Chosen

Paddy Bostock

CHOSEN

To the young ones: Anya, Dan, Ishbel and Theo. May theirs be a fairer and saner world.

One

It took Jeremy Crawford a good chunk of the twentieth century and almost two decades of the twenty-first to get sane. At least that’s how he thought of it. Others—his wannabe actress wife, Sophie, his ageing parents, Gloria and Ron, his colleagues at the bank, fellow members of the squash club, assorted relatives and acquaintances—didn’t. They all thought he’d lost his mind. Why else, on the spur of the moment, would a person quit his lucrative position as HAA (Head Assets Analyst) in the City and on the evening of the very same day, decamp from the sumptuous interior of his multi-million-pound mansion to a disused barn at the foot of the thousand-square-metre “garden” to sleep on a palliasse with a pig called Pete and “consider matters”? To do that a person had to have lost his marbles, reckoned Jeremy’s relatives and friends.

Okay, a minor aberration for a day or two due to stress at work they might have understood. Such was frequently the outcome of high-pressure jobs these days. But once Jeremy had been in his barn for two whole weeks and refused to come out, they were pretty sure he’d lost the plot altogether. Food—he insisted on nuts and berries only—and water had to be left outside by Barry, the gardener, and were gathered in only when Barry was safely off talking to his trees and flowers. Jeremy trusted Barry. Apart from him, nobody was allowed within range, physically, telephonically, or cyber-technologically. It was Sophie who reported watching from their bedroom window as he tossed his three beloved smartphones, the ones he’d once termed his “lifesavers,” into the stream bordering the estate and waving at them as they sank out of sight. “Bye, bye. Glug, glug, gluggity and fuck you forever,” Sophie reported him having screamed as a full moon rose.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before Jeremy’s relatives, acquaintances, friends and, leading the pack, his ex-boss Sir Magnus Montague, who hadn’t a clue about assets analysis and was ruing the loss of Jeremy’s expert advice, took to speculating about the desirability of psychiatric intervention to bring him back to his senses.

“Jeremy’s evidently off his trolley and needs help, no question about it. Genius close to madness and so on,” was Sir Magnus’s view, as expressed at a private family powwow over canapés and champagne in one of the mansion’s larger gazebos in a copse of silver birches a stone’s throw from Jeremy’s barn.

“Know a couple of trick cyclists myself, if that would be of any use,” he added. “Top of the range Harley Street types. Would cost a few quid but I’m sure the bank would be happy enough to fork out to retain a fellow of Jeremy’s talents. Wouldn’t want those vanishing down the pan, now would we?”

“No we certainly wouldn’t, Sir Magnus,” was the joint response of Sophie, Gloria, and Ron, all of whose life expectations depended in one way or another on Jeremy’s capacity to keep on earning as many shedloads of money as possible. Sophie, because she was a bimbo trophy wife who’d never done a day’s work in her life and liked her mansion, and Gloria and Ron because their pensions were minuscule and they depended for their biannual private cruises to the Med and the Caribbean on their unexpectedly brilliant son’s inordinate wealth coming their way at regular, monthly intervals. Big investments in Jeremy’s continuing sanity they all had, and if this Sir Magnus bloke could find a way to keep the cash flow flowing, and pay for Jeremy’s treatment from bank funds rather than theirs, well he was their man.

It was Ron, a retired small-time failed entrepreneur, who piped up first.

“We’re in your capable hands, Sir Magnus,” he said. “Anything it takes to get poor old Jeremy back onto the straight and narrow.”

A sentiment echoed by Gloria and Sophie.

Carte blanche for me on the trick cyclist front then, eh?” said Sir Magnus.

“Of course,” said Ron.

“Jolly good. It is in all our interests to see Jezza—that’s what we call him at the bank—back in business when all is said and done. And I’m sure a few sessions with one of my psycho johnnies would do the trick. Probably just some little glitch in the wiring somewhere, eh? A few calmer-downers, a touch of the old talking cure, and he’ll be back up to speed in two swishes of a pony’s tail.”

Sophie, Ron, and Gloria smiled happily.

