by Jonathan Pinnock
They have these reunions every ten years, but I’ve never been to one before, so it’s interesting to see who’s changed (the ones who were always youthful-looking) and who hasn’t (the ones who have looked middle-aged all their life), and in any case it’s a good time to catch up with people you haven’t seen since you left the place, if only to see if you’re doing better or worse than them. Anyway there’s this guy sitting next to me that I vaguely remember, but I can’t quite put a name to: prosperous-looking, tanned, bit of a paunch, obviously doing pretty well for himself. So we do the usual mutual introduction thing, and I remember him now, although I’m struggling to fill in all the details, because (as I say) it’s been a while since we last saw each other, and I can’t even remember which subject he was reading. He’s evasive when I ask him what he’s doing these days, but after a few glasses he opens up a bit and tells me that’s he’s actually in the torture business, which comes as something of a surprise, but these are strange times that we are living in so I try to act as if this is nothing unusual, and start asking him questions like what’s the best thing about being a torturer? (all the foreign travel apparently), what’s the worst thing about being a torturer? (again, all the foreign travel) and how do your kids feel about this? (no problem, apparently, and they certainly don’t get hassled in the playground any more). Then I remember: this guy used to be an activist, a hard-line leftie, a real firebrand, so I mention this to him, pointing out the obvious irony, and he laughs and says to me that he just grew up a little and by the way am I still the same apathetic wishy-washy liberal that I always was? And I say, maybe I am, maybe I’m not, maybe I might be, I’m not sure of anything these days, and he just nods and smiles at me while I blabber away about my insecurities, and I’m quite impressed later on when I realise precisely how much I have given away about myself without even having been shown the instruments.
Jonathan Pinnock was born in Bedfordshire, England, and - despite having so far visited over forty other countries - has failed to relocate any further away than the next-door county of Hertfordshire. He is married with two children and a 1961 Ami Continental jukebox. His writing has won a number of prizes, short-listings and long-listings.