My initial request was greeted by a look of apprehension. It’s not often a High Aardvark asks for an extended leave of absence. When one does, he is required to attend a face-to-face with the Highest of Highest: the Supreme Concordant – the being who oversees our duties on Earth. I was hoping to catch HOH on a good day. Seeing that it wasn’t a Monday, I reckoned my chances were good of a favourable conclusion. But I still had to put my case forward as well as I could. I was asking for a lot.
“Let me see,” HOH said. “You want to take leave, is that correct?”
“It is, Boss.”
“To go to South Africa.”
“It’s nice at this time of year. Not too warm, not too cold.”
“But you haven’t finished with Jimbo yet. Are you sure he can carry on without you?”
“Jimbo has been busy with other projects, Boss. I think it’s a safe time to leave him be. I have spies keeping an eye on him.”
“Spies?” HOH opened his eye wide. He didn’t know (or at least I hope he didn’t know) that we referred to him as The Great Eyeball whenever he wasn’t around around. “And who would these spies be, Alpha?”
Alpha, that’s me. You know me as Allie – Allie the Aardvark; but when I’m not on duty, when I come back to The Centre for debriefing, I’m called Alpha. It’s fun being the first. I get the best gigs. But don’t mention Omega if you happen to find your way here. It’s a bit like asking for ketchup in a five star restaurant: you get that look.
“They wouldn’t be spies if I told you who they were, Boss. I’d be giving away their identities.”
“I am the Supreme Concordant, Alpha. You cannot hide anything from me.” He knows how to throw his weight around, does HOH. I was going to have to fudge this somehow.
“I call them the Book of Faces. They are a canny lot. If Jimbo goes offside, he will be poked, liked, walled, friended and tagged until he steps back in line.”
“And what if he doesn’t?”
“The ultimate in torture.”
“Tell me more.”
I sat up in my chair. It was time for endgame. “He will be blocked, hidden and unfriended.”
“That sounds horrible.” I had HOH rattling. Good, I thought. He’s coming around. “And your convinced this will work?”
“Yes, it will.”
He looked down at my list of requests, his eye rapidly blinking. “You wish to be released from the Union Bond. Why is that?”
The Union Bond is shared between High Aardvarks and their clients. It means that only the client can hear what we are saying. To everyone else we are mute. Some Aardvarks, myself included, like to have a little fun with this. As long as we don’t go too far, it’s generally overlooked. Even HOH likes to have a laugh now and again.
“Because I technically won’t be on a mission. It’s my downtime, Boss, and I want to let my hair down.”
“You don’t have any hair, Alpha.”
“I meant that metaphorically. I want to chill the beans, let off some steam, hang loose.”
“You’ve been in Dublin too long, I fear. Maybe you do need a holiday. Your request is granted.” He rubber-stamped my application form.
“What about my other requirements?” I asked.
“Ah yes,” he said. “I can see no problem with granting you the necessary documents. I’ll ask Pi in Acquisitions to send them down to you.”
“You’re very good, Boss.”
“How long will you be gone for?”
“No more than six weeks.”
“For a football match?”
“64 football matches,” I replied.
He sighed. “Thank the Universal Overseer it’s not the Cricket World Cup you’re going to, Alpha. You’d be gone for four years.” He stood up. “I suppose you’ll be heading away soon.”
He rummaged through his waistcoat and pulled out his wallet. He handed me 500 gronags. “Put this on England for me, will you? To win. I reckon they’ve a good chance this time. Rooney’s on fire.”
I took his money “No problem, Boss. Say hello to the good lady for me.”
And that was that. I was off to South Africa to see the World Cup. Who was I going to support? Certainly not France, that’s for sure.