The Continuing Story of Wet Blanket Ron – Part 5 by Chris Green
‘Dale Loveless! What are you doing here?’ says Annette Lard. ‘Everyone thinks you are dead. Even that guy that writes the stories about you thinks you are dead. You know, the one that writes the Wet Blanket Ron stories. I can’t for the life of me think of his name. Anyway, he came into the bookies where I work about a month ago to tell me. Apparently, his friend, Marlin Snider told him. A hit and run driver in Black Dog Way, he said. Tracey Minger said the same thing when I saw her at BronzeTan. ……. It is really you, isn’t it? Only I’ve been feeling a bit funny since Doctor Gauguin put me on these new pills and I get confused easily. …… What are you doing here alive, anyway?’
‘Not a good to see you, Dale or a how are you, Dale, then,’ says the downbeat figure sitting with his black and white mongrel dog on the bench outside the railway station.
‘Look! Why don’t I buy you a coffee in that café over there? We can have a chat.’
‘Can’t drink coffee. Blood pressure.’
‘Perhaps a cider or something.’
‘I’ve been trying to stay off the pop since I’ve been out of prison.’
‘You living back round here then, Dale?’
‘For the time being. Ted Drinker is renting me a room above his car lot.’
‘I suppose he felt guilty about that Rover he sold you. The one that blew up.’
‘No, I don’t think so. Ted doesn’t do feelings. Anyway, I’ve bought another one off of him since that. A Kia.’
‘Oh, that’s nice. Good little motors, Kias.’
‘Well, no. Not really. That one blew up too. The day before yesterday.’
‘I don’t suppose you’re working or you wouldn’t be sitting around here in the middle of the day.’
‘I’ve got a job interview to go to tomorrow.’
‘That’s good. Where’s that?’
It’s at that new er, ….. phone shop down past the Scott Mackenzie roundabout.’
‘Oh yes,’ I think I’ve seen the one you mean. The one with the tinted windows and purple dishes on the roof. It’s quite an unusual …… structure isn’t it? But, of course! I remember now, Dale. You used to be an engineer of some sort before all your …… troubles started.’
‘Seems a long time ago now. Anyway, I don’t expect I’ll get the job but wish me luck anyway. Look! I’d better take Leonard here for a walk down by the canal before it starts to rain again.’
‘Well. It was good to see you, Dale. And you know where I am. I’m still at BetterBet. Look in anytime.’
‘Probably not a good idea after the last time.’
‘Oh, that’s right! I remember now. You had all that money on Can’t Lose and it fell at the last fence.’
I don’t know where my ideas for stories come from. I just seem to pluck them out of the air. It’s as if authors are able to tune into a radio wavelength that non-authors aren’t aware of. Other writers, I’ve spoken to, like Philip C. Dark and Guy Bloke describe it as being like a sixth sense. They say their stories bear an uncanny resemblance to things that are really happening somewhere that they are not supposed to know about. Some might see it as sorcery. I’m not exactly sure what Zeitgeist means, but it might be best to think of inspiration in those terms. There’s something unexplainable out there in the ether.
The bottom line is I don’t know where my idea for the new Wet Blanket Ron story comes from. After all, in the last one, I killed the character off. Wet Blanket Ron was dead. What is it that makes me want to bring him back to life? One reason might, of course, be his popularity. I had angry letters from my readers when I killed him off. One fan, in particular, a long-term follower from the sub-continent stopped just short of issuing a death threat. I believe the same thing happened to J. K. Rowling when she threatened to kill off Harry Potter. I had only killed Wet Blanket Ron off because Dale Loveless, the fellow I had originally based Ron’s character on, was dead; killed in an unfortunate road accident.
But this is not the primary reason I am bringing Ron back. Quite simply, I wake one morning with the idea for a new Wet Blanket Ron adventure going round and round in my head and feel compelled to write it down. So I need to pretend that Ron’s accident never happened. Or maybe he survived it. Let’s get that bit out of the way. Ron was unconscious but came round in the ambulance taking him to hospital. He survived. Here he is.
Arriving at PurplePhones for his interview, Ron finds the walls are lined with rows of futuristic-looking phones, tablets and other spectacular communications devices, all of them purple. Some funky music is belting out from invisible speakers. He thinks it might be Prince.
As Ron looks at the gleaming displays, bemused, a tall man in a purple suit twirling a cane comes across and greets him.
‘I’m Miles Highman’ he says.
It takes a little while for Ron to realise that Miles Highman is the man’s name and not a passing reference to recent drug abuse. Miles guides him into a purple pod. He gestures for Ron to sit down on a purple bucket chair, and invites him to stroke one of a menagerie of purple cats. This is not the direction an interview for a job usually takes but stroking the cats makes him feel less nervous.
Although Ron has deliberately tried to hide it away at the bottom of his CV, Miles Highman asks Ron straight away about his work with NVision Inc. This was an episode in his life that Ron was anxious to put behind him. His role had been to deliver bad news to people or relatives of people before it actually happened. This was supposed to prepare the victims for what was to come or enable them to take action to avoid it. Like so many things in his life, this project did not turn out well. Due to a series of mishaps, Ron was unable to alert the West Midlands mother to her son’s upcoming death in an explosion nor was he able to convince the Manchester businessman that he was to going be shot. Sadly both died as a result.
Because Ron badly needs a job, he keeps quiet about his disastrous record of outcomes with the company. He does not mention how he was unable to do anything about a plane crash in California that he was sent out to prevent. He merely tells Miles that working at Vision Inc. was an eye opening experience and he is sure he can get a reference from Amit if need be.
