Neville Trispit was seemingly in a hurry – I take that right back, Neville Trispit was certainly in a hurry. His steps were hurried and his podgy face could easily be identified as blotchy, by even you or me. He kept checking his pocket watch, using perhaps the theory that a watched kettle never boils, to ensure that time moved as slowly as possible. And just when you thought he would take another step, Mr Trispit came to a sudden halt, looked left and right, and dug deep into the left patch pocket of his very fancy suit – which only just fit him, mind you – and removed what looked like a banana peel. Quickly, while nobody could see, Mr Trispit raised the lid of a purple wheely bin – the very same kind you and I have outside our houses – and actually stuck his head inside the dustbin. Now, were it not for the redeeming fact that the dear Mr Trispit held in his left hand a banana peel, you or I might think he was certainly looking for something in that wheely bin. But, faster than he put it in, he whipped his perfectly round head out of the bin – nearly knocking a very tight fitting bowler hat right off said cranium- and replaced it quite immediately by the banana peel. He very quickly snapped his head from right to left to make sure nobody saw. In fact, a lady walking a french bulldog – not to be confused with an English bulldog, mind you – did see, but paid no mind to it. This city is filled with very peculiar people as it is. She just kept walking and smoking her filtered cigarette, while Mr Trispit upped his pace to that of a man who was definitely late for something.
A young boy eating a strawberry Cornetto stepped quickly aside as Trispit came around a corner, his pocket watch once again scrutinised in the hope there had been some kind of a misunderstanding. He decided to ration his breathing as he was known to be ill if he worked out too hard, too quickly. That’s just the type of man Mr Trispit was. His wife, Mrs Trispit, would not hesitate to remind him of that at the least opportune moment. He reached deep into his pocket again and pulled out an orange lucozade bottle. Now you or I might think that he was thirsty at this point, needing a swift dose of refreshment, but just as soon as the lucozade bottle was out of his pocket, Mr Trispit’s head disappeared with fervent haste into a purple wheely bin with the numbers 0 and 6 sprayed onto the side without much care. His face emerged, quite red indeed, and he flung the lucozade bottle quite violently into the bin. This time, the lid did knock the bowler hat a few degrees off perch, and while making sure nobody saw his act of responsible disposal, Mr Trispit adjusted said hat accordingly.
Before the lid made contact with the rest of the bin, Mr Trispit was off again, muttering something under his breath. He quickly came to a halt, and reached into the inner pocket of his very expensive suit, and pulled out a folded piece of paper. His chest rising and falling now, and sweat visibly running down the sides of his face, he unfolded the paper. Holding it first close to his eyes, then further away, he muttered again under his breath, reaching into his other inner pocket, the paper awkwardly bent against his notable paunch – which is to say, I’m sorry I didn’t make note of it before, it was notable. He pulled out a small pair of gold rimmed glasses and while they were still folded looked through them at the unfolded – and now somewhat crumpled – piece of paper. His lips mouthed some words, and he sighed audibly – and visibly, mind you. He folded the paper up again, and even though Mr Trispit was not the type of man to fold a piece of paper incorrectly, he did exactly that, before shoving it back into his breast pocket along with the gold rimmed glasses. He spun on his heel and was practically at power walk pace, in no time at all, in the opposite direction. He reached in his side pocket once more, the one that held the banana and lucozade bottle, and pulled out a menu from somewhere called Mr Chips. By this point I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen next, and surely, as Neville Trispit, at what must have been a rather taxing pace, reached a third wheely bin he flung the lid open, ready to discard the Mr Chips menu without having a look to see if they served anything half decent. But before he could toss the menu, he stopped, peered inside and said, quite audibly, ‘Oh thank God!’
Now what happened next, and this is something I honestly would not lie about, was unlike anything I had seen in my 27.45 years of existence. Not only did Neville Trispit litter the Mr Chips menu right there on the ground, but he then raised a leg and put it inside the wheely bin! It was fast followed by the second leg. He didn’t even bother looking around. His body went comfortably into the wheely bin – something I did not foresee, though who is to say what exactly was foreseeable in this particular scenario. And then, as if he was on some kind of a ladder-version-of-an-escalator, Mr Trispit descended right into a purple wheely bin marked 09 in white spray paint.
