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When will we ever learn …?
FOOT SOLDIERS REVIEWS ON AMAZON
ALSO AVAILABLE ON SMASHWORDS: FOLLOW LINK BELOW.
Outraged at the market economic policies adopted by their university, the Podiatry department kidnap a senior academic in protest. The chance coincidence of the interests of the gutter press, Welsh Freedom Fighters, and a Prime Minister struggling for re-election ensures a minor campus story escalates into cataclysmic national proportions.
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Professor Marvyn “Clyde” Zinkin was furious, an increasingly frequent phenomenon since his move to the UK, and one that was starting to cause him concern. Stateside, his blood-pressure had been consistently described by doctors as that of a “resting athlete,” but now he reckoned it closely resembled that of a kangaroo ice-dancing.
“Whaddya mean the Podricyclists ain’t buying it?” he spat at Dr. Malcolm Moon, the bearer of bad tidings, who was teetering at the edge of the Presidential-style cherrywood desk, his bony, blanched knuckles pressed into the gleaming surface for support wondering how long he would be able to hold onto his breakfast.
“The hell they ain’t. The other damn Ps bought it and so will they,” Clyde bellowed, jerking his tanned quarter-back frame forwards from its high-backed, black-leather swivel so the Charlton Heston torso beneath his white button-down shirt covered the major part of the desktop, and the ice-blue eyes above the remoulded nose and the cosmetic Rock Hudson cleft chin were only withering inches away from Dr. Moon’s watery yellow irises.
“An’ you better believe it, Mal. Toe-pickers?” he said, springing from his chair, grabbing a remote from the back pocket of his specially imported Lee jeans--the ones that built America--and marching across to his full-wall, Power Point display on which, alphabetically arranged, were all the subjects he had already axed from the university’s once wide-ranging offer.
“Philosophics bought it,” he told the cringing don, who had begun to gulp much in the manner of a haddock out of water. “Psychiatrosis bought it. Psychologomy bought it. Pekingese bought it...”
“Cantonese, Professor Zinkin,” Malcolm corrected, pedantry surfacing even in his current anguish.
“Political Studies bought it. Practically all the goddammed Ps bought it. An’ now you’re here to tell me Podricyclists ain’t buying it?” Clyde fumed, oblivious to the intervention and zapping at the remote to indicate the spaces where once seminal subjects now featured as death masks and PODIATRY was lit up in red with a skull and crossbones flashing over it in black.
“They are very reluctant, Professor, given the potential financial benefits they claim to be inherent in the treatment of feet, and also the principle of the matter,” Moon said before his knees gave way and he collapsed onto the single wooden stool Zinkin allowed for petitioners on the opposite side of the Presidential cherrywood number.
“The As bought it...Angly Saxonics, Anthropologism, Archaeologics...all those guys went for the deal big ways. The Bs...the Cs...the Ds, all the way through to the goddam Ps,” Clyde said, whipping the remote along the defunct subject line of his projection-analysis screen. “So why not the goddam Podricyclicists?” he barked, returning to his swivel, appraising his computer briefly before hitting the auto-piss-off button on a series of e-mails, and then staring down at Malcolm Moon.
“Did I say you could sit, Mal?”
“I felt I needed to, sir.”
“’Nother weak-kneed Brit, huh? You guys gonna be the death of me. Okay, so, Mal, hear this and hear it good. You don’t deliver me these feet guys’ heads on a platter by this time next week--because that’s your job, Mal, the job you signed up to, am I right or am I right?--and you know where I am gonna be shoving your performance-related-pay?”
“Up my bottom, sir?”
Which was where the professor had threatened to shove Malcolm’s pay during the last of these enervating conversations.
“Up your ass, is right, Mal. So far up your ass, you’re gonna be chewin’ on it. I’ll give you this, you’re a fast learner. So you figure you can get with the programme?”
“I’ll do my best, sir.”
“Sure, you will, Mal. You wanna go on earning a crust, then sure you will. So get the hell outta my office and stick it to those bozos PRONTO IF NOT SOONER,” Clyde roared, dismissing the enfeebled academic with a wave of his hairy right hand, whilst, with his equally hairy left hand, punching the button on his CD player which would crank up his favourite Beach Boys’ song of all time and ease his hurting mind.
