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A Man of a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison


I inspected the setting concrete that was transforming my front garden into a parking area. Just a six foot by three foot section remained to pour.

Suddenly, my attention was drawn to an object flying high in the sky, but descending rapidly towards me. Was it a bird? Was it a plane? In an instant a masked, caped and leotard clad figure landed by my side.

‘Who are you?’ I said, noting the imposing letter G emblazoned upon his chest.

‘I am Guiltman,’ announced the figure. ‘I am a superhero. I have come to make you feel guilty about concreting your front garden.’

I was puzzled. ‘Why?’

‘Because it will compromise drainage and contribute to flooding risk.’

‘Shouldn’t you be deflecting asteroids or foiling supervillains?’ I responded with irritation.

‘That’s a bit twentieth century,’ he replied disparagingly. ‘These days we superheros target ordinary people who are driving the planet to ecological ruin or eschewing healthy lifestyles.’ He pointed his finger accusingly at me. ‘People like you!’ he emphasised in a decisive and judgmental tone.

I picked up my spade and began to deepen the trench for the final concrete pour. ‘Is there anything else I should be feeling guilty about?’ I enquired.

‘It’s a long list,’ he answered. ‘Your house isn’t adequately insulated; your television is mostly left on standby; you don’t use energy saving lightbulbs; you rarely buy organic produce; you don’t usually buy Fairtrade products; you buy products with excessive packaging; your car has an unnecessarily large engine; you drive when you could walk; you don’t take enough exercise; you’re overweight; you eat too much fat, sugar and salt; you rarely have five portions of vegetables a day; you drink more than twenty-one units of alcohol per week – sometimes per day; you smoke; you take holidays with high carbon footprints; you rarely recycle; you don’t compost…’

By the time his list was complete I had finished digging. ‘Many of those things could be said about most people,’ I observed, ‘and some are what make life fun.’

‘If it’s fun,’ replied Guiltman, ‘it’s almost certainly unhealthy or ecologically unsound – that’s one way you can tell! If you’re enjoying yourself, you should always stop and feel particularly guilty.’

I climbed from my excavation. ‘You’ve now told me everything I should feel guilty about. What happens next?’

Guiltman turned away from me and looked skyward. ‘I must journey onwards,’ he pronounced with a majestic and heroic voice. ‘Each house in this road, each road in this town and each town in this land must be visited to maximise the burden of twenty-first century worry and guilt assailing every citizen!’

‘You’ve certainly convinced me that I should do my bit for mankind,’ I conceded, as my spade connected with the back of his head.

Guiltman slumped forwards into the hole, and I was gratified that I had correctly estimated the extra depth required to accommodate the body.

It was early evening as I levelled the final section of concrete. It had been a hard day’s work, but my new Ferrari would be arriving in a day or two, so the parking area had to be finished. Now I would drive to get a takeaway and a wine box for the evening. Then I could relax without a care in the world.