And I suppose that concludes the story of how Neville Trispit was late to the Annual Discussion for the Placement of the Fifa World Cup. But it’s also the start of the tragic story of the very same discussion.
Cornelia von Plett was not a secretary. She was not even a clerical worker. She was at home earlier this morning looking for her cat, Mittens. Mittens was not much unlike any other cat you or I might know, in their most stereotypical sense – that is, they did not care very much for the needs of human beings. She was holding the small ceramic bowl she had recently bought for Mittens as she walked into the living room, alternating calling for Mittens by name and whisper hissing the way you do when you call a cat. The phone rang and she sighed. Not only was Mittens not coming in for food, but someone was actually calling on the house phone. She turned and headed for the ringing. ‘Hello?’ she asked, but was well aware who would be calling her at this number, at this hour.
‘Ceecee, darling, something terrible has happened.’ Her mother called her Ceecee, even though it had no bearing on her name whatsoever. She could hear her mother smoking.
‘Mother, are you smoking?’
‘Ceeceecey, leave me be, something terrible has happened.’
‘You know how smoking ages you mother. We have spoken about this.’
‘I remember, I remember,’ she said as she paused to take another drag ‘right outside Fidels, after we had that darling carpaccio.’
‘You had the carpaccio. I’m trying out being vegan, remember. I can’t find Mittens -’
‘But I saw you eat bread. There are animal products in bread.’
‘It was a flatbread mother. There are no animal products in flatbread. I must have told you that a million times. Do you know where cats go during the day? I simply cannot-’
‘Cees, that’s not why I’m calling you. I don’t care much for flatbread. Something terrible has happened. You know -’
‘Please don’t tell me this is father’s gallbladder again. I can’t believe that someone could be so attached to something already attached to them. You don’t need them you know -’
‘It’s his body, and he believes that if he was born with a gallbladder, then he will die with a gallbladder. You know what he is like Ceesums. Besides that’s not what -’
‘But that doesn’t even make sense mother, what about his teeth. He had that molar removed last fall when we visited Aunt Millie – ’
‘That’s what I’m trying to tell you Cornelia!’
She always stopped when her mother used her full name. In fact, her mother made up exactly none of her nicknames, they were all concocted by her father. But her mother used them to try and be playful, like her father. But she hardly was. The bowl was now digging into her side, with how she was holding it. She decided to put it on the counter instead.
‘Your Aunt Millie is very ill, something to do with her allergies or bronchitis or -’
‘Wasn’t is folliculitis last week? What does she do with all her spare time? Look these things up online or – ’
‘This is serious darling, she is absolutely bedridden, can’t move a muscle.’
‘Can’t Aunt Miriam go over and help? Aunt Miriam has a way of dealing -’
‘Aunt Miriam is there already Ceesle, that’s not why I’m calling you. Aunt Millie needs you to cover for her in a meeting today. It’s nothing too serious -’
‘Mother, I don’t know anything about covering for people, I hardly know what Aunt Millie does.’
‘Cornelia, I need you to help me with this,’ she could hear her mother crushing the cigarette out. ‘Your Aunt is sick and has asked for your help, don’t you remember when she took you to the boathouse -’
‘Oh not the boathouse story again Mother! I’m sick of hearing about the bloody boathouse and how I’m meant to jump to bloody attention every time someone remembers about the bloody ruddy boathouse!’
‘Well, be that as it may, you still need to help her out today, treacle. And you better watch your language. These are some important people that -’
‘Oh mother, they are practically a gang of baboons!’
‘It’s a troop of baboons, and their job is very important.’
‘Must you always have something to -’
‘They are expecting you in 40 minutes darling. I suggest you get a nice skirt on. Perhaps the one Aunt Phyllis got you for Valentine’s Day -’
‘I’m old enough to dress myself, mother. And I can’t find this bloody cat.’
‘Let me not keep you then darling,’ she said while she lit another cigarette. ‘I’ll talk to you later.’
