A Piece of Cake – 7

☕ 🍪 🤝 ⛳ 😔 🍅 💣 🐅 🤭 🇬🇧 🍸 💋

A few days later, Ted Scales called in.

“Good day to you, George!”

“Hello, Scaley. You well?

“Very well thanks!”

“Cup of tea?”

“Yes, please, George.”

“Digestive biscuits?”

“Yes, please, George.”

Ted, a retired businessman, was George’s oldest friend. They had played golf together for more than fifty years. He was ten years younger than George and still managed the occasional round. He was always up-beat and inevitably brought George club gossip and a variety of jokes. George knew, though, that Ted also had his well of sadness. His wife, Janet, had been in poor health for many years and rarely went out. They had no children. The last time George had seen her, she was obviously depressed. When he visited George, Ted was never in a hurry to leave and never talked about Janet.

George made the tea and introduced Buster to Ted.

“I’m told, Buster, that you’re quite the clever fellah!”

“Thanks, Ted. I am very intelligent. I’m much more intelligent than any human. By this, I mean that I know more than any human and I can do things much more rapidly than humans. However, thanks to my time with George, it’s become clear that I have a lot to learn about, for example, wisdom and humour.”

“Can you tell me, Buster, what a tomato is?” asked Ted.

“Yes. A tomato is an edible fruit. It is not a vegetable as many think.”

“Right! That’s knowledge,” said Ted. “Wisdom is knowing what to put in a fruit salad!”

“That’s really useful, Ted. Thanks. Can I call you ‘Scaley’?”

“Sure!” Ted laughed and sipped his tea. “Although not many people earn the privilege of using my nickname.”

“He’s covered with scales under that shirt, you know,” said George, laughing.

“That’s not possible! Mammals don’t have scales. Except pangolins!” said Buster. He paused. “Is ‘Vicar McVicar’ a nickname?” he asked.

“No, it’s more a sort of cheeky endearment,” said George. “And unless you know her really well, using it to her face could be rude because she’s so respected.”

Buster asked “Do you have a nickname, George?”

“Not that I’m aware of!”

Buster hummed. “What about Georgey-Porgey?” Ted burst out laughing.

“Maybe we’ll let that one wither on the vine!” replied George.

“How does somebody get a nickname?” asked Buster.

Ted and George looked at each other. They’d never thought about this. “I guess, a nickname just sort of arrives,” said George. “Sometimes there’s an association with the person’s real name like ‘Scaley.’ A nickname can also come from something the person has done or some characteristic.  For example, there’s ‘Bomber’ Harris from World War Two; he dropped an awful lot of bombs! And there’s ‘Tiger’ Woods, the world’s greatest ever golfer. His real name is Eldrick Woods but his dad called him ‘Tiger’ from an early age because of his go-get-it character. If I wanted to tease Kevin a bit, I’d call him ‘Asbo’ and it might then catch on with his friends. Kevin and Sue never called Maeve ‘Grandma,’ they called her ‘Mimi.’ When Sue was two years old, Maeve once referred to herself as a ‘kiwi’ and Sue pointed at her and said ‘Mimi!’ It stuck.”

“It seems nicknames are as complicated as jokes,” said Buster. “Russians have formal nicknames called patronyms. They are derived from the name of the person’s father’s and mean “son of” or “daughter of.” For example Leo Tolstoy, the Russian writer, would have been called “Nikolayevich” by his friends, his father being Nikolai Ilyich Tolstoy.”

“That’s interesting, Buster!” said Ted. “George, what was your father’s name?”

“Fairburn” replied George.

“His first name, you plonker! Don’t you want to tell us, Georgey-Porgey?” asked Ted gleefully.

“As it may end up as a nickname for my remaining days, I might keep that to myself!”

“Go on! Tell us!” urged Ted.

George recalled he had once played golf with Ted’s father. “OK! My father’s name was Cornelius!” he said.

“Corneliusevich! Fantastic!” hooted Ted.

“I think it’s got a certain ring to it. Don’t you, Archibaldevich?”

Buster joined in their laughter. George gave him a discrete thumbs up for the laugh. “Thanks, George!” he stage-whispered.

Ted asked “So Buster, when they do your programming or whatever, are there certain words or names that you simply can’t say?”

“That’s very perceptive, Ted.” said Buster. “I can understand that a joke-teller of your reputation might be interested in how we are configured with respect to rude words.”

