeks,” muttered Cavalry Twill darkly.
“I…” said Meerkat.
“Anyway,” interrupted CT, raising himself just very slightly from his stool, “the moment will have passed by then. Pardon me, vicar. Better out than in, eh?” Meerkat and Moleskin shared a glance. They had their doubts.
“You see,” continued CT, “what I’m trying to say is, you cannot simply consider the direct wossname, consequences of an action; you have to consider the indirect implications, viz, would Sir Alf Ramsay have removed Bobby Charlton from the fray so early if he hadn’t had his eye taken off the ball as a result of seeing his captain in cufflinks just prior to the tournament?”
“Handcuffs,” said Meerkat. “Surely you mean…”
“The type of wristwear is, sunshine, what we in the psychology game call an irrelevance. Best not mentioned.” He directed a long, dark look at Meerkat; took a pull on his beer and continued again. “Point is, unforeseen consequences: you just don’t know what they might be.”
“Isn’t that what makes them, you know, unforeseen?” ventured Moleskin.
“Precisely,” said CT. “It is like…” He waved his hand in front of him as if trying to evoke some distant memory. “It is like him what had the box of chocolates: you don’t know what you’re going to get. Think you’re in for a cushy coffee crème and you wind up losing a filling to a toffee finger. Buggers are toffee fingers.”
“I never understood why he didn’t look at the little picture on the box,” said Moleskin. “If he didn’t know what he was going to get, I mean.”
“Life does not come with pictures,” said CT profoundly. “And anyway, illustrations are not always accurate. ‘May be subject to change,’ it says so on the box. Also, you cannot trust the average Walloon; they put the little pictures on the bottom of the box. Drop your guard for one second and try to work out what the whirly little numbers with the nuts on top are and before you know it you’ve got fourteen individual little brown stains down the crotch of your chinos.”
“Forrest Gump…” said Meerkat.
“Belgians,” corrected CT. “Was a time when we had our own chocolates. Knew where you were with a box of Milk Tray: no unpleasant surprises there. If it looked like a lime barrel, then a lime barrel was what you got. Not,” he cast an accusing glare in the direction of Meerkat, “some kind of nutty sludge.”
“Praline…” said Meerkat.
“Mmm, strange kind of Christmas present I have to say – requires you to scrub your top plate with a dishmop to get the bits out. Anyway, least said, soonest mended. The accepted social norm does allow for the occasional detour into Crystalized Fruit when circumstances demand the less than ideal solution; when your ‘proper’ chocolates are not, for some reason readily available: in time of nuclear war for instance; as the result of fire or pestilence; when the petrol stations are closed, you know, but Flemish confections are seldom welcome on a more advanced English palate.”
Meerkat looked crestfallen. “The wife’s sister won them in a lottery,” he said. “They said that they were of exceptional quality. The crème de la crème…”
“And not a raspberry ruffle among them,” scoffed CT, draining the last of his beer. “I think I’ll just have to…” he stood awkwardly. “Braised liver,” he said as he lurched from the room.
Meerkat drained his glass and rose slowly to his feet. “I don’t suppose he’ll be back until well after I’ve got them in,” he smiled wryly at Moleskin.
“No,” answered Moleskin. “I think he will be taking a little time out in order to develop a new theory on the meaning of life. Something which, I would imagine, will completely bar him from putting his hand in his pocket.”
Meerkat sighed deeply as he gathered up the glasses and turned towards the bar. “Hungry work, I should imagine. Do you think I should get him a roll-mop herring?”
“Does he even like them?” asked Moleskin, somewhat surprised by the suggestion.
“I shouldn’t think so for a second,” answered Meerkat, smiling broadly…