Speculating why and when he started to behave this way was a regular occurrence in many sitting rooms during evenings when mediocre television made tawdry topics of conversation a necessity.
One hypothesis was a microscopic brain tumour in the pituitary gland. The Pest claimed to be experimenting with diets, without success. His porcine profile remained, as did the crimson almost metallic purple hue in his cheeks and the skin on his face, festooned with whiteheads, sagged where it wasn’t rutted by acne scars. While not blessed with good looks that deserved better care, his body, now at the start of its sixth decade, was so abused by disavowing rudimentary forms of health and fitness that it was hard to imagine him having ever been young and full of vitality.
The brain growth rumour was firmly debunked by Dr Myles, a local GP, who, with a smug exuberance, simply couldn’t wait for an opportunity to impress by showing off the years of medical training he’d suffered through. He pointed out to the know-it-alls – who thought they knew ‘some things’ about medicine from watching episodes of Casualty, House M.D. and ER – that a different part of the brain, the frontal lobe, was responsible for behaviour and mood. Myles also suggested it highly likely the Pest had been lying about the diets. Myles’ babyish looks belied his age and dented the perception of his expertise amongst this arrogant clique, but in this instance there was a collective glee at being standing corrected. You’ll note that the possibility of mental illness being the cause was fair game. It not being cancer was absolution, and so they continued to indulge in their favourite topic at gatherings guilt free: bitching about him.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Perhaps he had a tumour in the frontal lobe? Few other explanations remained for him meddling with some guys trying to do roadworks at the end of his street in early July, or more specifically, how he went about it. The gist of it; first he told them to stop, and asked what they were doing, only to be met with complete indifference. Later, after some investigation on the internet of road repairs and regulations, he returned asking to see the permits, eventually irritating the lead squaddie by invading his personal space too invasively. This earned the Pest a stern ‘fuck off’. Despite being outnumbered four to one, he threatened to call their supervisor and gave it the big I am a member of the community council, the latter was met with disbelieving laughter. Humiliated, he upped the ante, and offered to get the police involved. They soon would be, but not in the way the Pest envisioned. After some more chuckling followed by a retort of ‘I’m fucking serious and I’ll have your jobs’, one head-butted the Pest and severely broke his nose.
Sniggering was abundant at the next council meeting. Hearsay became fact, and his metamorphosis into a supersized emperor penguin was now complete, his wobbling gait was now coupled by the plastic nose splint forming a stupendously large beak. Did the guy who head-butted him have his hard hat on? This detail was unclear, but it was ultimately decided he did equip it during the deed, as it adorned their vision of the incident.
After taking early retirement due to a chronic back injury two years prior, the Pest’s influence within the council grew and so did the frequency of his irritating forays and interventions. Why was he let in to begin with? Well, he was a railway operator who’d worked his way up to district manager without any qualifications and was a leading union rep. He had a formidable reputation in this area that preceded him. Indeed, he fought hard and successfully against pay freezes numerous times. This, despite misgivings about his abrasive approach, carried clout among the existing community council board, many of whom, in their previous political incarnations, had socialist leanings. Some still used the term ‘workers’ without an ounce of shame, hypocrisy or awareness of how patronising and archaic it was.
Clashes with other council members over trivial matters steadily increased his unpopularity – requests for sleeping policemen, bollards to close off a street entrance, the style of the new gates to be added to a communal garden he’d never use, the ‘right’ height of bushes in communal parks or their removal. He even challenged a petition to turn a brownfield site into a park, a position which favoured private enterprise and was considered a betrayal by the Champagne Socialists.
Several rumours and events, some council related, some not, simply added to his legend as a bit of a fucking arsehole who took enjoyment at being loathed. There was an element of retaliation at play through exaggeration. Does it matter that middle age had made him irrationally, irresponsibly vain? It did lead to the following sequence of events; dismayed at the expansion of his bald spot, he got a hair transplant on holiday in Turkey, but then decided to shave his head in November after the weather had turned.
Ridicule over superficial details said more about his adversaries, and let it be said everyone who is involved at the council, however casually, has an agenda of some sort. But even so, he gave his opponents ammunition unnecessarily with a complete lack of tact. One episode was relived so often, thanks to the influence of wine, that the mundanity of the original was long lost to fable. Some council correspondence, vitally important, no doubt, got delivered to another elected member instead of the Pest by accident. Upon retrieval he was met at the door by the child of the parents the letter was delivered to. His opening remark, and this is to someone who he’s heard about, but never met, ‘ah, so you’re her’. Bizarre as this introduction to a stranger was, or, even stranger, he expected his council reputation to precede him, even among ten year olds who were completely oblivious, to the sane, it would be considered an insignificant quirk. But by this point scores were being kept.
Other accusations against him weren’t so inconsequential or benign. There was the theft of a pie, well more a quiche, at a council meeting. And someone reported him shooting squirrels with an air gun during a round at the local golf course. A case of mistaken identity it turns out. Before the episode was cleared up, and the animal welfare fascists were assured of his innocence, the motives of the accuser lead to the circulation of some nasty emails between the Pest and a few others. It heightened the Pest’s paranoia that someone opportunistically accused him of squirrel killing to rile him into doing or saying something that could potentially lead to his expulsion from the council.
