“Now then, I wonder what this thingy does.”
With the pens and various items of desk furniture arranged, rearranged and arranged once more for good measure, Bertram Toaster turned his attention to the small dark wooden box with the red button on its top and metal grille set in its front. Specifically, it was the red button that had seduced his attention. Weighing it up, and even though the new job came with the sort of salary that would have brought a fond tear to the eye of Great Uncle Marmaduke, the new mayor doubted that his power and influence extended to being able to conjure up a nuclear strike all by himself. The button, he felt, would be safe to try.
After a second’s delay, a familiar voice emanated from the contraption. Like one who has just heard his winning string of lottery numbers read out over the airwaves, Toaster sat upright with joyous surprise.
“Good Lord! Is that you Shreeves?”
“Yes, sir, it is.”
“But I thought you had gone to bring succour your ailing auntie Doris in Clacton for the week.”
“Indeed that was my intention, sir, but with your unexpected election to public office I thought it prudent to be on hand for the first day or two.”
It struck the mayor that Shreeves’s capacity to second guess a situation and arrange to be “on hand” could at times be uncanny to the point supernatural. No one had been more surprised than Bertram Toaster to find himself installed in a plush office in the corridors of civic power that Monday morning; with the possible exception of that other chappie, of course. What was he called now – Livingroom? Mornington? Anyway, there had been no sign of the fellow that morning, only a box of Black Magic on the desk and card bearing the cryptic lines “Good Luck, You’ll Need It.”
The whole thing had been old Tubby Cameron’s idea, part of his great ‘masterplan’ he had called it. “Tell you what, Bertie, old thing,” he’d said one night over a late evening snifter at the Drunes, “Why don’t you stand for London mayor? You could be just the man for the job.”
They had been friends since they were boys in shorts at Beaton College and had continued to rub along even as their careers had subsequently diverged; Tubby into politics (at which he was making quite a name for himself, though Toaster had never really followed the antics and machinations of Westminster and was thin on the details) and himself into, well, largely staying on the good side of Aunt Agatha and out of holy matrimony. But Tubby had been most insistent, had told his old pal Bertie not to worry about a thing and to leave all the work to him and what he had archly called his ‘team’. And so here he now was: Mayor of London with a big office overlooking the river and a talking box from which the melifluous tones of the marvel that was Shreeves now spilt forth.
“Shall I come through, sir?”
“Excellent idea, Shreeves. Step forth into the sanctum.”
Shreeves shimmered into the room. Although Toaster had no idea what he was supposed to do now that he had landed the mayorship, he did at least feel assured that the sailing ahead, with Shreeves on hand to prepare the metaphorical G&Ts, could be nothing less than plain. With a sigh of almost feline contentment, Bertram Toaster reached for a nut cluster.
Soulcompost says: how; oh, how; oh, how did Boris get elected? I’m serious – how?