I ate the dog

Starting 2018 as he means to go on, Our columinst has been working hard on his late copy excuses. This month: “my column is late, I ate the dog”

Illustration: Joel Benjamin

I’m sitting on a corduroy sofa in the reception of Electronic Sound Towers. Tandy speakers eke out bossa nova muzak of such mediocrity, the flock wallpaper turns an even deeper shade of beige. The Electronic Sound receptionist stares at me: it is supposedly a robot called Unit 18, but it’s clearly a bloke wearing cardboard boxes. He’s trying to eat a custard cream, but he hasn’t cut a mouth hole. Unit 18 sighs from inside his boxy head.

I’m reclining casually on the sofa, like they do in catalogues, when a drooping man totters into the room. He looks like a dishevelled comma. He wheezes something unintelligible and, with a swish of his cardigan, sits beside me.

I shake his sandpapery hand. I’ve been looking forward to this meeting with my Electronic Sound overlords. I expect they’re upgrading me to a company car, or perhaps offering me my own dedicated listening boudoir for the consumption of quality electronica.

The drooping man brings out a clipboard full of half squiggles. I try to remember if he’s the Editor or the advertising guy or just the cleaner. We’d met once before, at a Radiophonic Workshop tupperware party. They all look the same at Electronic Sound, their facial features merely an array of sad synthesiser buttons that haven’t been tweaked for a long time. I catch myself staring at droopy man’s nose.

“Thing is, Fat Roland,” he says after a pause, “we’ve not been telling you the truth.”

“Ex-squeeze me?” I reply, smiling at my excellent ‘Wayne’s World’ reference.

“You think you’re the columnist for the best electronic music magazine of the 21st century,” says Droopy. I give a nonchalant yet cool shrug: it is very practised. “Actually, it’s 1978 and you’re in a coma.”

He glances away, as if shocked at his own revelation.

“I’m what now?”

He tells me I passed out while listening to ‘Warm Leatherette’ on repeat and I’ve been in a hospital bed ever since.

“But I write a column,” I protest. “I make notes on my Samsung. I email it in every month.”

“Email, Samsung,” Droopy scoffs. “It’s just your mind, Fat Roland. All of this is just a futuristic fabrication constructed by your subconsciou–“

I brush my hand down his face to stop him talking. I need to think. My day flashes before me: Putting on bell-bottom trousers this morning; the John Travolta pictures on my toilet wall; getting a Donna Summer tattoo on my buttock; drinking in a gutter with John Lydon wondering where punk had gone; buying that T-shirt that says “I heart 1978”.

Of course! It really is 1978.

“My life is a lie,” I say, and I slump into the sofa in a dramatic yet impressive way. I tug at Droopy’s cardigan as he looks into my tearful eyes, his brow furrowed with concern.

“What if I never wake up?” I weep.

“Then we’ll continue with this pathetic charade you call a column,” he replies. Unit 18 looks over and shrugs.

Beyond the dusty reception, I hear a distant whir of machines. Is it the printing presses churning out the new edition of this imaginary magazine inside my hospitalised head? Or is it a past echo of early Cabaret Voltaire, thrumming into my mind the rhythm of a future I would never truly know?

Probably the printing presses, to be honest.

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