Here the narrator will interject, and state that the previous events are deeply uninteresting to most not infected by the suburban malaise of housing bubbles, mortgages, idle gossip, school catchment areas, class, etiquette pertaining to communal garden use, and four-by-fours. But what is interesting is that the Pest’s behaviour was somewhat indicative of contemporary sociology. Some people, regardless of intelligence or nature have an innate capability for sauntering through life relatively unscathed or seldom challenged, despite the ill-conceived ideas and actions they deliver unto themselves and others. In most instances these folks keep to themselves, don’t take risks and avoid conflict, so we should admire the Pest for not adhering to the aforementioned rule, but still managing to often escape unscathed. The Pest continued to pester others without recourse, as he knew he was dealing with the sauntering types. He had them pegged. With two exceptions, none of the other council members were prepared to challenge him in person and the theft of the quiche could not be proven. Sneers and ridicule in private did not concern him, only actions did. Here, we return to the broken nose, which was a turning point, a shock to the system. At first it did cow him somewhat, but after that…
In the third decade of the twenty-first century, with the self-serving piousness of cancel culture firmly ascendant, the suspicion of being a racist equates to guilt. The Pest has been through a fallow period of council involvement. But now his nose had healed.
It was late November, and he was driving home from the driving range. He was stopped by the traffic lights adjacent to Abdul’s, an Indian takeaway, which was actually Pakistani run, a distinction the Pest did not make nor was aware of. Abdul’s was located next to a newsagents, Indian run, for full disclosure. The owner’s father worked the counter exclusively, as he could do the job sitting on a stool, which saved his aching knees. The Pest privately disliked the older gentleman for his uppity air, dismal English and for twice shorting him on his change, so much so that the Pest hadn’t entered the premises in a number of months in silent protest.
He dwelt on a frost covered half-eaten chicken drumstick that was delicately balancing on the kerb edge, whilst waiting for the lights to turn green. The Pest’s dwam was broken by movement in his peripheral vision. He looked down the lane to the employee back entrances for the block of shops and businesses of which Abdul’s and the newsagents were a part. The Pest saw a young Asian man in his early-twenties exiting the employee back door into the lane with a carrier bag. The Pest observed him walk to an extravagant looking beamer in his wing mirror. Too extravagant for someone who’d just exited a service entrance. The lights had turned green during the Pest’s focus on the young man, only to have it broken by the motorist behind, who accosted him for remaining stationary.
The Pest pissed off further nearby motorists by doing a sudden u-turn to follow the young man who’d sped off in the opposite direction. After following him for ten minutes at a distance – the tailing process excited him immensely – the young man finally stopped outside a large house in a nice part of town. Nicer than the Pest’s territory, which only served to further convince him of his suspicions.
He inelegantly alighted his Range Rover, catching his foot in the door frame, before he waddled up to the young man as quickly as his body would allow him. The young man was oblivious to the Pest’s presence thanks to sophisticated noise cancelling in-ear headphones. ‘What’s in that fucking bag’ The Pest roared with conviction that took even him by surprise. The young man sported a look of spooked confusion, little wonder, he was being aggressively confronted by a middle-aged white man in the dark. While the young man was at least six inches taller than the Pest, the Pest had a significant advantage in both weight and girth. The young man responded timidly, as he had not fully heard what was said, and in the expectation that he was unlikely to convince his accuser. ‘What’s in there. It’s drugs, I know it’. The young man remained quiet, little doubt considering it likely the Pest may be on them and produced his phone. ‘I’m calling the fucking polis now’. He looked at the Pest hoping that this would instantly dissuade him and force him to retreat. ‘Calling your mates, are you’. ‘I’m not scared, I’m going to call the real police and then we’ll fucking see’ he boasted with a joyous conviction as he clumsily fidgeted with his flip phone. All he could see was his name and face in the free local paper he read every morning, under a triumphant headline: “Brave local man shuts down drug ring ran out of a popular local takeaway” and he knew exactly which photo of himself he’d submit to the paper – him holding a ten kilo Salmon he’d caught in 1996. It was the vindication he needed to achieve the respect he was owed.
Both men waited, the Pest stared intently at the young man. The young man looked nervous at first, but he grew more certain the longer they waited, and started to smirk as the police sirens grew louder. Now it was the Pest who was unnerved, the horror of the opposite outcome (and the ramifications) finally dawned on him – why would a drug dealer be smiling and happily standing in the street with 10kg of illegal product in a carrier bag? Let alone be standing waiting for the police?
The police car arrived, because sirens weren’t often heard around here, the neighbours had congregated at their windows to gawk at the forthcoming tittle-tattle that would sustain them through the winter.
Before the police had even inquired as to what was happening the young man broke his stoic pose and pointed at the Pest ‘He’s fucking crazy man’. ‘He’s got drugs in there’. ‘I know it’. Shouted the Pest in an empathic, almost instant, rebuttal. The policeman and policewoman looked at each other with a coded look that substituted for an eye roll.
The young man earnestly offered the policewoman the bag, ‘go on, test it. Tell him’. She carefully pierced the top of the plastic bag with her pinkie finger, she then removed her finger from the bag and put some of the bag’s substance on the end of her tongue. She then handed the bag to her colleague who tested it too. He paused and then gave the Pest a look that was both solemn and derisive before offering his verdict;
It turns out the lad was transporting sugar. Abdul’s, which sat next door to his dad’s shop, bought it in bulk and donated a portion to the Indian shop keeper’s family as a gesture of long standing friendship. Even better, and to add even further embarrassment for the Pest, the intended recipient, the family matriarch, had developed a taste for tablet after emigrating to Scotland during the seventies. In her opinion, Jaggery, cane sugar from the Indian subcontinent, made the best tablet.
Finally exiled from the council, the residents of the area were no longer subject to the Pest’s scourge, but, having enjoyed exhausting the Pest’s various misdeeds and revelled in the nature of his demise, just what would they talk about now?