I went to a barbecue. Everyone was patient and well disposed towards the silent, depressed, two-toed sloth in their midst. The eye contact told me that I was included in the conversation but it was also understood that I need not contribute. They comprehended and they sympathised. If I didn’t want to, there was no need to go into it or explain. Or indeed to say anything. I sat a little apart from the nest of outdoor furniture and the circle of conviviality revolving around it, puffing on my new vaping contraption, emitting long plumes and billows of white, ‘fresh mint’-flavoured steam.
Present were five adults and a child. The child was a seven-year-old boy called George Eagle. George Eagle was brimming with eager intelligence and vivid imagination. One by one he’d tried them all, but found the adults far too pedestrian, statuesque and grown-up for his needs. As a last resort, he endeavoured to coax some life and interest from the peripheral paralytic with his head lowered, pondering his smoke machine. Emerging from the house bearing a three-storey Lego police station, George Eagle placed it beside me on the lounger and showed me around the place. There was a lavatory, a bullet-proof glass-fronted armoury, and an interrogation room with a working trapdoor in the floor. Although the blue lettering above the entrance said that it was a police station, George confided that the building was in fact the headquarters of an international crime-fighting force known as the Good Guys. That the Good Guys invariably beat up their sworn enemies the Bad Guys was due not only to moral force, apparently, but also because they were better armed, having at their disposal the most technologically advanced weaponry, including a helicopter armed with a nuclear bomb. The Good Guys had no qualms about using this.