The song was “I Get Around.” Which Clyde had. A lot.
“Maisie?” he then hollered into his intercom as he watched Malcolm Moon lurching towards the door, “you wanna bring the Havanas in here? I need a smoke.”
“University policy says no smoking anywhere in the building, Professor Zinkin,” Maisie reminded her new boss for maybe the thousandth time.
“Honey, how often I gotta tell ya? You are talking here with a guy who has smoked all over the state of California. And if a guy can smoke all over the state of California with the Governor’s personal permission, he can smoke any damn place he likes, okay? So don’t give me no more of that health-nazi crap.”
“No, Professor, just as you say,” Maisie whispered, making a mental note to tender her resignation first thing the following morning. Maisie had about had it with this barbarian. Nonetheless, today was still today, and she wasn’t about to sully her two decades of steadfast service to the university just because of some moment of petulance. She’d think matters over. That was Maisie’s way.
So it was that Clyde Zinkin was soon biting the head off a big one and preparing the Zippo for blast-off.
“Limp-dick limeys,” he muttered to himself, leaning back in his chair to exhale a pungent plume of smoke at the ceiling while shaking his huge head in memory of his predecessor, Professor Harold Griffin, who had so abysmally failed to rein in the university’s expenditure, axe all unprofitable or breakeven courses, and attract to the institution only those students whose fathers, mothers and grandparents were certified holders of untraceable accounts in the Cayman Islands that he’d been hauled before the Court of Governors and given his cards for prosecuting arguments described as: “Criminally Insane.”
Griffin’s “crime” had been to argue against the expansion of Masters in Business Administration courses to include a special one for the sons and daughters of a newly emergent, oil-rich, Islamic state bankrolled by the U.S. State Department in the interests of what it termed “peace in the region” on the grounds of the ethical and educational qualms he harboured concerning the value of the exercise given only one of the previous year’s graduates had been able to read, which had entailed an academically indefensible reduction of the pass mark to three per cent.
And furthermore having had the audacity to propose the university might instead consider a drastic reduction of its overseas MBA intake in order to sponsor a fast-track Under-to-Postgraduate programme for A-level students from London’s East End qualified in subjects as apparently unrelated to the economy as English Literature, who, Griffin counselled, might benefit enormously from Higher Education and thus--by beefing up what he termed their “mental muscles”--become the next economic backbone of the nation in the manner of previous generations of Classics graduates from Oxbridge who, despite their ignorance of even basic mathematics, had nonetheless for centuries gone on to become Chancellors of the Exchequer.
Such a move, Griffin had opined, would have the effect of not only exponentially enhancing the university’s national standing once its graduates became government ministers, but also providing a rigorous challenge to all other New Universities in the Higher Education sector--which was the argument that proved to be the final nail in his coffin.
“Piffle. Ideological tripe,” he’d been told by the assembled Governors at his hearing. “Unless, of course, you have some insight into the government’s latest funding strategy we don’t know about,” they’d added, tittering at each other. “In which case, of course, you would be promoted and not fired. If, for example, HMG--in some arcane wisdom all its own to which only you are privy--were able to pull in £1m per capita on these underdeveloped poor people, then your prospects, Professor Griffin, would be exponentially enhanced. Otherwise, you’re fired.”
Well, needless to say, Griffin could neither confirm nor deny this scenario seeing as none of the parliamentarians whose advice he’d sought had deigned to answer a single request for audience. Hence the P45 slung unceremoniously at him across the desk.
Clyde Zinkin, by contrast, during only his first two weeks in office, had schmoozed with so many Downing Street junior ministers the Governors had granted him a single-line budget to schmooze some more.
They had demurred to begin with, of course they had. Not the British way and all that. But what with so many of their Algarve and Chiantishire second mortgages on the line, they’d caved in pretty quickly once the initial protests had been minuted. After that--plus a stern lecture from Zinkin about the crucialicity [sic] of market economics when it came to Higher Education--they too had been eating out of his hands.