Each weekday morning, Samuel Pam walked to Notting Hill Gate underground station, rode the tube to Westminster then walked a further twelve minutes to his office. He avoided people in public, so when he stepped onto the train and noticed an empty end-seat, he sat there. These were favourable because only one person could sit beside you, reducing the possibility of conversation.
A man in his twenties took the seat beside Samuel, who gave him the once-over and decided he seemed harmless enough. The train pulled away and Samuel took out his paperback. The standing-room was taken and he was aware of bodies in front of him swaying like the walls of a human maze which confined him, unable to escape until the walls themselves disembarked. The man beside him leant closer and whispered:
“Do you satisfy your girlfriend in bed?”
Samuel watched his book and turned to the next page.
The man whispered, “Leave the small size behind. No girl likes a small…”
Samuel looked along the carriage in the opposite direction, and through the maze he saw the mad Spanish-looking woman making her way towards him.
The man beside him whispered: “Bring her to new heights of ecstasy with just one more inch.”
The maze swayed before him and Samuel felt as though immobilized in a nightmare.
The Spanish-looking woman had pursued him since he left his flat that morning. He was late and was about to leave but felt hungry. He placed two slices of bread in his toaster and as he pushed down the “start” lever, his doorbell sounded. He rushed to the door and saw a courier standing there who said, “I have a large package for you,” raising his eyebrows on the word “large”.
Samuel looked down at the package and told him, “It doesn’t look all that large to me.”
The man handed him a form and Samuel was about to sign it when he noticed the declaration he was signing: “Yes, I want to say goodbye to my locker-room embarrassment.” He looked up at the man who turned over the package and pointed to the wording on the reverse:
This patented work-out for your “best friend” will put inches where it really matters.
The courier said, “Just sign here,” and pushed Samuel’s hand down onto the form.
Samuel resisted, shouting, “There’s nothing wrong with my… ‘best friend’!” but the man held his hand and tried moving it over the form. Samuel broke free, pulled his front door shut and pushed past the man on his way into the street. He carried his hunger and irritation to the end of the street and as he turned the corner, he noticed the Spanish-looking woman rushing after him. She lived somewhere nearby and always seemed to be pestering people in the street. She shouted to him, “You plunge it in and leave in a hurry.”
He walked away from her but she shouted after him, “You plunge it in too quick.”
He dodged down an alleyway and broke into a run. In the distance, he could hear her shouting, “Stop, stop; the fire will come after you’ve gone!”
As he was running, it occurred to him he could not recall the last time he ran. With each step, it felt as though his joints were being tested to near destruction but still he had to go on.He turned another corner and was then only one minute from the tube.
Back on the train, he spotted the woman pushing her way along the carriage towards him, and the man beside him started whispering something else. Samuel got to his feet. He knew his stop was approaching and he started pushing through the bodies, trying to reach the door. He looked back and saw the woman making progress through the maze, then the “Westminster” signs appeared on the tube wall. The door was now only two bodies ahead of him and the train slowed. The maze came to attention and someone standing behind him whispered: “It’s so easy to add inches where it matters…”
Samuel did not even look round. The doors opened and he was launched onto the platform amid the shuffling maze.
Up on the street he wove his way through the crowds, not looking over his shoulder but imagining the Spanish-looking woman slipping further and further behind him. At a pedestrian crossing, he was waiting for the lights to change when a man looked at him as though about to say something but Samuel stepped sideways, then the lights changed.
In his office on the fifth floor of the Ministry of Education, he sat down behind his desk. Samuel oversaw all policy evaluation workgroups within the Ministry. Twenty five years ago, a report found that much of the population felt other people did not value them, both in the workplace and at home. Samuel’s career began when he chaired a workgroup investigating this report, which concluded the cause was inadequate communication.
The workgroup introduced an intensive training programme into all schools which taught pupils to use the most effective communication tools of the day, which were the methods employed by advertising agencies. This would eventually enable every person to get their message across in all situations. The original workgroup’s report was entitled:
How to empower the population to get their message across: a report of the “Level 2” workgroup’s findings, by S.Pam.
Hence, the techniques being taught quickly assumed the nickname of “Spam” and the activity of using these techniques became known as “Spamming”.
