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Orson popped up this evening. Joan was reading in the bedroom, and I was playing darts with myself in the kitchen, when he tapped on the back door. Joan wandered in when she heard Orson’s voice.
“Hello, darling,” said Orson, “how’s the hunger strike going? Have a jelly baby.”
He produced a packet of jelly babies from a pocket, which Joan refused.
“Look,” said Orson, “this is ridiculous. Forget Ralph. He’s a busted flush. Marry me instead. You can move in downstairs. You deserve better than this tip.”
Busted flush? Is that what I am?
“It’s very sweet of you, Orson,” said Joan. “The trouble is that I love Ralph, even though he’s an amoeba. I wish I didn’t, but I do.”
“I like the way you’re inviting my girl-friend to come and live with you. Since when did you want to get married? I thought you were supposed to be the last of the red hot homosexuals. What about thingy?”
“Thingy has been given the claw. Don’t change the subject. What you fail to realise, Ralph, is that I actually love Joan - I really do - which is more than can be said for you.”
“Look, I love Joan,” I said.
“Why don’t you marry her then?” retorted Orson.
“Oh yes, please marry me, Ralph. Please. I’m absolutely starving.”
“That’s not my fault.”
Well, is it? I ask you. Is it?
“Do you feel alright?” Orson asked of her.
“I feel fine”
“You look fine,” he said. “I suppose, if the worst comes to the worst, you’ll lose a few pounds.”
“If the worst comes to the worst, I’ll be dead, and then you’ll all be sorry.”
“Well, I’m famished,” said Orson, “I’ve been driving all day.”
“So am I,” said I.
“Excellent notion. Joan can come and watch.”
“It wouldn’t make any difference,” she said.
“I bet you ...” I began to say and paused to think of a suitable wager.
“You can bet me anything you like. There’s only one thing that can make me eat, and it’s you having the balls to make a decision.”
“Shall we go?” said Orson, rising.
I stood up.
Joan said: “I’m going back to my book. I’m tired.”
“It’s my trial tomorrow,” said Orson, snapping a poppadom in two.
I’d forgotten all about Orson’s trial.
“Shit,” I said, “you look amazingly unconcerned.”
“I’m a fatalist. Pass the chutney.”
We ate awhile in silence. Shit chicken khorma. Chickenshit kharma. Orson’s being tried for running over and killing this bloke called ....
“What was the bloke’s name?” I asked.
This happened last January. And Orson claimed, claims, that he never saw this Tookey before in his life and that Tookey just ran out in front of the car. Tookey, however, with his last gasp, in front of witnesses, accused Orson of murder - and the police eventually decided to prosecute - which presumably they wouldn’t have decided to do unless they had something of a case.
Orson stuck his hand in his pocket and said: “Look at this.”
“What is it?”
“Instant Death,” said Orson.
It was a tiny black pill in a tiny clear plastic envelope.
“If they think they’re going to stick me in some fucking prison for fifteen years for something that wasn’t my fucking fault, they’ve got another fucking think coming.”
“Where’d you get this?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“What exactly is it?”
“All I know is that the quickest, the most painless and the most efficient way of bumping yourself off is to swallow one of these little fellows,” said Orson, helping himself to the last of the improbably technicolour rice.
“How many have you got?”
“Just the one,” said Orson.
“Can I have a look?” I stuck my hand out.
I took the bag between my thumb and forefinger and looked at the Instant Death pill through the plastic. It looked not unlike the full-stop at the end of this sentence.•
See you on the fourth!