Good Neighbours

September 3, 2008

“It is required by law that all citizens be convinced of, or strongly suspicious of, the existence of a conspiracy, plot, or intrigue of any acceptable sort (see list at Appendix 26B(iv)) that does not in actuality exist. Anyone found not to hold such a conviction or suspicion, or to believe that life is an unplanned catalogue of events that is completely arbitrary and not ordered by a myriad of secret and complex conspiracies, will be deemed to be breaking the law and will be charged with sedition. It is the duty and privilege of every law-abiding citizen to report any such unlawful behaviour.” From paragraph 42.13.69/P95MT, Laws, Practices and Regulations, Ministry of Proper Behaviour

Mr Crockett, my next door neighbour, is of the opinion that all electricity bills are a cunning attempt at mind-control by Norwegian thought-police. Mr Hardy at number 32 is in complete agreement, although being a sprightly widower his bills are that low that technically he has no objection to being brainwashed as long as it remains cost-effective.

Old Angus at the end of the road, who is not a widower but wishes he was, did actually forward an application to join the Norwegian thought-police as a mature entrant. The subsequent “bloody obvious cover-up” (a flat denial of the existence of such a service and a polite request not to further trouble an overworked Consulate with any more xenophobic communications, but thank you for your interest) prompted Old Angus to instigate a plan to prevent any further delivery of electricity bills in our street. Within a week he had been punched twice by the postman, bitten by three dogs, and had a full chamber-pot upturned on his head by Mrs Tomlinson at 27, who thought he was an agent of the mysterious Tasmanian Rhododendron Rustling Ring – who are so very mysterious, claims Mrs Tomlinson, that even she doesn’t know what, exactly, they want all those rhododendrons for. Mr Tomlinson doesn’t care about rhododendrons, because he thinks that everybody hates him. He is due to appear in court on Friday on charges of Malicious and False Suspicion, the main evidence against him being that everyone actually does hate him.

Meanwhile, Old Angus’s wife, Eleanor, who is rather old-fashioned, continues with her WI meetings, where she insists on the need to prevent small children from wearing pink so that they will be less likely in adulthood to respond favourably to communist, gay, or Martian propaganda. It is a very gentle sort of insistence and is always accompanied by tea and biscuits. 

Next door, however, Mrs Crockett remains heroically uninvolved. She sees the bills paid and listens with sincere attention to her husband’s dutiful theorising, and indeed anyone else’s. She believes, because that is what she is supposed to do; she obeys the letter of the law, and feels nothing. And that would be all, except I know she lies awake at night with a knife in her hand, and tries not to listen to the alien microchip rattling in her sleeping husband’s throat.

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