We have a very dear friend. Her name is P. She is not the brightest person in the world but she is constantly engaged with it. Everything she comes across arouses her curiosity and she has a theory for everything. Usually her theory is that things are conspiring against her. Spending time with her is an adventure, because her ideas are so unexpected; they challenge accepted beliefs at every turn, such as for instance the conventional meanings of the red, amber and green traffic lights, or the identity of the ruling party in Parliament.
Anyway, I was on the Tube the other day. I was ruminating on Uncle Edgerton and wondering if I would see him again. I’d read the Handbook all the way through. There was a certain amount about summoning but nothing about being summoned. Moreover, the stuff about summoning was highly technical and assumed on the part of the intending summoner a familiarity, which I do not have, with basic Masonic practice.
Expecting to find it straightforward, I’d spoken with both Aubergine Small and the Jibjab Woman to see if they would be interested in a spot of zombie-killing in the 1930s. I’d certainly got a taste for it myself. Aubergine Small was up for it. He fished in the satchel in which he keeps the pre-printed cards with which he answers frequently answered questions. As he did so I could not help thinking that an enquiry whether one wants to engage in zombie-killing in the 1930s could not be that frequently asked. Nevertheless he had a suitable response handy, one no doubt appropriate to other questions as well:
WAY TO GO!
The cards may have been designed, like Professor Stephen Hawking’s voicebox, with the American market in mind.
The Jibjab Woman on the other hand declined. She had, she said, nothing against zombies. Golems, yes, she spat, but not zombies. You forget, she said, possibly because of my affection and support for Amy, that I am a woman on a mission – to beat the shit out of the enemies of Islam – and my mission comes first.
Missions tend to, I murmured. That is sometimes a good thing but usually not.
Anyway, unsummoned, Aubergine Small and I were stuck in the Twenty-first Century, where unless I was looking the wrong way zombies were thin on the ground.
But to return to our dear friend P, as I glanced across the carriage on the Underground, ruminating, as I say, on Uncle Edgerton, there she was. Her beady little eyes were darting around the carriage and she was muttering to herself. With an affectionate exclamation I bounded across.
P, I said – in her own native language, out of politeness, rather than the English with which she struggles. How nice to see you, how unexpected!
As I did so, I noticed something strange. Our dear friend P comes of obscure stock, a matter on which she is sometimes regrettably less than frank, but she is more white than anything else. This woman however was undeniably black.
You’re not P!
Not so loud, she said. We may be overheard. Call me P2. And follow me at the next stop.
So I followed her into a branch of Pret, or possibly Eat but not The Fresh Kitchen, Sainsbury’s excellent fast-food chain, because I would have remembered that, particularly if we’d shared one of their tasty ham and cheddar baguettes, so much more flavourful than the blander sandwiches at Pret and Eat. No, it was Pret and we each had a bottle of water tinged with the juice of some fashionably healthy fruit or vegetable.
When you were on the Tube were you thinking of your Uncle Edgerton, P2 asked unexpectedly.
I admitted so.
That’s how I got through.
Are you a Mason too?
With my name! said P2. Is the Pope an anti-Christ?
But why, I persisted, do you look so like our dear friend P? (I didn’t mention her being black.)
So that you’d trust me, P2 explained, cunningly. I fixed onto your thought waves as you stood on the Tube thinking about your Uncle Edgerton, and then I intuited your feelings of affection and trust for your dear friend P. I might have impersonated your friend Amy instead – I read that you like her too – but P’s face is easier.
In your psychic emanations, said P2.
You certainly don’t talk like our dear friend P, I said. She talks a lot of nonsense.
Enough! This is costing your Uncle Edgerton a fortune in psychic energy. I have a message, and then I must depart.
This was exciting. It sounded as if zombie-killing in the 1930s might be on again after all.
P2 consulted a small piece of paper.
Who won the Derby in 1934?
It was as if I’d been struck with a sand bag. This was Uncle Edgerton’s less attractive side. No doubt in his universe the 1934 Derby was still to take place and bookmakers were still accepting bets.
I have absolutely no idea, I said huffily.
Well Google it, said P2. He can’t.
Well you Google it.
I wish I could, said P2, but I am but a spirit of the air given by powerful magic a temporary form in time and space, and hopeless with computers.
Judge not that ye be not judged, I mused, which was convenient for me as I really did not want to antagonise my uncle, venal as he undoubtedly was.
I tell you what, I said. I’ll find the 1934 Derby winner. In return I want to come back, and this time I want to bring Aubergine Small with me.
Make sure you do. A messenger will be provided, said P2, and promptly disappeared.
I consigned two nearly full bottles of tinged water to the rubbish bin. I hope that Pret weren’t hurt.
With much to think about I returned underground and resumed my journey.