When Jeremy The Wicked Ruled His World
‘Stick your hands up. This is a fucking robbery!’
Two animal-masked men bounced up the steps of the tour bus with tiny pistols in their hands. Horse Mask whooshed himself down the central aisle and all the way to the very back seat. He swivelled around and poked his pistol at everyone while screaming blue murder on very jumpy tippy-toes. Polar Bear Mask stopped short and pushed his pistol right into the driver's dripping nose-hair.
‘Get the fuck up out of there! No heroes on this bus, mate. Right? No fucking heroes anymore!’
The driver fumbled up out of his seat and down the central aisle where he found a space directly across from Jeremy. But Polar Bear Mask was up his arse immediately.
‘Keep your hands in the fucking air! Keep them up!’
Horse Mask at the back was corralling people up to the middle portion of the bus around Jeremy and the driver. For the job in hand they required everyone in their seats clumped together. There wasn’t that many on the bus though. Twelve to fifteen max. If they were lucky. The task wasn't exactly Herculean.
‘Look, do this quick and no one gets hurt. Throw your wallets and any money you may have onto the floor of the central aisle and then we’re out of here and no one's brain gets splattered into a million pieces onto those nice clean side windows. Ok? Does that sound good?'
Horse from the back and Polar Bear from the front worked quickly person by person through the bus planning to meet in the middle where the job would finish and everything collected up off the floor and slammed into bags. People were co-operating for the most part. No troublemakers. Then Polar Bear reached the old man with the grey beard in the middle of the bus. A flash of recognition burst through his head like the jagged path of a buff-tailed bumble bee across a field in summer but he couldn’t quite put his finger on who it was. It was years since he followed the news.
‘All right old bean, just empty your pockets and I’m gone man and you’ll live to see and spend your old age pension.’
‘If the Tories haven’t abolished pensions by then, that is.’
Polar Bear guffawed.
‘You’re right there, dude.’
The old man took his wallet out and gave it to Polar Bear. As he moved on to the next person, the old man said, ‘Your surname wouldn’t be Browne would it?’
‘Bloody hell – he knows me Howie! He knows me!’
‘Fuck sake Pedro – now he knows my name too. You just said it. You’re a complete cockwomble.’
The old man ran his fingers through his hair and breathed through his nose.
‘Hold on, I just recognised your voice – even a generation down the line it’s still so distinctive. It's utterly uncanny. You must be William Browne’s son. I knew him quite well. We spent a lot of time together on the picket lines during the miners’ strike. I got bussed up regularly. We were good friends.’
Polar Bear lifted his pistol and pointed it into the forehead of the old man.’
‘Who are you old man? And how do you know so much about my life and times?’
‘I’m Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party. Back then I was just an activist. I was trying to help your father. I’m sorry for what happened to him later, so sorry. Is that why you're here today on our bus? The generational effects of Thatcherism?’
Horse moved up from the back and pushed the Polar Bear’s pistol off Jeremy’s face.
‘Did you hear that Pedro, he sounds like you after a few pints of a Saturday night down the club.’
Horse turned to Jeremy.
‘Hey mate, Jeremy, sorry, Jeremy your name is Jeremy, you should have a few pints with him on a Saturday evening in our local, the two of you could sort out the world by half nine before the band comes on. You’d get on famously.’
‘I’d love to do that sometime, I would. If Pedro wants me to, it’s no problem. Pedro, are you a member of your local branch of the Labour Party?’
‘A bunch of middle-class twats.’
‘Not any more Pedro. Not any more. You should take another look and here’s a copy of our manifesto. I think you’ll like it. Your Da would have loved it.’
Pedro brought the pistol back up to Jeremy’s forehead.’
‘What the fuck are you doing old bean? It’s now your job to shut the fuck up and let us do what we have to do. Capeesh?’
By now Howie Horse Mask had gathered up all the wallets into a bag and was staring at Pedro Polar Bear Mask to get the fuck out of there before anything nasty kicked at their karma.
‘Come on Pedro, let’s move man.’
‘But Jeremy knows who I am.’
‘He doesn’t know who I am, except my name, so I’m alright Jack. Let’s skedaddle.’
‘I’m not moving.’
‘He stood with your father during the miners’ strike, that’s all Pedro, he doesn’t know where the next two generations of his family live now. How could he? It’s not like before when people stayed in the same house for decades. Those days are gone forever. He won't be able to track us down in a million years. Come on, let’s move. It won't take long before the filth come blaring around the corner. I bet you one of the middle-class wankers on this bus has already pulled the emergency cord. Fucking red Tories the lot of them. Come on Pedro let's get the fuck!’
Pedro button-holed Howie up off the bus’s floor.
‘Don’t be so pessimistic. Those days can and will come back,’ said Pedro.
Jeremy stood up too. Pedro dropped Howie back onto the floor. Jeremy spoke.
‘Howie, Pedro’s right. Those days can and fucking will return. Excuse my French. The majority of the people in this country will have secure council houses for life once again. I believe in that totally. Is that the reason why you’re doing this robbery? To make the rent?’
Pedro flopped his pistol-holding hand down to his waist and slumped into the seat next to the driver, who bunched over tighter to the window to give him more room.
‘That's right Jeremy. How did you know? The landlord keeps putting up the rent.’
‘It stands to reason in this economy, son. How much do you need to clear it?’
‘Take what money you need, no probs, from the cash you’ve collected here Pedro. Just give my activists back their wallets, bank and credit cards etc, and everything will be hunky-dory with us.’