Cornelia hung up the phone and walked straight to the living room, picked up a pillow and shoved her face right into it. She screamed at the top of her lungs, for as long as she could. She hated this job. She really did.
But there she sat, pen in hand, notepad clean and ready for the meeting’s minutes. The table was round and balanced precariously on a 2% milk carton and an old hair drier. Around the table were 8 men. All quietly looking at each other. They looked as though they were about to say something but then stopped at the last moment because they thought someone else might say something first. It was nearly 15 minutes of the awkward silence – during which Cornelia could only twiddle her pen between her fingers – before the roof of the meeting room opened completely up, and a man looked inside saying ‘Oh thank God!’
Cornelia did not know Neville Trispit by name, but she did have a list of all the people who were supposed to be at the meeting. She was the only woman at the table, and also the only person who brought along a shred of stationary. When the sweaty – but relieved – Tripsit took a seat, a man with a plastered on smile hidden by a wire-brush moustache stood up briskly. His round form dictated that he should wear suspenders, as any other form of gravity resistance to his pants would be rendered futile. He cleared his throat and said ‘Good morning ladies, and gentleman.’ He looked over to Cornelia to see if she was taking notes. She rolled her eyes and pretended to start writing. ‘Welcome to the annual discussion for the location of the World Cup 2022.’ Everyone around the table went to applaud, but, not hearing anyone go first, they all decided a firm nod would do instead.
‘The first order of business, is attendance. As you can see, Mildred has taken a leave of absence. She has dislocated her thumb, and our well wishes are with her.’ He looked over to make sure Cornelia was taking note of the well wishes. She had written the word WELCOME so far. ‘Her niece Cecilia will be helping us today instead. Cecilia, will you please do the register?’ Cornelia forced a smile and began reading off the list.
‘Oliver Randalson?’ There was a long pause, as Cornelia looked up from the paper. ‘Randalson? Oliver?’ After a few seconds of silence the table burst out laughing. They were looking at each other and pointing. One man – one of the Fortrude twins, Nigel or Angus, it was too soon to tell the difference – even hit the table as he laughed. This rattled the screw top lid of a 500ml soda bottle that rolled in the background, finally finding rest near a mostly eaten kitkat. The man with the wiry moustache – who identified himself as Hamish Marriot – eventually stopped laughing and said ‘Alright, alright, on with business.’
The table took a moment to compose itself. The other Fortrude twin wiped a tear away from under his glasses. Cornelia waited a second before proceeding.
‘James van Wyk.’ Which she pronounced van week when it was really fan vake.
‘Right,’ said Marriot, ‘then I would like to give a brief introduction.’ He glanced over at Cornelia so that she knew how important this must be. ‘I’m sure you all got the email I sent 3 weeks ago detailing the theme of the 2022 World Cup?’ There was no audible response, but the man who identified himself as Paul Iggelsden nodded and looked around the table. ‘Unfortunately Mildred is not here to answer any questions about the email, as you all know I have very little idea of how computer systems work exactly. Let’s hope that thyroid of hers stops playing up.’ Paul Iggelsden nodded again, this time almost saying something. ‘For those of you who did not get the email, we are looking for a fresh approach to the World Cup. We believe that this inter-net business will be booming by then, and we need to really be thinking out of the box on this one. Qatar is going to be out of this world, we know that, but we really need to try break the mould for 2022. No idea is too silly. So, lets dust of those creative shelves in our minds, and come up with some truly brilliant ideas!’ There was another one of those almost applause moments while Iggelsden nodded in approval.
Cornelia was not quite sure what to write, so she just put down ‘New ideas. Break the mould. Big inter-net.’ There was a bit of a silence around the table and people looked at each other for a while. Iggelsden raised his eyebrows a few times and smiled at some people. Marriot would raise his chin every so few seconds. Finally, when it was at the point of being unbearable, Jamal Beasely raised his hand. ‘Beasely,’ said Marriot, ‘blow us away.’