Over the twenty or so years since, Spamming gradually increased in everyday society and today, due to the prevalence of Spamming, Samuel avoided contact with all people where possible, lest they attempt to sell him a penis enlargement product or provide him with information on a cheap source for pills to enable him to gain an endless erection, should he ever require such a thing, which, of course, he surely would do, because only winners had an endless, on-demand erection.
Samuel Pam walked into his eleven a.m. meeting and sat at the head of the conference table, around which his team were already assembled. They were due to hear a summary of the “Level 5” workgroup’s report into the eradication of the number “seven” from all arithmetic problems presented to children before the age of nine. A previous report had suggested this might remedy the fifty-fourth flaw identified in his own famous “Level 2” Spam report (the number of flaws had by now reached one hundred and twenty-eight, of which only thirty of these had so far been successfully resolved). Flaw fifty-four was of particular interest because it was thought it was this that caused people to use Spam to promote sex-related products. The whole Ministry was excited by the idea of eradicating the number “seven” from arithmetic problems because this approach had never been heard of before, and the workgroup listened in eager anticipation as Jonathan Springer, a bright, fresh-faced graduate, began the presentation.
Jonathan tapped on his laptop and a graph lit up the presentation screen. Geraldine, who was thirty-two next March and whose knees lost the ability to support her whenever she saw Jonathan, Geraldine gasped at the sight of the graph. George, who was forty-five and was taking early retirement next April, sighed impatiently at Geraldine.
Jonathan tapped another key and the following words appeared beneath the graph:
While cock enlargement surgery is expensive and sometimes dangerous, pills have been found to have no such drawbacks.
Samuel stood up and left the room. In the corridor a secretary approached him. She started to say, “You too can induce a heavenly state with your….” but he quickened his pace, stepped into his office and closed the door. His window opened onto a wide ledge which he stepped out onto, then sat on. This was his favourite spot in the building, the only place he could escape the Spammers. He sighed as he listened to the noise of the distant traffic. He looked down to the street, thought he saw someone waving up at him from the opposite pavement, then recognised the mad Spanish-looking woman who was shouting up to him and beckoning him to come down to the street. He edged back on the ledge, out of sight, and watched the windows of the building opposite, which was a call centre. He looked from window to window, watching the phone operators gesticulating at their screens. A few minutes later, he noticed someone tapping at one of the windows, apparently watching him, then recognised the Spanish-looking woman. He heard a voice, looked round and saw a man kneeling on the ledge a few windows along from him.
The man said, “Don’t jump; it’s not worth it,” and started edging towards him.
Samuel said, “Oh, go away, you ridiculous man; I’m not trying to jump.”
“You must have something to live for. Let me talk to you.”
The man edged closer. Samuel waved him away and said, “I’m not trying to jump. Go away.”
“You don’t fool me. It’s not worth it. Don’t do it.”
Samuel shouted “I won’t! There, now go away.”
The man edged along the ledge. He was crouching down and clinging to the wall, but he now stood up and took the last few steps to Samuel. On his last step, he stumbled and swayed out but managed to grip a proud piece of brickwork which framed the window. He sat down beside Samuel and gripped his arm. He rather stupidly (Samuel thought) told him, “Now, if you’re going to jump, you’ll take me with you.”
Samuel, who was still seething at the man’s stupidity, told him: “And if you fall, you’ll take me with you.”
The man leant close to Samuel’s ear and whispered, “Is your girlfriend satisfied with your performance?”
Samuel shouted “What?”
The man said, “With an extra two inches you’ll take her to unimaginable heights of pleasure.”
Samuel grabbed the man’s hand and tried to free it from his arm as he shouted, “You’ve come out here just to tell me this; you might have killed me!”
The man gripped his arm and said, “Millions of men have tested this system and their girlfriends say they are the best in bed.”
Samuel wrestled the man from him, stood up, climbed back into his window and shut it. The man stood up, gripping the proud brickwork, knocked on the glass with his head and shouted: “Punish her with your nine full inches.”
Samuel closed the blinds and left his office. Outside, a receptionist, Clair, whom he had always been attracted to, stepped over to him to give him a message. There was something about the slight irregularity in the curve of her nose that fascinated him. Initially he began watching it out of curiosity, but then soon he became addicted, and now he always found time to talk to her.
End of extract
The full text of this story is included in Fletcher's collected edition of short stories, which can be purchased in paperback or Kindle format. Click here for details.
15 March 2008
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