“So then, many thanks for the nibbles and the bubbly, but now I really should be taking my leave. The car’s waiting, so toodle-oo, I’ll be in touch,” said Sir Magnus, levering his large backside from the gazebo’s finest wicker chair and opening the door.

“And don’t fret, chaps, the shrinks will have old Jezza back to normal before you can say boo to a pelican,” he called over his shoulder as he planted one large, brown, pointy-toed Oxford brogue onto Barry’s carefully manicured grass and waved cheerily at the barn housing his ex-HAA before climbing into the back seat of the midnight blue Bentley 4x4 awaiting him.

Peeping through the gap between two loose barn planks, Jeremy watched on as his ex-boss took his leave, and overheard his parting comment.

“‘Normal,’ huh?” he muttered, returning to his palliasse. “Well, normal zormal. Eh, Pete?”

“Oink,” said Pete, whom Jeremy now thought as his only friend apart from Barry.

~ * ~

And what, you will be wondering, had happened to Jeremy so radically to shift his lifestyle from one of extreme opulence to dossing in a barn with a pig? Hiding away from some indictable 2008-ish banking crime he’d committed which had suddenly been unearthed and was threatening to ruin his career and bring shame on him and his family and see him incarcerated for the foreseeable future?

Well, actually no. Jeremy had milked the markets with the best of them until the whole shebang went tits up and had been proud—as had Sir Magnus—of the firewalls he’d erected between himself and the bank to offset any threat of discovery or litigation. Due diligence was Jeremy’s forte and he had his mansion and treasured white, latest model Mercedes E-Class Coupé to prove it. No, no, his current circumstances had nothing to do with any malpractice of that kind.

“So what then?” I hear you ask.

Well, in the nuttiest of nutshells, the answer is the past participle “chosen.”

“‘Chosen’?”

Yes. You see, Jeremy had awoken one morning after a night of agitated dreams—tossing and turning a bit like Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s Metamorphosis—as an entirely new person, only mercifully not one transmogrified into a dung beetle. Call it an epiphany, call it anything you want, but overnight Jeremy Crawford had been reborn with whole new perspective on life. Whence the change had come he had no idea. But it had come. And the words echoing in his head when his eyes blinked open were: “In your whole life, Jeremy, you have never chosen anything. All you’ve ever been is chosen.”

Well, you can imagine the mental kerfuffle that caused. On the morning of his reincarnation, Jeremy had batted it away. Treated Sophie to her regular morning power fuck until she rolled over and went back to snoring as if she’d never noticed. Then did a few press-ups and knees-bends on the carpet for the cardiovasculars before power showering, dressing himself in his snazziest Master of the Universe outfit—the tieless, slinky, shiny, blue suit with the thin trousers and pointy shoes like Sir Magnus’s—scarfing two energy bars with a doppio espresso, and heading to the Merc in the garage before hitting the highway City-bound to make his mark yet again on the international money markets.

It wasn’t until he was only moments away from the office that he was forced to pull the Merc over, park illegally, and yoga-breathe.

“What the bloody hell?” he said to himself.

But the power breathing did nothing to improve his mood. Gone were his drive, his competitive edge, his desire to succeed, and, worst of all, his thirst for the status money guaranteed. And the bloody dream would… just… not… go… away. Normally Jeremy didn’t dream at all. Out like a light he would go once he’d checked his three phones one last time before putting them under his pillow, then oblivion till six a.m. the next day, when the regular pattern would be repeated. As indeed it had been today despite the bloody dream, which, dammit, kept reverberating around his head. “Choose.” “Be chosen.” “Choose.” “Be Chosen,” the chanted words peculiarly counterpointed with the throbbing of The Sex Pistols’ version of “My Way” and images that would have been familiar to Salvador Dali but weren’t to Jeremy because Jeremy had never liked art. Reckoned it the escapist enemy of the capitalist work ethic, unless it sold for millions, of course. Then it had value.

It was as he was slapping his temples with both palms and banging his forehead on the Merc’s horn that the cop car pulled up alongside and two officers jumped out asking if he was all right.

“Fine, and thank you for your concern, officers. You know how ...

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