Just as we were about to sit down with our tray of lunchtime goodies, Jack’s cell phone – a recent acquisition – played a little tune. It sounded like something Jack had composed himself. Jack activated his new toy.
“Who’s this?” asked Jack.
I could faintly hear a tinny voice coming from near Jack’s ear.
“So the Prime Minister wants to have a word with me, does he? Well, you tell him I’m on my lunch-break and I don’t want to talk to him. Tell him to call me at home, this evening.”
Long pause … Some people around us had stopped eating and were watching Jack with a great deal of interest. Maybe even respect.
“It’s that urgent, is it? Well you tell him to keep it short. My lunch is getting cold.”
Brief pause …
“… Same to you Steve. What’s up? What’s so important it couldn’t wait till this evening?”
Pause… I couldn’t hear any of the conversation.
“… I don’t think so, Steve. I think that would be a mistake. A big mistake.”
“… I think you’ve made enough blunders over the past few years to last Canadians for a lifetime.”
“… So what if they elected you for a second term. It wasn’t because they liked you and your policies, it’s because they liked the others even less. That’s no recommendation, Steve.”
“… And don’t try to bribe me with a Senate seat. I’m retired, and I don’t want to spend my time listening to a bunch of old geezers snoring in the Upper Chamber. I’ve got better things to do. Now, are you through? Or do I have to listen to any more of your bullshit?”
Pause… I’m straining to hear the other end of the conversation, but I can’t make out a word.
“ … Well,” says Jack, “fuck you too Steve.” And he closed his cell phone.
I realize that there are quite a few people around who’ve been following Jack’s part of the conversation. And they are shocked. Not only at Jack’s expletive, but also at the lack of deference he has shown for Canada’s Prime Minister. I mean, he may not be everyone’s favourite, but still, he is owed some respect for the position he occupies.
One of the spectators looks as if he is about to approach and give Jack a piece of his mind. Jack sees him and stands up, glaring at the man. Jack says: “Back off!” The man, uncertain of the situation, mutters something under his breath and gets back to his seat.
Jack attacks his lunch. I follow suit.
After a few mouthsful I ask Jack “Where do you know the Prime Minister from? You never told me you knew him.”
Jack says: “I never told you, because I don’t know him.”
I say: “Then why did he call you?”
Jack says, quietly: “That was a wrong number.”
Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.
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