Kenneth weaved along the pavement, in and out of shoppers, teenagers and drunks. He himself wasn't intoxicated, simply inebriated on misery.
"Please God, no. Please God, no," he kept repeating.
For an agnostic boarding on atheism this was quite a feat. His rational self told him the act was pointless. At the same time, there wasn't exactly anything to lose.
Kenneth attempted not to cry. A babbling loon he might be, but tears would certainly push the tableau into that uncomfortable sphere of social faux pas that could get one questioned by the constabulatory.
When he could bear the weight no more, he stumbled into a pub. It wasn't his local or one frequented from time to time. In fact, he had purposely walked in a direction different from his usual route. He didn't want to be seen by anyone he knew.
He put a hand on the rich laquered wood of the bar and pulled himself onto a stool. He then placed another hand on the bar and centered himself in line with the pork scratchings. He then decided to give up completely and put his forehead against the cool, smooth wood. He moaned.
He looked up to see a young barman eying him. The accent was Australian. He wondered how many work visas for barmen went to the antipodians. Did they have special training schools for pulling pints down there?
"Pint of cider," Kenneth said. "And keep them coming."
"I can only serve you two at a time. New regulations."
"One's enough... I simply meant..." He shook his head. "Pay the comment no mind, lad."
It occured to Kenneth that this young strapping kangaroo wrestler was gainfully employed, whereas he was redundant.
Redundant. Of no use. A spare prick at the orgy. You couldn't call a person looking for a job a "jobseeker", but you could tell someone going out the door that they were now useless.
"One of those days?" a lad nearby said.
He and his mate were in their 30s, well attired and looking jovial. Kenneth nodded and realised he hadn't even taken a glance around the place. It was a large pub, likely built in the 90s when publicans realised a drinking establishment could be larger than a WC without losing its charm. Must have saved them a bundle on people not losing their pints on the carpet trying to weave around tables tucked in together.
But the place hadn't been tarted up like those hideous later gastro-pubs, appealing to toffs in suits and everyone else chasing easy credit and Gordon Brown's promise of the end of recessions.
Mind you, Kenneth liked Gordon. He was an intelligent man caught in a world of social media and superficiality, ill-armed to cope with 24-7 news. Yes, he had kept them in Afganistan, but he was a Scot and thus victim to his national genes. The tartan brigade had never known when to give up a fight.
And yes, Gordon had buggered the economy by loosening the reigns too much, but he'd tried his best to be fair, unlike David Cameron and his shitsui lapdog Clegg.
He would have a drink with Mr Brown. They'd no doubt become fast friends, sharing a similar world view and hope for humanity.
"I've been made redundant," Kenneth said.
"Join the squad," the gent said. He and his mate lifted their glasses. "Got our marching orders last week."
"What are you planning to do now?" Kenneth asked.
"No fucking clue. Until then, bit of this."
He held up his pint. Kenneth took his from the barman and counted out his coins. He took a long swallow of cider, feeling the gentle bubbling in his throat and the sweet copper on his tongue. He thought of the sea. Blackpool.
Wellies made from surf material.
He got his pen and notebook out and jotted down the idea. A pair of boots made from wetsuit material, running just below the knee with firm soles. His father had made him go into the sea with his shoes on, to keep steady on the pebbles. This way you could feel the salty wet properly, stay warm and not look like a spastic.
Could be worth millions.
He looked around again. Efes. Turkish beer. For God's sake, why did so many pubs have that muck on tap. Who in their right mind would drink Turkish beer?
He felt bad for the Armenians.
He had once had a young lady from Armenia as a client. She had told him about the Armenian genocide by the Turks at the end of WWI. He hadn't known a wit about the event, even though hundreds of thousands of men, women and children had died. Old people too. Marched to their deaths.
He waved a finger for another pint.
No, he was lucky to live in the time and place he did. Imagine how much those thirsty travellers would have given to be able to raise a hand and get a refreshing high-caloric alcoholic beverage on the dusty road to Demascus (or wherever they were going).
Why did human beings do it to one another? Why couldn't David Cameron have just left well enough alone, let attrition trim the ranks, looked for areas to cut that didn't necessitate damaging the lives of people who knew nothing but their jobs?
Because he didn't understand.
For all the talk of a classless society, there was still a chasm larger than Mariana Trench (11,033 metres deep in the ocean - good trivia to know).
He jotted the name down and wrote: excellent name for a female protagonist in a crime novel!!! Now that he was redundant, perhaps he would turn his hand to a novel.
And yet he knew pursuing a life even more solitary than the one he was living would most certainly send him over the edge. Perhaps he was already over the edge. Perhaps that was why he had been chosen for culling at JobsfuckingPlus.
He drained a third of the pint in one go, belched like a champion and closed his eyes. He began to feel warm and happy.
He'd show them. He'd do something amazing and let it filter to Pickle and the other draconian thickos that getting made redundant was the best thing to ever happen to him.
He opened his eyes with a smile. The Australian was eying him warily.
What did the koala hugger care; he didn't have to take Kenneth home and put him to bed. No one did. No one. The bed was cold. Tea was never made in the morning. He didn't awake to the smell of toast and the sound of the knife spreading butter and jam across the jagged wheaty surface. It was just him and one ungrateful cat.
"Give us a vodka," Kenneth said. "And two for these lads."
His new mates toasted him.
Suddenly he was part of a society he had never wished to join. Still, it was better than drinking alone.