The Swearbox







The Swearbox

Intelligence is the desire and ability to examine critically what one thinks.
Thinking itself, anyone can do.
The Mister

The pub is loud with football talk as Smith, a gullible fellow, enters. He goes to the bar and makes his order, than takes his half over to a shadowy table in the corner where the tough looking cliental are less likely to take umbrage with him if, as he is likely to do, he says the first thing that comes into his head.

He tries not to do this since it tends to lead to one difficult situation or another, particularly when that first thought fills him with horror at its provocative or even somewhat obscene nature. In those cases he withholds the thought while with frantic desperation he searches for an alternative, and sadly, it is sometimes also the case that there is no alternative on offer. Hence he seeks shadow where, unnoticed, he can avoid any conversation which might be thrust upon him by his much tattooed and stubbled fellow imbibers. Amongst this company he shudders as he imagines how such a situation might evolve:

       Stubble headed lout coming over and banging his pint down on Smith’s table:
‘Allo mate, how are yer?’
Smith says the first thing that comes into his head:
‘How? Well, just like this I suppose. I don’t know how I do it but this is how, is my only explanation.’

       Stubble head slits his eyes menacingly. He thinks Smith is taking the piss… In order to extract himself from these situations Smith has had to do his runner with as much dignity as possible.

At this moment a door at the far end of the bar opens and a Vicar enters, He seems to be known to the clientele for a few of them raise their glasses to him as he goes to the bar. Reaching it he bangs his palm hard down on the counter to gain some attention.

‘I’ll only keep you for a minute or two,’ he says, ‘but I want to remind you all of the agreement we made last week.’ A silence falls and the drinkers move along the bar to cluster around him. Smith stays where he is; he doesn’t feel in a clustering mood and as far as he can remember has made no agreements. The Vicar goes on:

‘We agreed that you would allow a church collection box to be installed here and that you would regard it as a swear box and put in a pound for every offence.’
‘Bloody hell,’ mutters a villainous looking thug and, ‘Oi! Put a pound in the box,’ shouts his mate.
‘No, no,’ protests the Vicar. ‘Our church is a very liberal congregation and considers “Bloody” by now so embedded in the English language as to be no sin at all.’

       ‘What about “sod” then?’ asks the thug’s mate.
‘Sod’s alright, and “fuck” too,’ says the Vicar, ‘“bugger”, “shit”, “bum” and all that are no longer considered to be swearing. No, what you mustn’t say is…’ and here he puts his hand guardedly over his mouth and says something only just above a whisper and too far away for Smith to hear. The clientele, tough as they are, look a little shocked at this and one or two are obviously embarrassed.

‘And worse that that,’ continues the Vicar, ‘much worse. Don’t ever be tempted, even when highly provoked, to say…’ and once again, so quite it is, that Smith, strain as he might, can’t catch the word.

The men around the Vicar now look at him with horror, as if they cannot believe that their own Vicar should say such a thing.

‘And lastly,’ he says. ‘The most unholy and heinous word of all.’
Up goes his hand and… Smith still doesn’t hear a thing on account of being half way out of the door.
As he leaves he hears behind him a number of crashes and a scream or two and surmises that the Vicar’s last word had caused some of his listeners to swoon to the floor.

‘But who knows,’ he thinks. ‘Maybe I made the whole thing up.’ He is brought up short by this. This is a serious question and requires a serious answer. He continues walking, albeit now totally immersed in the problem.
‘What is the difference between a memory of something that happened, and something I only imagined happened? They’re both just thoughts and so there’s no difference between them. Therefore…’

But now his mind is captured by something completely different and he has forgotten the question.
‘Am I thinking now?’ he wonders.
‘Or do I only think I’m thinking,’ he thinks, and is off in an entirely new direction. Yet still, somewhere deep in his mind there is a lingering regret that he hadn’t got closer to the Vicar to hear what those terrible words might have been.



Dave Tomlin
Art Nick Victor


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