Dear Publisher

Dear Publisher,

I have tried unsuccessfully for many months now to find acceptance for a short story I have written concerning two people caught up in a world of intrigue and violence that they were ill-equipped to understand. With your forbearance I now submit that same story for your consideration. However, in order that I may improve my chances of publication, I have now set the story within a dystopian future beset by the fear and reality of climate change. I beseech that you give the story your fullest attention. It is titled ‘The Groper Contract’ and I enclose the opening paragraphs below. Should this submission be to your satisfaction, I would be pleased to make available the remainder of the story.

Thanking you in advance,

John Ridgway

 


 

The Groper Contract

Part 1 – Sometime in the future

“Well bugger me!” offered Damian rhetorically. “I’ve put bloody diesel in the Beemer.”

Damian quietly put the nozzle back into its holder with a grace and ceremony that belied his embarrassment. With the wrong kind of fuel in his car, we were surely in dire straits, but Damian was in no hurry to admit it. Instead, he seemed more interested in rubbing his stomach, the reason for which was soon to become apparent.

“You know something? I need breakfast.”

With a casual double-click, he locked his hapless vehicle and strode off towards the forecourt diner. I scurried after him. When it came to mishaps of the fuelling kind, Damian had obviously decided that a plate of bacon and eggs would have more problem-solving potential than anything I could possibly have to offer. And for all I knew, he was right. We were living in strange times, where plausibility had become the new certitude. Looking back, I think we both needed that bacon and eggs.

The mood was indeed gloomy, but as we entered the restaurant we were to be immersed in a bright and empty cheerfulness that offered the faux levity the circumstances demanded. “Let me get the coffees,” I offered in a moment of giddy generosity. An unappreciative Damian just watched on in surly silence as I negotiated the acquisition of two extra-large mugs of generic brown beverage. Undeterred, I continued in my quest to boost morale. “Do you want a croissant with that?” Alas, my earnest encouragement was to be met only with a sullen frown.

“No! Full English.”

Having thus dismissed my continental impudence, Damian retrieved his tray-for-life from his company haversack and turned his gaze towards the tureens arrayed before us. Sadly, however, our appetite was to be short-lived as we stared in awe and dread at the congealed mountain of vegan bacon and slimy fried eggs confronting us. Further along sat a huge pile of crusty vegan sausages that spoke of culinary genocide. The overhead lighting bestowed its warming glow, but this only served to draw attention to the irony of the crime.

“Just the coffees then?” I surmised. And with that we pushed our now largely redundant tray towards a redundantly large checkout girl. As we approached, she looked upon us with an indifference that hinted at contempt.

“Just two coffees then? Sniff. That’ll be eight-fifty. Have a carbon-neutral day.”

The thick end of ten pounds seemed a lot to pay for two peddle bins of a brown liquid that was yet to reveal its true purpose, but neither of us was in a mood to argue. Retiring to the nearest table by the window, we sat down to reconsider the wisdom of consumption. Damian was maintaining his moody reserve as he stared through the window, seemingly mesmerized by the wafting arms of the local wind farm. I had long-since lost my fascination for their industrial grace, so I entertained myself instead by sadistically tormenting a sachet of sugar, forcing it into shapes for which it was ill-prepared. Of course, it wasn’t the sugar’s fault that we were in this mess. After all, if Damian hadn’t persisted in being such a petrol-head, when nearly everyone else had already converted to electricity, his fuelling gaffe would not have been possible. It was simply the sugar sachet’s misfortune to serve the role of a Damian substitute at a time when fantasies of violence seemed so appropriate. As the bag finally spilled its guts onto the table, Damian’s voice broke through my spiteful reverie.

“We are going to need a plan B,” he declared ruefully as he glowered accusingly at his beloved Beemer, still obstructing the garage forecourt. I had already worked with Damian for two years, and so I was familiar enough by now with his plan B’s to know that we were going to need a plan C. But let us not get ahead of ourselves. Let us first hear what Damian had come up with.

“Plan B,” I was to be told, “just needs a quick call back to the office.”

Folding my arms knowingly, I awaited the sorry details of plan B to emerge.

“We get Mandy to order a hire car, and I phone ahead to tell Groper we are stuck on a garage forecourt, blocked in by a fossil fuel idiot who put diesel in his petrol-driven car. Yeh, that’ll work.”

This, I reflected, had all the hallmarks of a Damian plan B. It required someone else to dig him out of the hole, it embraced a gratuitous lie, and it had the capacity to impress no one. But the real genius of it all was that Damian’s eco-shame was now well and truly abstracted. Yes, some idiot was to blame, but that wasn’t Damian. Already, I was suspecting that Damian was believing his own story.

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