Don Kant, stubbled balding emergent paunchy English dog trudging resentful in seething August noon heat along a railway track, sharpened selfie stick hanging accessibly from his belt. Why always railway tracks? Their plots arc nowhere and accomplish nothing.
Ever a peripheral eye to the dense trees, looking for approaching wankers either singly or herding.
It had started with that sweaty eight minute address delivered by Bojack Churchill from his wood bunker, ordering all to stay in their rooms like teenagers Emily Dickinson fashion and not come out, even for nachos with extra-cheesy jalapeno sauce. Very fast essential food can continue. Bojack Churchill succumbed thereafter and took to his bed, leaving Don in puppet string charge. Blank and bemused, his skills in leadership untested, Don tried daily to keep the people informed, to small avail, managing only to remind journalists vicariously that they were mute, and then remaining essentially mute himself. Bojack Churchill soon recovered, and returned to wakefulness, but shunned the public, venturing the occasional unkempt incoherence. This delivered tremors to Don’s sense of calm being, so he took steps to return to his former life as a teacher.
For a time he had sat in his empty classroom and admired the order. Time enough at last, Star Wars stocking feet on the permanently cleared desk, to reflect on then till now progression from when in those heeding former days he was offered his first responsibility as Second In Paperclips to here as Deputy Flightplan Head. Except there were no flights anymore. Only taped off distant perspex screened vacant desks, which had at first been occupied sporadically by children of less frightened parents. In the end all had stayed away. Scholarship and most eye contact went online, but the once spittle-dripped nightly sterilised screens served now merely to aid memory of a brief turbulent resurgence. The unread wall displays were in good order and every glue stick was accounted for.
The post-apocalypse August railtrack metal was rusted, all trains forever delayed, but as his grapefruit sour stained boots crunched onward through dried used toilet paper and discarded pasta, a single shining rivet somehow untarnished pushed a thin sharp sun needle into Don’s dry red left eye, forcing his gaze adrift of the track. A lone wanker was staggering towards him, emerging from the woods, a herd likely not far behind. The characteristic lack of grace and intense partially digested wild freshly chopped garlic breath were perceptible even at a distance of several metres. Don’s gut churned with apprehension as he saw that the wanker was spilling his can of intentionally hazy seven percent New England IPA all down his Berghaus Fellmaster jacket, optional fleece removed. Even though he knew there was no life in the true sense behind the wanker’s clouded eyes and decayed face, Don’s bowels slackened a little as the wanker’s arid Satanic incantation gained earshot. ‘In these unprecedenty locktimes when all our yesterdays are furlonged but death is still working full time, we need to kickstart our lives again. I refer you to this copy of the current guidelines which I have taped to the thigh of my Rohan trousers. If you want to sit on the sofa surrounded by fusilli, Andrex and wholemeal flour, good for you, but don’t tell me I can’t come to the woods on a sunny day and marvel at how basking sharks have nested here again for the first time in a hundred and fifty years.’
We needed to talk. Out of lipsync online simply wasn’t cutting it. Don’s arrangement of books displayed blurred on camera behind him never quite looked the right combination of erudite and bohemian well travelled. He had tried blank walls, piles of yellowing unread documents with broken electrical devices on top of them, even smearing the walls of the spare room with excrement in the style of a forgotten protest. Nothing worked. Nothing was as stately as those wood panels and flags featured so fervently in Bojack Churchill’s not quite live sweaty presidential address.
His enthusiasm for internal domestic space palled. Things were getting decidedly sub-optimal, so it was time to take to the road, or more precisely to the railway track. He hadn’t seen his son for a time not determined, and wondered had he succumbed to the multi-system pathogen?
Early in his odyssey Don learned the repurposing of the selfie stick. Bonhomie and social bonding initially the principal drive, he had attached a smartphone to it for the socially relevant aim of arm’s length distant photography. As the masts died, some of them responsibly immolated in an attempt to appease the pathogen, the smartphone was eventually consigned to a wet ditch where its battery faded, flashing and beeping a fifteen percent warning in the face of a passing vole and then along with everything and everyone else switching to monochrome battery saver mode before switching off. The stick however. One day feeling slightly heady having sipped off the last of a limited edition presentation case of eighteen percent liquorice and blueberry Imperial stout, Don was coasting through a rural two platform station where the announcements still played out to the carpark on a taped standby powered loop, when he noticed a group arguing with vitriol. The argument was to do with parking, all spaces in the carpark taken and all roadside spaces for fifty miles in either direction over the lovely rolling hills occupied too. Designated drivers leaned demurely on the carpark’s dry stone perimeter, sucking on the last of their Waitrose coriander and locust bean frozen yoghurts, but their passengers, drunk and entitled to their very core on the last ever Ocado delivery of their special reserve eucalyptus and fennel wild yeast oatmeal yellow porter, fought and shouted for all they might have been worth had events panned out differently. Instinctively, teacher mode of old kicking in, Don intervened, trying to appeal to their better selves. Ay there was the rub, for the pathogen had shut down all conscious systems leaving only autonomic speech and movement. A kind of walking coma. ‘What’s it got to do with you? We’re as entitled as you are to be out walking. Why should they have priority parking? What are you talking about? I only live four thousand miles away. The current guidelines say my dog needs its daily exercise and its bagged up shit in the open air. Not my fault if the dog bins are full. I’ll just leave it here. I’m not paid to sort it out.’ It was then that the now classic selfie stick through the eye socket move was born, spontaneously and out of need.
Popping back to the very narrative hot August railtrack current, the stick had since been sharpened and a little modified aerodynamically, and the efficacy of the move perfected, encounters with strangers always opening with the mettle-probing ‘How many wankers have you killed?’. The basking shark spotter had finished his autonomic whine and was reaching into his pocket for another can of Fear And Emotional Evisceration. Muscle memory twitched Don’s hand down towards the stick. But then cause for pause in the familiar shape of a small boy riding the sleepers toward him on a brightly coloured seventies Chopper bicycle breaking the horizon shimmer. Smelling the onset of indifference, the wanker lost interest and moved across the tracks. The small boy dismounted. ‘For fuck’s sake Dad. State of you. Get yourself home.’