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A Man of a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

The Consultation Period

Luigi backed towards the wall, his hands above his head. He looked down the black barrel of the handgun that was being levelled at him by a smartly dressed stranger.

‘Is this a contact hit?’ Luigi asked.

‘Yes,’ replied the stranger, ‘you seem to have offended the Sicilian Mafia. They’ve put one hundred thousand dollars on your head, and that money’s got my name on it.’ The stranger gestured with the gun towards a chair. ‘Sit down.’

‘What’s the point? Why don’t you just shoot?’

‘Can’t just shoot you,’ the gunman explained: ‘I’ll have to await the outcome of the consultation process.’

‘Consultation process?’

‘Yes.’ The stranger withdrew some papers from his pocket and passed then to Luigi. ‘Those documents explain options in relation to the proposal to shoot you, and they give you an opportunity to make any comments and suggestions before final decisions are made.’

Luigi ventured his opinion. ‘I don’t want to be shot.’

‘I believe that’s one of the options, although you will need to complete the consultation form and return it to me.’

‘How long’s the consultation period?’

‘The standard five minutes.’

Luigi inspected the documents. ‘If I write that I prefer the ‘not being shot’ option, will you let me go?’

‘I can’t really comment on the outcome of the consultation process until all submissions have been received.’

‘How many submissions will there be?’

‘Including yours, one. I should get writing if I were you, you’re getting close to the consultation deadline.’

Luigi wrote on the form that he preferred the ‘not being shot’ option, and quickly passed the papers back to the stranger. ‘You’ve already decided you’re going to shoot, haven’t you?’ he said, angrily. ‘This consultation process is just a sham.’

‘I can assure you,’ the assassin responded, ‘that your views will be very carefully considered and fully taken into account. I would also like to thank you for taking the time to participate in the debate on this important local issue.’

Luigi’s potential assailant lifted his dark glasses and peered thoughtfully at the consultation paperwork. ‘There are clearly differences of viewpoint,’ he noted, ‘between those favouring the ‘not being shot’ option and those supporting the ‘preferred strategy’.’

‘What’s the ‘preferred strategy?’’

‘That’s where I shoot you and collect the money.’

‘Who decides on the ‘preferred strategy?’’

‘There’s always a ‘preferred strategy’. That’s what those with the power have already decided is going to happen.’

‘So the consultation process is a sham!’

‘Not at all. It gives people an opportunity to express their viewpoints, make suggestions and proposals, and democratically participate in the decision making process. No consultation process has ever claimed that anyone who mattered gave a shit about those comments – even less that they might act on them.’

The tone of the hit-man changed to one of polite formality. ‘Many thanks to all those who contributed to the consultation process on the proposed assassination of Luigi Napoli. The views expressed have very much informed the thinking on this matter. I am now please to be in a position to let you know the outcome.’