A few of the other patrons looked up as Olaf’s booming laughter echoed through the café. Some made faces of disapproval as he gleefully slammed his palm down on the table, evidently impervious to their mild expressions of scorn. Bromley smiled indulgently and nodded an acknowledging apology to the rest of the customers. Secretly he enjoyed how Olaf’s abrasive and excessive manner elicited annoyance from others, especially from pampered pricks like these. Still, he wanted to hear the rest of the story.
“So, how did ‘poor unfortunate’ react to your suggestion?”
Olaf managed to regain control of himself before responding.
“Ha, oh I could tell he was not best pleased, Mr. Bromley!”
This was how Olaf Marksson always addressed his friends. As if they and only they were worthy of formality. An idiosyncratic reversal of conversational convention.
“You should have seen his face – lips pursed tighter than your father’s arse, cheeks reddening like a beaten brat… Oh, it was priceless. If only I had taken a photo!”
At this he began to chuckle again. Bromley was unmoved.
“Well, you did advise him to stick his new procedures in a dark, unpleasant location somewhere in the nether regions of his person-”
“That is not what I said, Mr. Bromley.”
“I know, I was putting it somewhat more delicately than you managed, Olaf… Look, the guy is a grade A, first class shitguzzler of the lowest order, no argument here-”
Olaf grunted in agreement.
“-but you’ve gotta tone it down a bit. Nobody else would get away with this-”
“That is what makes it so irresistable, Mr. Bromley,” grinned the hirsute giant.
“Yeah, I get that. You know, your father won’t be around forever. I hear things. There are people who suspect the Authority would run more effectively if he were replaced-”
“Pfft, spineless dolts. Never have the testes to get rid of the Old Man. He’s more popular than ever…the patronising git.”
Bromley sighed. The fact that Olaf owed everything he had to the privileged position created for him by Theo Marksson’s careful, measured political ascent never stopped the cheeky bastard from smearing his father with denigrating epithets every time the man came up in conversation. Bromley pressed on, gesturing at the clientele.
“More popular with this lot, maybe. Take a look outside the Dais sometime. See how the have-nots live. Those who want your father gone have a ready-made army of malcontents there, borne out of an atmosphere of dissatisfaction.”
Olaf sneered derisively.
“Ooh, an army of junkies, cleaners, scumbuckets, rednecks and idlers. How ever will we survive!”
At this he broke into giggles once more. Bromley grinned, though internally offended – after all, Nolbert Bromley lived with just those sorts of people in the Sticks, as did approximately 92% of the City’s population, according to the 2310 Census at least. After a moment or two he shrugged.
“Fair point, I suppose. Actually, I would be more doubtful about the dissenters’ capability to control such a rabble once roused…but that’s probably irrelevant – as you say, such a force would hardly be formidable.”
Even as he spoke the words though, Bromley had a niggle in the back of his mind. Something a late friend had often told him a long time before – ‘all that is solid will melt into air’. Bromley had never truly grasped its meaning, had figured that it was some ancient philosophical mumbo-jumbo – this despite reciting the phrase during his speech at the friend’s funeral service – but for some reason it came to mind now.
“Mr. Bromley, that is, ha, precisely their problem. Everyone who matters loves the Old Man, and everyone who doesn’t love him doesn’t matter!”
The more easily-irritable among the café’s customers scowled again disdainfully as Olaf Marksson dissolved into full-throated guffaws another time.
Bromley simply frowned at his jovial friend this time, before raising his cup of CaffBurst™ to his lips. Allegedly, the drink aided the thought processes and promoted clarity of the mind. Compliance Officer Nolbert Bromley sincerely hoped so, for he certainly had much to contemplate.
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…☭