He stood up and announced to the bus that all the money going to Pedro and Howie would be covered by his own wallet when he got back to the office and had a chance to go to the bank. He also promised he'd throw in an extra large cherry on top of all monies returned fresh from his allotment. There wasn’t much disagreement on the bus. Howie couldn’t believe his eyes or his ears. This had been their first attempt at a robbery, so they weren’t deep into any shit as of yet. They weren't being chased by any authorities. Thank God. Just in the nick of time. It turns out they might have chosen the perfect place to start and finish their crime careers. Pedro lifted his pistol again to Jeremy’s head.
‘If it wasn’t for you my Da would never have been interested in art and would never had walked over to Vincent Cough in Tesco’s when he burst in with a gun.’
‘But I couldn't be with your father, William, 24-7. That would have been impossible.’
‘Not you. I'm not blaming you exactly. I’m using a metaphor. The labour movement. You are the current embodiment of the labour movement. Because my Da was involved in the labour movement he got interested in art and literature and philosophy too. Without it he wouldn’t have developed an interest in Vermeer and he wouldn't have ran over to Vincent Cough when he was at the lowest ebb of his entire life. Vincent's job had left him. His wife had left him. His house had left him too – he got evicted. He was living in a hostel. Then in a tent. Then in a hole. Vincent Cough used to run an arts club in the local library with other union members of the pit, they worked their whole lives until Thatcher came along. If they weren’t union members they would never have dreamed about art. That’s what got him killed. Art. His love of art. When Vincent ran into Tesco’s with a gun my Da ran over to him with the Vermeer postcard he kept in his wallet at all times: The Little Street. To save him. Vincent Cough had given it to my Da the day he’d joined the arts club in the library many moons previously. Vincent was a founding member.
‘We’ve got this art so nothing can stop us now, lad, nothing,’ said Vincent to my Da, William, on his first day at the club, using a Picasso print glued to the back of a long rectangular piece of plywood as an ironing board.’
'My Da wanted to remind Vincent of his own advice. Because he’d written it down word for word on the back of the Vermeer postcard he'd always kept in his wallet. He was convinced that Vincent would listen to his own advice written on the back of a postcard. They’d known each other all their art and working lives. Surely that had to count for something, he thought.’
Jeremy reached out as best he could with a pistol on his forehead. His hand actually reached Pedro’s and attempted to hold it. Nevertheless, the force of the pistol on his forehead did not relent.
‘I’ve still got that postcard in my pocket, The Little Street, to this day, Jeremy.’
Howie moved to the back of the bus with his pistol cocked, waiting for someone to even think about moving. Pedro was fucking everything up. A few minutes ago they could have got out. But now? He didn’t let his mind go there. Quicksand everywhere.
Pedro kept it going.
‘Vincent was too far gone at that stage. He’d already shot a customer. My Da couldn’t persuade him down from the edge even with a Vermeer postcard and Vincent’s own words on the back, Jeremy. Vincent looked at it, the two of them did, in silence for a few seconds, the longest two seconds ever. He gave it back to my Da with tears streaming his face. The police rushed in. Vincent shot my Da’s face with two bullets, a security guard with one bullet, and then shot himself. You were at all the funerals Jeremy. It's coming back to me now. I remember your face. You were very kind to everyone. My Da couldn’t get a job for seven years after his pit closed. Eventually, he ended up working at Tesco’s. Family and art sustained him. Why wasn’t that enough for Vincent Cough? Why?’
Pedro dropped the gun and sat down next to the driver. He let the tears take him and took out his Da's Vermeer postcard with Vincent's quote on the back splattered with blood. No one said anything for at least three minutes.
‘Come on Pedro. We’re going to let you keep the money. We don't want it back. Howie come up here and start counting the cash. Two grand, that’s great. Take it. No one in this bus is going to report anything about what happened here today. It was just a misunderstanding between old friends. Eh Pedro? Eh Howie?’
‘Thanks Jeremy. Thanks. You’ve saved our lives,' said the Horse.
They sat in silence for another three minutes on the bus.
‘Fancy a few craft beers lads? I know a great place just around the corner. Eh?’ said Jeremy.
‘That sounds okay, doesn't it?’ Howie said to Pedro.
‘I suppose it does. But does it have to be craft fucking beer?’
He put the Vermeer away.
‘No Pedro, they sell everything in this place. No worries.’
‘Great Jeremy. I could do with a pint alright. It's thirsty work nearly fucking up your entire life but not going there right at the last minute, Penelope Pitstop style.’
‘Jeremy, did you know that the bloke who re-discovered Vermeer and brought his work to a new audience of the kings and queens of the current bourgeoisie was a bloke called Bob Burger - and he was a screaming revolutionary socialist?’
‘No, Pedro, I didn't know that at all.’
‘It's a glorious fact, isn't it? It makes me smile.’
‘Me too, Pedro. Glorious indeed,’ said Jeremy.
Everyone stood around smiling to themselves, considering this new fact of their lives aprés conceptual robbery.
The money was sorted quickly enough. They had more than adequate cash among themselves for the lads' due rent. Pedro was able to wind himself up gregarious once again, it usually never took him long though, to be honest. Just like his Da.
‘I’ll be down to my local Labour branch first thing, Jeremy. My Da would have wanted it. It's seems like the right time to start reading the news again. It's certainly been a while. I might see if I can nab a few heads for my new arts club as well. We’ll meet every two weeks at the library, if we still have one.’
‘Vote for me and it’ll be there forever Pedro. Forever. I'd never close a library. It's not in my nature and you know it.’
Pedro and Howie thus lifted Jeremy off the bus on their shoulders chanting, ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn. Oh Jeremy Corbyn,’ and thinking about actually having a few goes at those craft beers Jeremy was talking about earlier, seeing as though he was paying for it through the nose 'till bubbles came out his nostrils like.