The moon has been appearing at the windows of respectable ladies at night, and, to put it a little insensitively, mooning at them. It has been pulling down its trousers – trousers that can only be seen by astronomers because they are basically the colour of night, like dark matter – and flashing a full white peach at the often half-naked women.
The first to report the phenomenon was a lady who lived in Hampstead in northwest London. She had just come back from a pub that was located on the corner of her own street and was named, I think, the Ball and Socket. She had only had one drink, she claims, though of course the tabloids were quick to suggest, at the time, that she had probably had a good deal more, a tack they quickly had to change as other women began to come forward with their stories. This woman, whose name, I should have mentioned, was Valerie von Smith – a descendent of the von Smiths of Bavaria, who own the famous brewery there – was climbing back up the stairs of her house to bed, when she became aware of being followed. At first she didn’t think too much of it, because it was only a vague feeling, and just the type of feeling that, she knew from experience, she was so often prone to experiencing at night when her husband was working late, as he was that evening. Of course, little did she know that it was really the moon, even then, following her pervertedly through the gorgeous round window that overlooked her stairwell.
Feeling a little unnerved but telling herself not to be so silly, Valerie von Smith then proceeded to take a shower in the beautifully fitted bathroom that her husband, much to his personal expense of time, had lovingly installed just a few months previously. Even then, despite the fact that the only window in the bathroom was a “frosted” one that her husband had deliberately selected to bolster his wife’s peace of mind (even though the bathroom overlooked nothing but fields on that side), Valerie felt herself being scrutinized as she self-consciously soaped her legs and arms and washed her hair. She couldn’t, of course, account for the feeling, and had she been looking out of the window at the time, all she would have seen a blurred, fragmented patch of whiteness coming up over the fields.
It was only when she had finished her washing, patted herself down with a towel, doused her freshly scrubbed limbs with talcum powder and walked through into the bedroom that Valerie von Smith suddenly saw, in all its lecherous proportions, the moon’s face jutting in through the bedroom window. The curtains, it seemed, had been accidentally left wide open, allowing the moon to seize its perverted opportunity. Naturally, enough, Valerie von Smith began screaming at the top of her lungs, but before long she managed to gather herself together enough to pull the curtains furiously closed and called 999. She also, it is believed, called her husband at his office to regale him, in distressed tones, about the terror that had been stalking her. It is thought that her husband calmly instructed her to stay inside and lock all the windows and doors, and kept her calm with his voice until the police arrived on the scene.
To the credit of the Metropolitan Police they acted, right from the offset, in a way that was completely noble and appropriate in the circumstance, treating Valerie’s complaint with utmost gravity and thus setting the tone for the way this criminal has been dealt with ever since. Even on that first night, however, the most difficult aspect of the case, both practically and legally (for no legal precedent had been set) – namely, that the moon was always going to be uncatchable and effectively unpunishable – presented itself to the boys in blue, who naturally enough were stumped as to what their response ought reasonably to be. Once they had secured Valerie von Smith in her house and instructed her to remain calm, essentially repeating the instructions that her husband had given her verbatim, they went outside to confront the sexual offender and do their best to arrest him.
The chief inspector began by addressing the moon in reasonable language, to the tune of:
“We know that your position in the sky has caused a great deal of happiness and satisfaction over the years, that you have inspired lovers and poets alike, lit the way for the lost and prevented people from getting attacked in darkened alleys, and even we boys at the Met have used your services on more than a few occasions when our batteries on our torches have run down. Basically we acknowledge that in the past you've likely saved quite a few lives and so you presence until now has been tolerated, not to say welcomed, by our community. However, what we believe has gone on here tonight regarding the woman inside this house and yourself is, if true, a very grave crime indeed, and as such we are placing you under arrest so that you may be taken to a court of law and brought to judgment. You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you fail to mention when questioned anything you later rely on in court. Do you understand this, sir?”
The moon, at this point, apparently did nothing, but just stayed there in its same position. One of the chief’s subordinates then evidently expressed to the chief that perhaps the moon had not heard the charges, being so far way, and that maybe he should try saying them again but in a louder voice. The chief inspector was apparently skeptical of this at first, because, he said, “if he didn’t hear it the first time, he likely won’t hear it the second”, a logic that he apparently modified when he was handed a megaphone by another of his officers, who kept it in the back seat of his car for just such occasions as this.
The charges were duly repeated, the tone of them remaining essentially the same, even if, according to some of the crowd who had begun to gather, the content varied somewhat and now sounded more threatening, if anything. Still the moon did nothing. Valerie Von Smith had come to the door of the house again, much to the consternation of the counselor who had been assigned to her with the purposes of calming and soothing her and who now tugged at her dressing gown from behind as she poked her face through as much of a crack in the door as she felt safe to create.
