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Nigel Ford


The last scam, a good scam it was to be, there was me, a hopeful genius who was not to be, Helen my comforter who was not to be and who incidentally ran the processing works that was not to be.  

We did not believe in terrestrial poses, only in bloodguilt truth.  

To continue, there was Shamus whose idea the scam was, and who was not to be, there was Derek the solicitor who was full of helpful ideas and new angles on human behaviour, who was not to be, and lastly there was Maggie who wrote menus while lying about in the grassy field, and these (the menus) were always around. Maggie was left-handed.  

Me, I was the organiser upon whom everyone pinned their hopes and I knew I would do my best to let them down gently. I knew that from the very beginning.  

The processing works sat on the green bald banks of the wide rushing river, as it crashed savagely into hairpin bends before reaching the city, upon which it threw its water and pierced on flight to the sea.  

Upstream from the processing works was a large indoctrination plant that periodically released big fat happy birds to fly down river making for the sea and freedom, but most of them got sucked up by the huge suction fans of the processing works and processed down through level after level until they ended up as small black gobs of greasy oil on the bottom floor.  

There too were a lot of the big fat happy birds who were merely maimed by the fans and plopped helpless into the river where, because they were so big fat happy and heavy they were not born along by the thrashing waters but swayed slowly in the strong current rotting until they sank, forming a disgusting feathery sludge on the bottom.  

I, being of acquisitional nature, had my eye on the processing works as a possible place of residence. I was sure I could get it cheap. The only angle, the sole thorn, was the rushing river surely, because that could not be acquired, rivers were free and wild, nobody owned them. But to make the soon to be obsolete works habitable and even desirable, with an eye to a future sale and a good return on my modest investment, the river around about it and rushing past it would have to be tamed, civilized and cleaned. The waters would need to be crystal clear and beautiful and slowed down sufficiently to moor a boat and have a swim.  

We were all sitting around left-handed Maggie in the field of grass and no horizons when Shamus delivered his idea for the scam, which was not half bad, and that is the whole point of this story, my acquisitional vices being totally irrelevant.  

Maggie was writing a menu on a big piece of whiteboard with a black marker pen. At the top she wrote MENU in big upper case letters and below this, with out ado, and in lower case letters, she wrote “bacon & chips £3:10”. Then she stopped and chewed the top of the black marker pen deep in thought.  

Around her sat myself, Shamus, who had just delivered his idea for the scam which was not half bad, Helen who had her head in my lap but we had not had time to progress any further down the road of intriguing intimacy at this point, and who ran the processing works.  

The reason why, by the way, the processing works was to become obsolete, was because the large indoctrination plant was about to close down. It too had become obsolete; there was no longer any call for its services.  

To go on, as well as myself, Helen and Shamus, the other person sitting around Maggie and her menu was Derek the solicitor who was full of new angles on ways of looking at things.  

Including Maggie then, there were five of us.  

The Scam was a pretty good plan and after a bit of organising on my part it was put smoothly into practice. We ran it for five days and it was really most amusing, the only real danger that it might fail that was we were falling about laughing all the time.  

We cut the proceeds of the scam five ways and I acquired the works that were now obsolete with my share. Cleaning out the works of the bodies of dead birds in the various stages of disintegration was a big job; they disintegrated in five stages, on stage one they were big and fat but not happy about being caught, on stage two they had lost the will to fly, on stage three they had lost the ability to navigate, on stage four they had lost all their feathers and were pathetic and bald and on stage five, as previously described, they had become small black gobs of greasy oil on the bottom floor. Helen helped me. In between sessions of awful and disgusting and smelly cleaning we would find time for brief periods of delightful intimacy.  

But the river bothered me. The garden looked nice though and I could often see Maggie out there in the grass writing her menus. Shamus would sit beside her and by now had become sufficiently confident to offer suggestions. But Maggie would only shake her head and continue to chew the top of her pen.  

Derek the solicitor stood about the lawn in various poses, motionless like statues.   

One day I looked up from my cup of tea and the cartoons in the newspaper and discovered that Derek was sitting opposite me at the breakfast bar. He wore an earnest expression.  

I have fixed it; he said to me, I have arranged it so you have sole rights to take yourself, other legal bodies, companies, third parties and companions back and forth to the other side.  

This sounded excellent. But unless it was an infinite arrangement I would neither be able to build a bridge to do these things, nor clean the river and tame its enthusiastic vigour so I could move my boat, have a swim and make it attractive to future speculants should I wish to sell and move on.  

But he reassured me. I assure you, he said to me, that the arrangement is infinite.  

Helen and I lived happily on until such time as I might or might not decide to sell, Maggie and Shamus composed menus in the garden, Derek became a series of magnificent statues and we all lived happily ever after. 

Except that none of these things were to be.