Birds flocked around the village square as young and old alike sat merrily eating chips, hotdogs, and candy floss. Scooching bottoms filled every bench as an exuberant band filled the air with tunes from the Beatles. Those who could find no seats stood and raised their plastic beer cups in the air along with the music.
Jeffrey stood beneath the red, blue, and white bunting hanging between the bandstand and the Green Man pub. He stared up at the clear blue sky and smiled. The day was crisp and clear. The smell of freshly cut grass washed over him and the squawking of seagulls provided the backdrop to a lovely day. Just a pity there are so many people here to truly enjoy it.
Standing out in the open was something he had enjoyed since his childhood on his granddaddy’s farm. As a lad, he had often stood amongst the cows, breathing in the heady aromas of fresh air and fresh dung. Thirty-five-million cars had sent the fresh air away, and the cow dung had been replaced by unattended dog shit on every pavement. Even standing had become a chore, his worn knees clicking and yelling at him to sit down. When did things change so badly? And when did I get so old?
Up ahead, a little girl held her doggy by a lead, sapphire ribbons tied into her pigtails and a stuffed bear tucked under one arm. Jeffrey fancied a bit of small talk before the day was through. He approached and stood behind her, taking in her scent for a couple of moments. His hairy nostrils picked up mummy’s perfume mixed with sugary sweets. It was the smell of childhood mixed with the impatience of wanting to grow up. Jeffrey wandered if he had ever tried to wear his father’s aftershave as a kid, but couldn’t remember. It was so hard to remember anything these days.
The little girl turned around and noticed him standing there. “Hello,” she said warily - but not too warily; Jeffrey was an old man, after all.
“Hello, there,” Jeffrey said. “How are you today, young lady? Enjoying the fete?”
The girl nodded and grinned. Two of her front teeth had fallen out, revealing the buds of permanent ones coming through. “I won a teddy bear,” she gushed, showing him the badly-stitched gypsy rubbish she had beneath her arm. “On the darts game.”
Jeffrey raised his bushy eyebrows. “Really? How splendid.” He knelt down and patted her dog on the head. It was a beagle. “And what is this little fellas name?”
“Ruby. She’s a girl.”
“Ruby? Nice name. Why did you call her that?”
“Because I like rubies. One day, when I get married I’m going to have a big fat ruby on my wedding ring.”
Jeffrey sighed. Young people today, so obsessed with wealth and fortune. “Don’t you dream of doing something special?” he asked the little girl. “Don’t you want to do something that matters, besides getting married and having an expensive ring?”
The little girl pulled her dog a little closer and half-turned away. Jeffrey’s scolding tone had obviously upset her. “I want to be a vet,” she said uncertainly.
Jeffrey nodded. He reached down and patted her head, ignoring the fact that she tried to flinch away. “Now, that’s a good profession. Your mummy and daddy will be very proud.”
“I don’t have a daddy,” the little girl snapped. “Just a mummy.”
Jeffrey shook his head and sighed. “Another careless pregnancy, no doubt. Women today, such whores.”
The little girl’s eyes went wide and she backed away. “You said a bad word.”
“A bad word I would not have even recognised at your age.”
“Mummy!” The little girl scanned the crowd urgently, yanking at the poor dog’s neck with the lead. Jeffrey stood patiently until a heavyset woman appeared with a beaker full of lager in one hand and a greasy burger in the other. Her breasts were hanging out and she had one of those ghastly tattoos on her foot. Looks like she stepped in something.
“What is it, sweetie?” The woman asked her daughter in a Birmingham accent.
Ugly way of talking, Jeffrey thought to himself. If ever there was a region proud of being thick, it’s Birmingham.
“The man said a bad word,” the little girl said, pointing an accusing finger at Jeffrey.
The mother stared at him, narrowing her heavily made-up eyes. Jeffrey hid his disdain of the woman with a polite smile. “My apologies, Miss. I was just passing the time and misspoke. Mind starts to go at my age, I’m afraid.”
The woman put an arm around her daughter and moved her and the dog away. “No problem,” she said, but as she walked away she clearly muttered the words ‘old perv.’ Jeffrey shook his head and rolled his eyes. Can’t even have a conversation these days without somebody accusing you of something. Probably because most people are up to no good these days. He thought about showing them what he had beneath his anorak, but decided to wait a little longer. It wasn’t time yet. Almost, but not quite. I can’t wait for the look on their faces when they see it.
Up ahead, a drunk teenager writer up against an older boy, while his mates leered at the thong peeking out from her jeans. Nobody else stared, though. It was just normal. People danced and drank all around, and the sight of flesh on flesh and tongue in mouth wasn’t anything anybody had a problem with these days. I wonder where it will end. Will people fuck in the street fifty years from now, without anybody batting an eyelid?
Jeffrey remembered the green and pleasant land from his childhood and missed it dearly. He remembered when a foreigner was a pleasant novelty, instead of a sucking parasite or a potential criminal. He remembered when woman had self-respect and men knew what hard work was. He remembered when children were seen and not heard. But it had all gone to fucking shit.
I’ve seen enough. I’ve seen more of this life than I ever intended to. It’s making me sick.
Jeffrey pushed his way into the crowd, receiving a drenched elbow from a carelessly held bottle of cider for his troubles. He winced and frowned as a dozen swear words flew over his head, released into the atmosphere by vile mouths. He saw cleavage and bottoms beyond count, puddles of alcohol and half-eaten food. All around him, people danced in their own tawdry filth and blocked his path with their flailing arms and elbows.
But Jeffrey made it to the bandstand. By the time he reached it, his artritic knees felt like hot coals.
The tribute band had just finished their latest number and were interacting with the crowd. “Who’s enjoying themselves?” the lead singer shouted.
The audience yelled. Beer flew from their cups.
“Is everyone ready for the Summer?”
“Now, before we play our next number, me and the band would just like to thank you for being such a wonderful audience. You people really know how to have a good time.”
Depends on your idea of a good time, thought Jeffrey, and it’s ‘the band and I’. In case he had any doubt about what he was going to do, Jeffrey eyeballed the crowd all around him to remind himself. To his horror, he managed to spot a group of people his own age acting without decency. They gyrated and snogged like young lovers a third their age. It was sickening.
Jeffrey took the first step up to the bandstand.
The lead singer noticed him immediately. “Hey up, we’ve got a new member of the band. You lost old fella?”
Jeffrey ignored the singer and carried on up the steps.
That only amused the man more. “Looks like he’s coming to sing one for us. Do we want to see the old fella sing? I’m not sure we have anything by George Formby.”
The crowd cheered and laughed.
Jeffrey made his way up to the bandstand and took advantage of the band’s confusion. They allowed him to stroll directly up to the nearest microphone stand, where he proceeded to say exactly what he came to say.
“You people disgust me,” Jeffrey said and then pulled open his anorak and detonated the bomb around his waist.