A Fairy Story
R J Higginson
It was one of those damp autumn days. One of those days when the weather is never dry, but you dont get any good honest rain. It is damp all day, and the damp gets into the car and the engine wont fire, and it gets all misted up inside so that you cant see out.
I was troubled by a vague memory of something I had dreamed one hot summers night. No, it wasnt this year, but about 15 months ago. In my dream I had seen a Toy Factory, to which workers came from all over the country. Some of them were chosen by their neighbours to work there. Others worked there because their fathers and grandfathers had.
The Chosen workers invented most of the Toys. It was the job of the others to make sure that they were fit for sale. But the Inspectors sometimes annoyed the Chosen workers by sending back Toys which were defective. "The People will never accept this. These rough edges are dangerous. Have you never heard of Health and Safety?"
Sometimes the Inspectors refused to pass a Toy because many of the people in the country wrote and said that they did not want it. That really annoyed the President of the Chosen workers. "Who are you to say what the People want! We are the Chosen Ones. Ill have you sacked."
That night, with my head full of thoughts of the Toy Factory, I fell asleep and dreamed once more
The President of the Toy Factory was very fond of dressing up. He would often wear clothes like the former Woman President had worn, except that the handbag did not quite fit him. His taste in food varied. In the capital, he was reported to have said that his favourite food was pasta and pizza. The next day, Up North, his favourite food was fish and chips. Every place of worship was his favourite, too. Church today, Temple tomorrow, Mosque on Friday.
In my dream, the President seemed more and more like a chameleon. But a Chameleon with a Grin. Except when the Inspectors upset him.
When that happened he was like a spoilt child, stamping its foot and howling, "How dare you say no to me! I will do what I want. If you dont let me, Ill thcream and Ill thcream until Im thick! Tho there." William sighed. Sometimes Violet Elizabeth was just too
It is strange how things happen in a dream. I must stop dreaming about Chameleons.
Anyway, the Chameleon went about business as usual for a time. He and his team of managers had all sorts of ideas for modernising the Toy Factory, the Country, and anything else he could get his hands on. As well as the Toys, he took to handing out sweeties.
"Just look at this nice big Easter Egg were giving you," said his Finance Manager last spring.
"And look at all the chocolate bars you are collecting from the people to melt down to give them that Egg," replied the Leader of the Chosen Workers on the other side of the Toy Factory. "Youre a common Pick-Pocket!"
Of course, the Chameleon denied that any of them were pick-pockets. "We are collecting less from you now than we ever have done. We have so much in the bank." But a firm of auditors came up with a report showing that the cost of the Toys had gone up by 6% in only one year when the cost of Toys in other countries was falling.
The Chameleon continued to regard the Inspectors as his enemies. One reason was that they had been around for so long, hundreds of years, in fact. The Chameleon was a Moderniser. "Behold, I make all things new," he boasted.
No matter that the Inspectors were the most efficient part of the factory. Their work was almost faultless, and they cost about a tenth of what the Chosen Workers cost, even though there were more Inspectors. The Chameleon had not heard of the proverb, "If it aint broke, dont fettle it." Or if he had, he thought it said, "If it aint new, Ill fix it."
So one day, the Chameleon turned up at the Toy Factory driving a great big bulldozer. It was not even a JCB, but some bright red foreign thing from across the water. Of course, he was all dressed up for the part in a hard hat, safety shoes, overalls, the lot. (Camouflage is the strong point of chameleons.)
He aimed the bulldozer at the part of the Toy Factory where the Inspectors worked. "Youve got one hour to pack your bags and go," he shouted. "Then I can replace you with a modernised set of inspectors, some specially Chosen Lapdogs, who will never again stop me making the Toys as I want to make them."
But one of the Chief Inspectors had seen him coming. He had a discussion with one of the Chameleons managers. "You must have some Inspectors. It is a mandatory requirement. What ever will you do without us?"
The result was an agreement that 92 of the Inspectors could stay. The Inspectors were allowed to choose from amongst themselves who stayed, but the rest HAD to go.
The hour was soon up, and the Chameleon revved up the bulldozer. He charged at the Inspectors part of the Toy Factory. "Tally Ho!"
One of the Inspectors made a vain attempt to stop the chameleon and make him see sense. "Youll bring the whole House crashing down about your ears! Get some Acros. You had better have some Catnics too." Too late. A quoin came crashing down on his head, and he died on the spot.
The dust had hardly settled, when I heard the Chameleon crowing, "I am the Chosen One. I can do anything." Much longer, and he would have started saying he was The Almighty. Then out of the corner of his eye, the Chameleon caught sight of a group of people who reminded him that he was not.
Some of their leaders worked in the Toy Factory as occasional Inspectors, not because they were Chosen, but it was an ancient privilege that went with the job. Just right for Modernisation. They also had a special place in the running of the Country. They were ordinary people, but they were a reminder that all the leaders, even the President, were not almighty but held their power on trust and were answerable to a higher authority.
The Chameleon started turning his bulldozer round to face this next target for modernising. At which point I awoke in a cold sweat.
Robert J Higginson, 15 November 1999. copyright.
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