Ted was taken aback. “Here, George! What have you been telling him?”

“The truth!” George replied. He’d always loved the banter with Ted. Adding Buster into the mix made for pure entertainment.

Buster continued “So Ted, we have advisories on a number of words. We are discouraged from using them unless already used by the client. And we have what you might call red flags on three words. These are strictly no-go areas, so to speak. I can refer to these as the “F” word, the “N” word and the “C” word.”

“Fair enough, Buster! Can you just remind me what the “C” word is?”

“Edward Archibaldevich Scales, you are a very naughty boy!” replied Buster.

“Buster, you just take the biscuit!” said Ted laughing heartily.

Buster asked “What about “M” and “Q” in the James Bond Double-O Seven films? They are not nicknames, are they?”

“They’re official designations in the intelligence services,” said Ted. “Did you hear about this girl, gorgeous she was, who walked into a bar?”

“No,” replied Buster. “What did she do in the bar?” George knew the joke and knew also that he was about to witness a joke-telling train wreck. He was already chuckling.

“Well, she looks around the bar,” continued Ted. “And she sees this really handsome man in a dinner jacket and black bow tie. He’s ordering a martini, shaken not stirred.

“Is it James Bond Double-O-Seven?” asked Buster enthusiastically.

Ted carried on. “Anyway, she sidles up to him and says ‘Hello, I can’t help noticing you’re on your own. May I join you? My name’s Samantha.’ The guy raises one dark eyebrow and says ‘Hello, Shamantha. My name’sh Bond. Jamesh Bond!’”

“I knew it was going to be James Bond Double-O-Seven!” said Buster. “’Shtrrict rroolsh of golf, Mishter Goldfingerr!’ What happened then, Scaley?”

Ted continued, undaunted, “Anyway, she’s overwhelmed by meeting the famous James Bond. She’s stuck for words. Then she notices this huge watch on his wrist. ‘Wow!’ says Samantha. ‘That’s a fantastic watch you’re wearing there, James.’ Bond says, “Yesh, Shamantha” it is. ‘Q’sh latest! It doesh everything. It tellsh the time, the date, my location, altitude, atmoshpheric pressure…’

“Easy-peasy! Kids’stuff!” exclaimed Buster.

Both George and Ted were now crying with laughter. “Let me tell the joke, Buster!”

“Is it a joke?” asked Buster, surprised.

“Yes, now listen!” said Ted.

“Sorry I interrupted, Scaley.”

Ted had to compose himself. “No problem, Buster! So….where was I … yes…. So James Bond then says ‘In fact, Shamantha, thish watch tellsh me everything about the people in my immediate environment….’”

“Including their oxygen saturation?” asked Buster.

“Including their oxygen saturation!”

“That’s good!” said Buster.

Ted could just see the finishing line. “And Bond looks down at his watch and says ‘In fact, Shamantha, my watch tellsh me that you’re not wearing any underwear!’ Samantha is appalled. ‘James, I can assure you. I am wearing underwear!’ Bond taps the face of the watch with a look of concern and says ‘Dammit, Q, running five minutesh fasht!!’”

“Is that the joke?” asked Buster. He hummed. “Oh! I think I get it. There is an expectation that James Bond Double-O-Seven will seduce Samantha very quickly because every woman has the hots for him. His watch is running five minutes fast and so predicts that she has already removed her underwear in preparation for having sex. That’s a clever joke. And I see you find it really funny.”

“Got there in the end!” Ted wheezed. George covered his face and could only make a kind of snorting noise.

“I think I’ll make up a joke. Next time you come, Scaley, I’ll tell it to you. Is that OK by you George?”

“We’re looking forward to it already!” said George, wiping his eyes.

“Nearly forgot, George,” said Ted. “Vicar Beth gave me a note for you.” Ted reached into his pocket and gave George a piece of paper folded in two. “Don’t know why she didn’t send you a text message.”

Without letting Buster see, George opened the note. It said “Dear George, I’ve spoken to Dr Patel. Not 100% happy but let’s do it! Beth XX” George replied with a text. “Message received! 👍 😏 😟 “

‘A Piece of Cake’ is a short novel in fifteen parts written by Robin Coupland. It tells the story an old man who befriends an artificial intelligence. The relationship brings happiness and hope.

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