‘Hey! Dale!’ Marlin Snider calls out in the middle of the pedestrian precinct.’
‘Oh! It’s you. Hello, Marlin. What do you want?’ Dale says lugubriously. He has the air of a man who does not want to engage in small talk.
‘Annette told me you were …… er, alive. Good to see you. What are you doing, man? Did you get the new job?’
‘I did, as it happens, Marlin. In fact, I’m working now.’
‘Working? What are you doing exactly, Dale? …… It looks to me like you are standing around in the middle of the shopping centre waving your arms around.’
‘It’s called working, Marlin. I’m in telecommunications.’
‘Hey. What are you talking about?’
‘I’m in front line promotion. I’ve got to use this little device here to er …….. temporarily disable everybody’s smartphone. Look! This is how it works.’
‘It’s not a very ethical kind of job, Dale. That’s worse than …. ‘
‘Well! Needs must, Marlin. It’s all right. I’m not going to disable your phone.’
‘Then later on, in about ten minutes, someone is going to do a fly by and drop thousands of flyers advertising PurplePhones new range of incorruptible new communication devices. The manager tells me that this is the way business is done in the modern world.’
After the initial idea for the new Wet Blanket Ron story, I find myself struggling for a way to take the plot forward so it is fortunate that I run into Dale Loveless’s friend, Marlin Snider in the Goat and Bicycle. I am surprised to discover that Dale has found a job, but I am cheered by Marlin’s news. Not only has Dale found a job but it is the kind of job that is a gift to a writer of speculative fiction. A gopher for a colourful new phone company with plans to shape the future of telecommunications. The future might have once been Orange, but now it seems, the future’s Purple. And, imagine the trouble that Wet Blanket Ron will be able to get into for zapping peoples smartphones. I might as well tip Inspector Crooner off now and instruct Ron’s brief, Brent Diaz to expect a desperate phonecall from his dissolute client. I don’t. This would only spoil things for later.
To add to the bounty, Marlin tells me that Dale has a new girlfriend. He says he hasn’t met her but apparently, she is a stunner. Given Ron’s record on relationships, there is plenty of potential for things to go wrong here. After all, Wet Blanket Ron readers would expect nothing less than a car crash romance. I press Marlin for more information. He is unable to give me much more information but this does not matter. I can fill the details in as required. Here we go.
Ron has never been out with anyone like Lola before. Lola is special. Lola must have the best. He has never been to L’Ultima Cena before. It is the top Italian restaurant in town. But, with the promise of being paid handsomely for his endeavours in promoting PurplePhone, he feels he can splash out. After Crostini misti con Sottoli, Straccetti di Pasta al Germe di Grano con sugo di Lepre, Cinghiale alla Cacciatore, Insalata Radicchio e Rucola followed by Torta della Nonna and helped down by two bottles of Amarone, Ron takes his vision of loveliness back to his flat with a view to taking the relationship to the next stage. He has taken down the black out blind, put away the magazines and carefully prepared a play list with no Johnny Cash or Leonard Cohen. He has even hidden his self-help books and his copy of Jude the Obscure in case Lola should think he is a depressive.
Needless to say, things do not go according to plan. Picture if you will, Ron’s horror when he discovers that Lola, like her famous namesake from The Kinks song, is someone who needs to lift the toilet seat up. Perhaps, in hindsight, like Ray Davies, he should have spotted the tell tale signs, the dark brown voice, the physical hug, the five o’clock shadow. Perhaps even the name should have offered a clue.
Disgusted, Ron throws Lola out. Hardly has he wiped away the tears than there is a loud rap at the door. Thinking that it is probably Lola returning, remorseful and apologetic, he does not answer it immediately. The knock becomes more persistent and is accompanied now by a cry of ‘Police! Open Up!’ While nervous breakdown is fighting sense of déjà vu for control of Ron’s failing mental faculties, the door gives way to the enforcer or big key as it is referred to in the job. Not Inspector Crooner this time but a bunch of burly thugs dressed like Darth Vader. They are pointing guns and shouting in tongues.
‘Let me see if I’ve got this right, Mr Loveless,’ says Dale’s assigned solicitor, Dawlish Warren in the interview room at the central police station. ‘You were at home with your girlfriend, Deirdre watching Peaky Blinders when the police called round unexpectedly.’
‘That’s right, Mr Warren,’ Dale says.
‘And they said they wanted to talk with you about the work you were doing for ….. is that PurplePhones?’
‘Yes, PurplePhones. It’s a new mobile network.’
‘And what exactly was the work you were doing for PurplePhones? I thought for a moment back then you might have said you were disabling peoples smartphones so they no longer worked.
‘In a manner of speaking, that’s what I was doing, yes. But….. ‘
‘Aware that you were almost certainly committing a crime?’
‘I suppose so, yes.’
‘In any event, the police weren’t happy with your explanation that you were just sending out a jamming signal and so they brought you here for questioning.’
‘Yes. That’s about it.’
‘Then, out of the blue, you yourself received a phonecall from a …… Wet Blanket Ron?’
‘Yet you say that Wet Blanket Ron is a fictional character.’
‘Yes. I know. Confusing, isn’t it? He said he was phoning on one of the new PurplePhones.’
‘And what did he want? This, Wet Blanket Ron?’
‘That’s just it, Mr Warren. He wanted to know what was going to happen next.’
‘What do you think he meant by that?’
‘He said that as his character in the stories was based on me, I would know what was in store.’
‘And what did you tell him?’
‘I told him I didn’t know what was going to happen but I didn’t think it would be good. He said that was pretty much the story of his life.’
© Chris Green 2017: All rights reserved