“I tell, you,” she was saying in something between a whisper and an angry shout, “he’s trying to get away, he’s trying to get away. Five minutes ago he was right in close, he had his nose up against the glass. Now look how far he is.”
“We think he’s too far away to arrest at this point, madam,” said the chief inspector, as though he had been concurring with his subordinates about the issue, when in fact he hadn’t, according to bystanders who had been arriving on the scene since the employment of the megaphone.
“That’s my point exactly,” said Valerie Von Smith, inching open the door a bit further. “He’s trying to get away, I tell you,” she repeated.
The police chief then began to audibly confer with the four other officers present, all of whom went into a kind of huddle in a semi circle around him. It transpired that most of them in fact agreed with Valerie von Smith that the moon was likely trying to make an escape, and two of them bolstered their assertion by saying that they had seen the moon move very slowly toward the treetops over on the other side of the field by a couple of inches, even as they’d been standing there. This evidence was seized upon enthusiastically by the chief inspector, who had been reluctant to give credence to Valerie Von Smith’s claim before, “due to the emotional state she’s in.” According to certain onlookers, it was as though something in him had “clicked” at that moment, and he became much more resolute in his actions. He unbuttoned the gun from his holster on his hip and aimed it, with two hands, across the field and right at the moon.
If there’s many negative things you can say about the moon in the light of this episode, the fact that it’s cowardly isn’t one of them. The moon didn’t bat an eyelid, it didn’t flinch a muscle. The chief inspector, wanting to give the moon an ultimatum but realising that he had put the megaphone down and would be unable to pick it up again without putting down the gun first, snapped at the officer who was standing nearest to pick it up and then dictated his final demands for the other officer to repeat.
“Listen,” said the chief inspector.
“Listen,” boomed the sergeant.
“We’ve given you fair warning,” he said the chief inspector.
“We’ve given you fair warning,” repeated the sergeant.
“But now is the time to surrender.”
“But now is the time to surrender.”
“Or we will fire on your ass.”
The officer was a little reluctant to repeat the word ass – which the chief inspector had only used, he said later, because he was carried away in the moment – and in practice he simply left the word out:
“Or we will fire on your….”
“Do you understand me?”
“Do you understand me?”
The moon said nothing.
“All right, it’s your funeral buddy,” said the chief inspector, and then quickly instructed the officer not to repeat that, before smiling winningly at an old lady who was standing with a skeptical expression at the front of the crowd, without lowering his weapon.
When the shot rang out that night, it was only the first in what has become an ongoing campaign – one that has drawn police departments across the entire country into rare and total cooperation – against a criminal that the Daily Mail has memorably described as “The Greatest Sex Pervert Ever.”
The simple man would get up in the morning at the same time every day and go down to the shops. This was before he’d had breakfast, before he’d even cleaned his teeth. He would then simply ask for a single cigarette from the man in the shop – a single Camel, that is – and the man in the shop, being essentially kind, would oblige and give him just one cigarette, despite the fact that this meant he had to ruin a whole packet in order to do so. However, the twist in the tale was that the simple man was willing to pay the price of a whole packet for that one Camel cigarette, and that is the only reason why the man in the shop obliged him: like I said, he was essentially kind, but he wasn’t irrationally so.
The simple man then took the single cigarette that he had just paid full price for and lit it. The smoke from this lit stick of tobacco then filled the shop with its illegal aroma – for cigarettes were not allowed to be smoked in public anymore – and choked everyone out of the shop who didn’t like it, while attracting in others who enjoyed the smell, of which there were always surprisingly many. In fact, the number of people who came into the shop because they were attracted by the illegal smell of the cigarette smoke outweighed the number of people who were choked out and left the shop every single time. That is why the man who owned the shop let the simple man smoke his single Camel cigarette in the shop illegally every day; because, in other words, the chances that he would make more money than if he threw the man out into the street in disgust were high. Like I said, though he was kind, he wasn’t irrationally kind. And besides, if he had to be honest, as a former smoker, he enjoyed the smell of cigarette smoke himself, and always had, and always would.