‘Supermarkets… Asda Stores… Tesco Stores…’ He paused, either for dramatic silence, or because he was coming up with this idea just before the words left his mouth. ‘Flash mob football. You are out buying Crunchy Nut, thinking about what to make for dinner – BOOM! Zlatan Ibrahimovic flies past you with a bicycle kick smashing the ball away in goal posts disguised on the milk section. You didn’t even see it there. Before you know it, word gets out, viral viral viral, people are recording the game off of their cellphones. Fans are buying snacks right there in the store, no more waiting in lines at stadiums. Players are on the pitch – well, the isle – and they don’t even need to stop for drinks, they are RIGHT THERE! And referees you ask? Stores have built in surveillance. Sponsors? All of them. For each brand in the videos fans upload, they pay us. Simple. Sky? BT? ITV? Forget all them. YouTube direct with fan shot videos. People will be swarming supermarkets hoping they catch France vs Holland on the off chance. Such a viral idea. Such a viral idea!’
Jamal Beasley sat for a long while after, his palms outstretched to the rest of the table and a big smile on his face. He kept repeating how viral this idea was. Mariot cleared his throat and looked over at Cornelia who was visibly gobsmacked. She started to write something down, but struggled to put into words what she has just heard, so all she wrote was FLASHMOB FOOTBALL.
Marriot raised and lowered his chin again. ‘Thank you, Beasley. An out of the box idea if I ever heard one. We can count on you to really knock them out of the park in here.’ Suddenly one of the Fortrudes piped up – the one who hit the table. ‘Clothing shops! HNM! Next! Island River! You can be shopping there. There.’ He paused for emphasis, which was lost really, because they could suddenly see where this was going. Well, at least Cornelia could. ‘You are there. Shopping. Maybe clothes. Maybe… Well, clothes -’
‘Or bags,’ chimed in the other Fortrude, ‘handbags.’
‘Or even, yes, even handbags! There you are, shopping for them. 1, 2, 3 kick. Bang! Wayne Ronnie, kicking, flying, bicycles. Right there! Like a virus. Security cameras for the films. No MGM Studios… No… MGM at all! Just the security! And people can look while they shop! That way, they are the sponsors. Done. Simple virus.’
‘Viral. Viral.’ chimed in the other Fortrude.
‘Viral yes… yes. And -’
‘Well, that’s really just Jamal’s idea isn’t it? Beasley over there, he said pretty much exactly the same thing right then. Didn’t you Beasley?’ James van Wyk kept pointing back and forward between Beasley and the two Fortrudes.
‘No… No… Completely different idea. Completely! Beamsy over there, when he was saying his idea, he was saying Tesco stores. He was saying places like, like ASDA stores.’
‘And supermarkets,’ chimed in the other Fortrude.
‘Yes well, it’s still the same idea isn’t it?’ asked van Wyk. There was a silence around the table while Iggelsden just nodded solemly.
‘Here. Here, here is an idea,’ said van Wyk. ‘You wake up on Sunday, or even, even on Wednesday, lets say. You hear a commotion in the street. No, the backstreet, like, behind your house. You open your blinds, or maybe you curtains. WOW! Wayne Rooney right there in your yard. You don’t know it, but your house was picked like in the postcode bingo thing, and there it is, backyard football, but world cup style! Right in your yard! And you wouldn’t even know. Your neighbours, I know mine would, but your neighbours, they would be asking you to pipe down till they saw Tim Howard leaning on their fence, ready to make the next save. Imagine their faces! No need for the telly, it would be happening in your yard! Right there, imagine it!’
Van Wyk was leaning forward on the table and his face was very red from all the excitement. Marriot carefully placed his weight on the other side to make sure the table didn’t flip over into the bitten piece of buttered toast. Iggelsden raised his eyebrows higher than before and nodded with great amplitude. Cornelia had not written a single word. She was absolutely flabberghasted. She knew next to nothing about football, except that some people called it soccer, and other people took offence to that kind of thing. She apparently knew even less about taking minutes in a meeting as Marriot cleared his throat looking over at her expectantly.
