Gundal came to see me at the house today. Margaret let him in, and made him some scones. She keeps calling him Stephen. ‘But he reminds me of Stephen,’ she keeps telling me. But I’ve no idea who Stephen is, and the disturbing thing is: neither does she. We don’t know anyone called Stephen. Plus, Stephen is a human name. Gundal is an elf name. Gundal has an elf name, largely due to the fact that Gundal is an elf. If we did know somebody called Stephen who reminded us of Gundal, then this Stephen would be three-feet tall, with ears that looked like they’d been caught in a thresher. I worry about the old bird sometimes. Her memory’s not what it once was. It’s playing tricks on her. World-class magician tricks. With added conjuring. Because she’s even started to forget things that she hasn’t even done, and then remembering them again.
Margaret’s memory’s a relay baton being passed between illusion and reality, making a lot of our conversations feel like code-breaking sessions at Bletchley Park. She’s lucid most of the time, so I guess it’s simply yet another wonderful side-effect of ageing, like my eight-day hangovers and fierce urges to urinate that come upon me on-the-hour-every-hour, like Piss FM traffic updates. But I would seem to be her rock, in the sense that her memory and focus never seem to fail her when it comes to my transgressions. Oh, they shine like beacons in the mist of her mind, keeping her anchored to reality. That’s my justification for continuing to leave the toilet seat up and nibbling my knuckle warts, in any case. I’m being noble, and trying to keep her memory ticking over. In many ways I’m a hero, I suppose…
Anyway, I gave Gundal a leg up to one of the armchairs in our living room. Typically, elves are predisposed to jolliness – they’re not grumpy wee bastards like dwarfs. But little Gundal looked like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. His smile was a hyphen, and his eyebrows were like two thin daggers each ready to strike diagonally at their opposing nostrils.
He shared what was troubling him, and as I listened I could feel the anger bubbling in me from boots to beard. The elves have received a memo from Coca Cola telling them that they will no longer be employed directly by Coca Cola. The elves’ work has been subcontracted to a third party, some company called Dwerg Neuken, and its management has sent a communication informing the elves that there will be changes to their working hours, conditions and rates of pay; a new, harsher contract, in essence. He wants me to fight their corner, which of course I’ll do – as I always do. I just don’t know if I’ll have a leg to stand on with Coca Cola given recent events. But what the Hell. Who needs legs when you’ve got fists?