Having smoked his illegal cigarette with a serene look on his face, this amazingly simple man then went to another shop entirely to continue his worldly tour that morning, and every morning. He went into the sweet shop. In those days, sweet shops were still allowed to sell porno mags as well as sweets, for it had never occurred to anyone that children might sneakily view the pornographic materials on the top shelf when the sweet shop man wasn’t looking, and then quickly go back to pretending they were buying sweets when he was. All in all, it was an economically unviable situation, because kids would rarely actually buy any sweets, so distracted were they by the porno mags, even though they would have certainly bought them if the porno mags weren’t there. No-one had yet spotted the economical unviability of the situation of having sweets and porn in the same shop, however, so when the very simple man entered the sweet shop there were always at least three young kids surreptitiously looking at porn mags while the sweet shop owner had his back turned, and some of the bolder ones even continued to do so when his back was back to being at his back, as it were, because they relied on his poor eyesight not to betray them. The simple man would brush past these kids in his straightforward way, all the while making a beeline for the sweets that were his favourite, namely the licorice swirls. He would then pick out a single licorice swirl – which one expert once poetically compared to a motor-oil fossil – and begin to unravel it very slowly. The porno-consuming kids would watch him do this with a collective giggle, for they at once admired his gumption and thought that he was crazy, both of which characteristics were high on their list of favourite characteristics. When the simple man had unraveled the licorice swirl completely, seeming to savour every last sticky coming-undone squelch it made, he let the central hub of the swirl – the red or blue licorice allsort in middle – drop like some glittering harvest into his hand and simply walked up to the till. Anyone who was an adult who ever saw him do this admired the utter simplicity with which he performed this action. He then alerted the nearly-blind sweet shop owner to the fact that he was there by coughing discreetly, and duly deposited the licorice allsort into the shop keeper’s hand. Without complaining at this uncommon procedure – for he was a kindly man at heart – the sweet shop owner then put the licorice allort into a bag, twisted it closed and charged the simple man 3p for the allsort. He would doubtless not have done this at all if his eyesight had permitted him to see the full picture of the situation, ie, that there was a black snaky curl of fossilized licorice on the floor and that the licorice allsort was not a conventional licorice allsort but had been the hub of a licorice swirl. The sweet shop owner, much like the shop owner earlier in this tale, was kind but not irrationally so, and to allow the simple man to buy only the hub of a licorice swirl rather than just a licorice allsort proper would surely have been an irrational kindness or a kindness to far.
Having got his chosen sweet, however, the simple man then very simply and carefully, though not ridiculously carefully, left the shop and passed the tittering porn-addicted kiddies without so much as an energy-consuming nod in their direction, and simply went out into the street, which may or may not have been sunny, depending on the day.
There was one final thing the simple man did before heading back home to have his breakfast, however. He went over to the village pond, which was just across the road from the shop and just down the road from the sweet shop – so inevitably involved a slight doubling back on himself, but not an excessive one –and simply jumped the railing around the pond and walked onto the grass. Despite the fact that the grass had a big sign on it which read DO NOT GO ON ME, no one ever stopped the simple man from going on the grass because he was known to be simple; not even the police who were usually a presence in that area or thereabouts, scuffing up and down the street in pairs or exceptionally threes. Taking the licorice allsort out of its rustly paper bag, the simple man then very deliberately and simply sat down on the railing and began to watch the swans that were nesting around the pond – a mother, a father and a baby. The baby swan was brown and rather dirty looking, but still pretty in its way, for how can nature be anything other than pretty in all its permutations? Watching the swans with an ease and simplicity that was noted by all who saw him, the simple man then popped the licorice allsort into his mouth very cleanly and without changing any of the muscles on his face except for the ones in his jaw, ie, the ones necessary to chew the sweet, which is what he then did. He chewed very slowly, masticating with a real sense of self-satisfaction, while all the while keeping an eye on the swan family, ducking their heads in the reeds in the way all swans do. Never once was he disturbed during the four or five minutes it took him to masticate that licorice allsort.
Finally, when he had at last finished chewing the sweet and allowed himself to subtly swallow what remained of it, the simple man got up and hitched his leg back up over the railing and went home. If he passed any kids on the way, and if they were laughing at him between themselves, which often happened, he would now permit himself to acknowledge them in some small way, perhaps by nodding or smiling, or even having a little chuckle of his own, which never failed to nonplus the kids. If he passed the police he would also allow himself, at this stage in the morning, a little nod in their direction, which was, depending on the individual kindness level of the policemen in question, either reciprocated or not, though there was no way of telling in advance which would be the case. It makes sense that some of the police would be kind enough to nod at the simple man, whereas some would be mean-spirited enough to ignore him, however, for police are, after all, only human, and the distribution of kindness among their numbers is, as studies have repeatedly shown, precisely identical to that of the general population, that is, the police are approximately 60 per cent unkind, 39 per cent kind and less than one percent irrationally kind.
Having made his way back up his quiet residential street, the simple man then opened the gate to his house, which was painted green on the hinges and brown overall, and opened his front door, which was the exact reverse, brown on its hinges and green overall, and simply closed it behind him. And that was the last anyone saw of him until the next morning, when the exact same routine would simply be repeated.