‘A new decade is here and, boy, has it got a lot of cleaning up to do after the last one.’ At least, that’s what the C.I.A. told me over a few pints in town. ‘As if that ain’t bad enough, the whole house of credit default swap cards is going to come crashing down, we’re going to have water and oil shortages causing wars and there’s going to be refugees spilling out all over the place causing racial tension. We’re in the shit Mr. Fugger,’ they informed me.
‘So, what do you want me to do about it?’ I asked.
‘Well you like telling stories,’ replied the C.I.A., ‘and we need stories to keep people distracted while we maintain order. Maintaining order ain’t pretty. A lot of people are going to get hurt and we don’t want the bleeding hearts getting all moralistic about it. Order trumps morality Mr. Fugger. Morality is abstract subjective bull crap. Order is an objective and observable phenomenon.’
I didn’t like the sound of that. I downed my Guinness and nodded to the barman for another. The C.I.A. kept talking as they peered at me over their whiskeys. ‘We’re going to start shit in Bolivia Mr. Fugger. We need gas and they got it. We’re going to replace democratically elected President Morales with hardcore racist son of a Nazi Branko Marinkovic. It sucks but whachagonnado? We need your first rate story telling prowess to make people look the other way. We want you to come up with an event that will keep everyone talking while we do the old switcheroo.’
‘And what if I don’t?’ I said, playing hard-ball.
The C.I.A. fixed me with a chilling glare. ‘What’s the name of your cat Mr. Fugger?’ I was asked.
I was puzzled by the question but I answered it. ‘Rupert’, I said, inciting a round of sniggers and feeling my masculinity suddenly diminish.
‘You like Rupert don’t you Mr. Fugger?’
I saw where they were going with this so quickly changed the subject. ‘Right, a distraction is what you need. A news event to keep people talking. Let’s see. Let’s see now. How about . . .um . . .a racoon.’
The C.I.A. leaned forward in unison and stared expectantly as my mind darted from place to place, grabbing anything it could. ‘Yeah, a racoon, go on,’ they urged.
‘Right, a racoon,’ I continued, ‘and it gets on a TV show and what’s her name is on it too, you know, Katie Price, um, Jordan, and. . .’
‘Hold on,’ one of the C.I.A. interrupted. ‘What’s the racoon doing on a TV show?’
‘Well, maybe it’s a special racoon. Maybe it pulled a baby from a house fire or has been to space or something.’
‘We can’t arrange that Mr. Fugger. Not even we can send a racoon to space or train it rescue kids.’
‘Right well, could you teach it to cycle a little bike?’
‘Right so, the racoon is cycling a little bike and Graham Norton is jumping around delighted when all of a sudden the racoon jumps up off the saddle and bites Jordan on the tits and. . . um . . .they explode.’
I wasn’t sure where the hell that came from and I was even less sure how it would be received. I found myself putting my hands up my face and looking at the C.I.A. through the gaps in my fingers. I need not have worried, they were grinning from ear to ear.
‘I like it,’ one said, ‘the broad’s bazoobahs go boom and at that very moment, in another continent, Morales takes a bullet to the brain as his cavalcade passes through Santa Cruz.’
‘Exactly,’ I confirmed.
The C.I.A. quickly scribbled a few notes, finished their whiskeys and stood to leave.
‘Nice doing business with you Mr. Fugger,’ one said, ‘oh, and give our best to, eh, what’s he called, yeah, give our best to Rupert.’
There was more laughter as they sauntered out the door. I downed my pint to calm my nerves.
Then someone cleared his throat behind me. I turned and saw Ajai Chopra of the I.M.F.
‘Any chance you could dream up a distraction for us? We need a product, a kind of craze for some gee-gaw everyone will want to get while we take everything else from them.’
The fact that I probably had no choice but to assist him did little to assuage the wave of self-loathing that overcame me.
‘What about a, um, let’s see, yeah, what about a board game for all the family. Like Hungry Hungry Hippos only with racoons instead of hippos and, um, instead of the marbles you could have tits?’ I offered.
Ajai smirked and made a note. He seemed happy enough.