The they incident

Last week I had a run of bad luck when my girlfriend dumped me and I lost my job. I told my mom that the Mrs sacked me off, and she said, “Well, you know what they say: ‘there’s plenty of fish in the sea.’” I told my dad that I’d lost my job and he consoled, “everything happens for a reason, so they say.”

I was troubled. This “They” seemed eerily knowledgeable about marine-life populations and life’s inherently logical causality. But who are this “They”? I had to find out.

I went to the job centre, and a mousey woman in a suit approached me. “Can I help at all, Sir?”

I said, “I need to sign on.”

“Ok, if you just queue by that window over there and they will get you sorted.”

I said, “are they the same They that say ‘it’s always darkest before the dawn’?”

“Sorry?”

“Just before my granddad had a stroke, he kept smelling smoky bacon. No matter where he went, he always sniffed an empty packet of smoky bacon crisps. It was heartbreaking. They were my favourite flavour, but I couldn’t eat them for months after he snuffed it. I told Dave about it, and he said ‘Don’t worry, Rich, they do say it’s always darkest before the dawn.”

“Ok.”

I looked at her. “So…are they They?”

“Why don’t you go and join the queue and they might be –”

“But are these so called ‘they’ the they that are so confident about fish populations?”

She said, “They are Janet and Steve.”

“Which they are they?”

She said, “My colleagues. They might be able to help you.”

“I’m sure theeeey can.” I barged to the front of the queue and shouted at the man behind the window, “are you They?”

“Excuse me, Sir, you need to wait your –”

“How come you know so much about fish?”

He said, “I breed mackerel. Now, who was next?”

“Answer me this, They, if that’s your reeeaal name. Why smoky bacon? Why not salt and vinegar, or prawn cocktail or some other demon flavour?! Why?!” I hollered like a dog drunk on moonshine. “WHHHYYYY?!” I sang to the heavens.

And with my beseeching cries, music filled the room. A shaft of light burst through the automatic doors and in came Annie Lennox dressed as Jesus. She sang her 90’s ballad Why while riding a swan. Even with her emaciated, Christ-like figure, the swan buckled under her twin-raisin-rump, and he scraped his belly along the floor, as she thrust him onward with her hips. Behind her, a line of orphaned Victorian peasant children slouched in with cupped hands intoning, “Please, Sir, I want some more jobs.”

As if possessed, I crossed my eyes and kept screaming “I smite they!” while frothing at the mouth and crumpling to the floor like the melting Wicked Witch of the West.

I woke up on the job centre floor in a pool of my own spit, frothed all around me like I’d had one of those awesome, mental Persil parties. My mother looked over me like an angel. “He’s waking up.”

I followed her eyes to the paramedic who stood with his back to us. She said, “Is he going to be all right?”

The paramedic slowly turned around. “They haven’t decided,” he cackled, his eyes crossed and yellowed, as a mackerel flapped between his gritted teeth.

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