Without anybody agreeing to anything, or denying that having the world cup randomly in people’s back yards was possibly the worst idea in existence, she held the notepad closer to her chest and furiously pretended to write. Neville Trispit, who had not said a word since he sat down, raised his sweaty, podgy little hand. He adjusted his bowler hat and said, ‘Well, I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time. What about if we held it in a country where you would not expect the World Cup? Somewhere, that when you think about it, you don’t think World Cup straight away. Maybe you think, tigers. Maybe you think, jungle. Maybe…’ and he paused far too long at this point, making eye contact with every man at the table while he smiled broadly (Iggelsden was nodding with increasing pace) ‘What if, we had it in South Africa!?’
‘We had it there last time!’ said van Wyk.
‘I remember, I even suggested it!’ Princeton Jack finally found his voice.
‘No, no, last time was in Brazil. I would remember, my wife owns a salon. I would remember,’ defended Trispit.
‘Before that one! Before Brazil was South Africa!’ said van Wyk.
‘I thought that was Thailand?’ asked Trispit.
‘No, no, Thailand is what you always say at these meetings. Definitely South Africa. Great back yards in South Africa!’ said van Wyk, awfully excited again, leaning on the table.
‘Oh, oh. Well…’ said Trispit, adjusting his bowler hat, ‘No bother then.’
Cornelia would have thought that a meeting like this should have been held in a big building made of concrete and glass. And that the people at the table would be very taciturn, brimming with knowledge and acute counter arguments, like why some kinds of socio-psychological factors might stop there being a world cup in Beirut for instance. Or how they could benefit the local economy by setting up lasting stores or something. Suddenly she got a very bad feeling in her stomach. Like she forgot the bath running. Had she forgotten the bath running? No, no, she didn’t have the time to bath this morning, she was too busy trying to find her pencil skirt that Aunt Phyllis had got her for Valentine’s Day. It was an awfully thoughtful gift to be fair to her. But no… what was it? What had she forgotten? She took her pills… She… She looked around the table and suddenly realised something that nobody quite cleared up. Where did Aunt Millie work? Who were these people really? Surely they had name tags or something? Some kind of a gold pin that might show that they have the authority to make such a decision? She saw nothing. Nothing except Iggelsden nodding at people at the table, agreeing to seemingly everything. Next, Cornelia heard a sound to which she would normally pay no mind. You and I hear it all the time. And we have no problem with this sound. But it was exactly when she heard this sound that she realised why she was feeling very worried indeed. She didn’t leave the bath running, no, not at all. The sound got a little louder, and her worry transpired to a visible panic. She suddenly said, with no mind for whoever was talking at that moment – it was one of the Fortrudes – ‘Excuse me, but what day of the week is it?’
The table, stopped and turned to her. Even Iggelsden stopped nodding. Marriot cleared his excessive throat and said ‘Cindy, sorry, Celia, it’s Monday, of course. What does that have to do with -’ And what happened next, I won’t lie about. Because it happened too quickly. You can’t make stuff up about things happening quickly, I think. It comes out too contrived, I’m sure you’ll agree. Suddenly, right then, Cornelia understood exactly what that noise was, and exactly why which day of the week it was mattered so much. There was a beeping, there was a grabbing sound, and before poor Neville Trispit even had a chance to grab onto his bowler hat the world turned 45 degrees. I won’t get into the exact details of went on in that purple wheeley bin – I don’t have much of a stomach for gore you see – but 3 of the men were severely injured within 6 seconds. Cornelia had hurt her elbow against a 9 volt battery – you aren’t even supposed to throw those away you know – but otherwise she was fine. That was, until the garbage truck took hold of the bin. They are very powerful, those garbage trucks, and in the next 8 seconds, what life was left in all 8 men and 1 woman was quickly snuffed out. As I said just before, I don’t have much of a stomach for gore, but I will tell you that they were very quickly crushed and killed. All 9 of them. Gone.
In her last seconds of life, just after the 9 volt battery had hit her elbow so very hard, Cornelia thought her life would flash before her eyes. It did… well, kind of. She just thought, I didn’t feed Mittens, I didn’t feed Mittens, I didn’t f-.
Mittens, coincidently, had run away. Cats have a way of doing that sometimes.