‘I agree Mikey, Brexit Brunch does have an alliterative ring to it. I was in charge of implementing the new Key Stage 2 English grammar tests you know, so I am aware of these language thingamajiggies. But we’ve only sold one in the last week. People say it’s fine but actually just an all-English fry-up and tell me they aren’t impressed with the silly name and equally silly description: Your 11am -3pm Referendum Breakfast OR Lunch with Coffee OR Tea.
‘Nigel liked it.’
‘Fuck Farage Mikey! He only came along for the photo opportunity!’
‘He said it was a jolly good idea and a jolly good meal.’
‘It was free and he’d had a few. He was making the most of it before going into the Celebrity Jungle. I didn’t think the subsequent article and headline in our local newspaper was very funny: The Three Brexiteers – Where Are They Now? Ha-Ha. And what was so witty about those references to Goveos, Morgaos and Faragis?
‘Indeed, jolly rude and ironic to reference a French novel.’
‘That’s not the point!’ Nicky shouts.
Things have deteriorated of late. Business has tailed off and what is left of the clientele has altered. Even before the Farage visit, a certain type of neo-Neanderthal had replaced the previous more cosmopolitan patron. Nicky’s feelings of frustration and anger are not calmed by arguing about the culinary direction of the diner’s menu.
‘You pretended to go along with the burger focus, happily promoting your Groovy Gove and becoming such an expert at making real hash browns. But all the time you were plotting and scheming. I came back after that weekend off a few months ago and you had changed the menu, highlighting your Brexit Brunch with that ridiculous offer of a free I Love My Country mug with every order. A stupid idea, and a stab in the back!’
Mikey flinches. He knows he is never going to shake the accusation of being the master of treachery. Even the local paper had thought itself clever enough to print how he was more a Count de Rochefort than Brexiteer. The editor declined to issue a written apology despite Mikey’s protestations and pleading, including the offer of a free Brexit Brunch. The editor even reiterated the contrary character tag, seeming to intentionally mispronounce its title.
‘I’ve made mistakes,’ Mikey concedes. ‘And now I don’t think I’ve got the poop…..’
‘….Don’t you DARE use that line from Steinbeck!’ Nicky interrupts, seething. ‘The shit I’ve had to take about you banning American authors and then having to defend it!’ Her eyes are bulging now more than ever, a look of total contempt rather than having just been hit by lightning. ‘That avalanche of Et tu references about the way you treated Boris was difficult enough to take for the smug knowingness of it all, but you of all people quoting from Of Mice and Men….!’ Nicky trails off her disgust with a long, piercing scream.
‘I feel like this is another hinge in history, and two paths beckon,’ Mikey continues once the wailing dies down. ‘We can either try to muddle through and hope for the best, or lean in, embrace this diner and shape it in our interests. That’s why I’ve embarked on a journey to give the British people what they want from this diner: a British menu.’
Nicky is now staring back with bap-eyes as empty as the burgerless buns.
‘Mikey, you already gave this speech when campaigning to be leader of our Party and look how far that got you. And if you mention once more about being an orphan…..,’ she drifts off again, exhausted with the painful memories palpably repeating in her head.
But Mikey doesn’t appear to be finished. Indeed, his own eyes are taking on a noticeable alteration, seeming to glow as if a light is being shone from behind. Their brightness produces a staring, mechanical and alarming glare. He continues as if delivering a programmed speech, this too taking on oddly robotic signs.
‘As Dr Johnson once observed of two women arguing from the windows of houses on opposing sides of a street – they will never agree, Boswell, because they are arguing from different premises. Whether it is a choice of burgers or some other transatlantic fare, I have a different starting premise from those diner owners who are so heavily invested in the regime of low expectations and narrow horizons which they have created with their non-English menus. I believe we need to ask more – much more – of our diner system.’
Nicky has had enough. It isn’t just this obnoxious tirade from Mikey. It’s the months of working with him at the diner, trying to make it a success, coaxing him along when others would have given up long ago. It’s the sense of failure all over again when following in his wake. It’s the feeling of despair at being reminded daily of what despair looks like when you have lost everything you’d ever dreamed about having, thinking Mikey was the one true bright star worth following – in more ways than one.
Nicky gets up from where she is sitting and walks to the back room. She goes to the utility cupboard there, opens the door, rummages inside for a few seconds and then emerges carrying a shovel. Marching back, she isn’t thinking or planning because all she can hear is Mikey rambling on incoherently –
‘….We’re not talking pixies dancing under the Faraway Tree here….’ –
and arriving back to where Mikey is still talking like an automaton, she stops immediately at his side and promptly takes one spontaneous, mighty upward arc then a swift downward swing with the shovel that connects directly on his still yapping head. To her astonishment the head instantly disconnects and is flying across the room, wires protruding from the severed neck – both the body portion and the dismembered head portion – hissing sounds and smoke emanating from each bloodless but grotesque portal, and Mikey is still yammering, though now in a singular robotic repetition.
‘I love ……my..country….I love…..m..y….coun…try….I…lo….ve…..I……ve….my…..