For All Nails #209: The World is a Vampire
By Johnny Pez
"Excuse me, Ronnie, might I have a word with you before you go?"
Sir Geoffrey Gold thought that Ronald Spade, Lord Sidney, looked rather unhappy about being asked to remain while the rest of the cabinet filed out of the room. Of course, it was difficult to tell with Sidney, who looked unhappy even on those rare occasions when he was not.
Sidney tended to look out of place when he was seated amongst his cabinet colleagues. He was the tallest man in Sir Geoffrey's cabinet, and also the heaviest. He looked like a football player who had been stuffed into a Cork Street suit and dropped into the middle of a seminar on chartered accountancy.
When you met with him person-to-person, though, he tended to dominate his environment through sheer physical presence, which was the chief reason Sir Geoffrey preferred to spend as little time alone with Sidney as possible. Today, however, it was necessary for Sir Geoffrey to speak with his Home Secretary in private.
"Ronnie," Sir Geoffrey began, "I'm sure you're aware of our efforts to rally public opinion behind the Government on the matter of the war."
"I am," said Sidney simply. Another reason Sir Geoffrey didn't like being alone with Sidney was that getting him to say more than a syllable or two at a time was like pulling teeth. He would be even more taciturn than usual, Sir Geoffrey was certain, because he knew what was coming, and intended to be as uncooperative as possible.
With a sigh, Sir Geoffrey continued. "A man who has been in politics as long as you ought to know that public approval is, in a sense, a limited resource. It can be acquired, and it can be expended, and if you expend more than you acquire you'll eventually run out. Right now, we're spending huge amounts of public approval on the war, and the longer the war lasts without any obvious progress toward victory, the more expensive it becomes."
Sir Geoffrey paused again. After an awkward couple of moments, Sidney responded with, "I understand."
"I wonder if you do," Sir Geoffrey said in exasperation, "because while I'm busy husbanding public approval for the war, you seem to be busy expending it on this wretched Vlad Tepes business!"
"Prime Minister, that book is a disgrace!" Sidney exclaimed, moved by passion into a veritable flood of verbiage. "This Blake Hamilton fellow thinks he can slander the Party and get away with it by pretending he's writing about something else! 'Historical phantasy' my eye!"
"Be that as it may, Ronnie," Sir Geoffrey reproved him, "we can't afford the trouble it's causing us. It's become a cause celebre for every fool, traitor and weakling in this country, and you know how many of those there are."
"But, sir! This fellow's calling us all a gang of blood-sucking fiends! It's intolerable!" Sidney insisted.
"Nevertheless, Ronnie," Sir Geoffrey said sternly, "for the time being, we'll tolerate it all the same. I want you to return all those copies you've impounded and put your men back to work finding spies and wreckers instead of haunting bookshops."
"Very well, sir," Sidney rumbled, and now Sir Geoffrey was certain that the Home Secretary really was genuinely unhappy. "It sticks in my craw, though, having to let this Hamilton rotter spread his filth."
"I don't care for it any more than you do," Sir Geoffrey said, "but there is a time for decisive action and a time for forbearance, and these are times that, unfortunately, call for the latter."
"Yes, Prime Minister," Sidney said despondently.
"I want you to be clear about one thing, though, Ronnie," Sir Geoffrey continued. "The day will come when our forbearance will be at an end, and on that day, I assure you, Mister Blake Bloody Hamilton and all those jeffy scum who support him will be made to pay for their insolence. With interest!"
(Forward to FAN #210: Travelin' Band.)
(Forward to 5 May 1975: You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello.)
(Forward to American War: Houseguests.)
(Forward to Great Britain: Closing Walls and Ticking Clocks.)
(Return to For All Nails.)