August 4th – Gents ready-made suits, Shirts, socks, ties, hats, Underwear and shoes, Going up.

Eggo has thrown a party, which he called a freedom party on the invitations. It sounds like shallow political opportunism, but perhaps it was merely shallow. I was in two minds whether to go. For one, there’s a plague going on. For two, I hadn’t interacted with anyone socially for ages and as good as that was, you had to consider the re-entry process. Not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed being responsible for burning his new farm to the ground.

I was about to say for 18 months, but everyone forgets that we were at liberty from July until Boxing Day last year. At that time, when people like me were telling them that another lockdown was coming, I was laughed at; now, the same people claim to have been locked in their houses for two years. It is not just Trump who cannot perceive that there is a before and after this very moment.

For three, and this is what counts, just before Christmas I was on the cusp of a relationship with the adorable and gentle Frances, and I hadn’t seen her since. First Covey, then not being in the habit of seeing her, then not knowing how to pick it up when Covey relaxed, which was also when for the first time ever, I found myself busy. A couple of weeks of dating at Christmas would have given our relationship the critical mass it needed to sustain it through a Zoom and texting phase until the dam was breached. That we were denied that, means that each new meeting is a new start. And Eggo’s lot, who see her as one of theirs, was not the ideal place to rekindle – there’s a certain way in which posh and entitled cretins are very public about private things. Of course, I’d rehearsed in my head every possible response to every snide and clumsy attack I might receive from them, and as rehearsals finished, I must admit that I had them on the ropes, but it would be what happened when the curtain went up that counted.

My spell of success, such as it is, has made me feel not destitute; it has not enabled me to buy a stud farm. How do idiots like Eggo make so much money? I mean, he sounds plausible and confident, but as soon as he speaks out loud to anyone with any brains, they immediately realise that he is semi-retarded. Is he the barely tolerated domestique who sneaked through the system, or are they all like him? If the latter, how can they ever make money? Perhaps, in a fifteen-year bull run, every self-confident half-wit wins a fortune provided they’re in the right job? But there’s Cardo too, and he’s even more of a bird brain than the Egg Man. Maybe the better explanation is that only a few good people ever get through the system, and they necessarily turn into ball breaking arseholes who accept that they’ll stand alone and need to suffer a team of compliant idiots who are employed to tidy up after them? You know, like managing a ward in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

My own inability to access the hallowed halls in which Eggo makes his fortune is partly explained by extreme shyness, though that’s a coy word, when I should perhaps just plainly say, extremely low self-esteem … coupled with the occasional burst of daring audacity, and added to staggering ineptitude in an interview environment, particularly when faced with an open-ended question. Or in other words, undiagnosed, now advanced, adult ADHD.

When we’ve cleaned this mess up, we’re going long of banana skins.

How are you? Is it a real question to which you must respond with a truthful answer? What is the difference between Agatha Christie and a football annual? Do plants have brains? Why did God have a day off? What matters most, balance of payments or the money supply? Eggo, “I’m glad you asked me that actually.” Me: “plllllllllllppphhrrr.” Once, I did actually poo my pants in an interview for a job for which I was the only candidate.

I arrive at the party and Eggo greets me like a long-lost friend. We have brief chat about the markets and he assures me that ‘everyone’s looking to cash, with a view to selling bro.’ Hear that did you, ‘bro.’? But that was only because I’d said that I wouldn’t send money to his hedge fund: my view being that the market was going to collapse. It turns out that he is ‘looking to cover the downside actually.’ I know that he isn’t him. He (the real he) is Nurse Ratched. And I know too that he (I’m back on Eggo now, the original he) just echoes anything his adversary says. It enables me to define him finally, as retail sales as it goes – the natural hiding place of the ambitious simpleton.

His actual bro Cardo approached soon after, and even though he’d only said ‘hihowareyou?’ It confirmed with me all that I already knew about him: that he was a hollow mannequin fitted with a tape recorder playing on loop. Picturing him thus: as a person of innominate sex, with smooth plastic inserts where the nominations should be, and his slip-on shoes without socks, I, for some reason said, ‘no sock, no cock,’ and make a playful grab for his groin, as if his lack of sexual organs was a widely shared joke, which he happily went along with. I don’t know why. I suppose on the spur of the moment I must have been struck by the notion that it felt like a good way of dismissing him as a lesser being. Frances arrived a moment later, fixing me with a hard look as she looped her arm through Cardo’s, but that wasn’t the worst thing. Before a word had been spoken, Big Tooth came from behind me and said, ‘Dickie White?’ and I guess I must have responded with a quizzically elongated, ‘yeeeaaah’ because next she handed me an envelope and said, ‘you are hereby served.’