Tuesday, 17 January 2012


Hopward missed the bank robbery, but the Sergeant interviewing him refused to believe it.  Hopward was quiet, introspective, and forgot to finish his sentences.  The Sergeant felt like he'd been working non-stop for thirty years without so much as a gold-plated tear-gas cannister for his trouble, and was determined to find out what Hopward was hiding.  He snarled, a little theatrically, and Hopward flinched, his head ducking down as though he were going to hide beneath the table.
As the Sergeant began his aggressive questioning again, starting this time with what Hopward had been doing for lunch, Hopward struggled to give answers that would appease the man and at the same time not deviate from the truth.  The problem was, as far as he could tell, that the robbery had happened in front of him, where no reasonable person could be expected not to have noticed.  But he really hadn't.
It had been lunchtime, and he'd sat on the first free bench he could find, which was outside a brick building with little planters at the windows and net curtains.  The front door had a heavy, solid look to it, as though you'd have to lift weights for a few years before you'd be strong enough to open it, and the grass verges around it were neatly trimmed and had no visible weeds.  It seemed like a dependable building, the kind that stayed put and didn't change much.  Hopward had liked it immediately.
Sitting on the bench put his back to the building, and so he'd had to look across the road, where there wasn't much traffic, to a newer building that had more glass and steel in its construction than the one behind him, and so was instantly less interesting.  There were also people going in and out sporadically, and that made him feel a little nervous too, so he carefully looked slightly away from them, and let himself drift into a dreamworld.  As always, he immediately imagined himself standing in a small courtroom, with his parents squeezed into the box that was called the stand, looking uncomfortable and unhappy.  His mother was wearing her Sunday dress with her corsage covering up the little stain that she'd never been able to get out.  His father was in a shirt whose sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, and there was a hint of flour around his wrists.  The judge was listening to Hopward's magnificent summing up speech that gave all the reasons why his parents should be punished for his name.  The fact that Hopward had been living through this fantasy for nearly six months now and still had no idea when he was going to finish summing up didn't bother him in the slightest.  He imagined himself straightening his back, looking the judge in the eye, and starting on point one-hundred and fifty-seven regarding the name 'Hopward'.
He never noticed the car pull up outside the bank, despite that it was right in his line of sight.  He never saw the two men get out of the car, wearing dolphin masks and go into the bank.  He never saw the two men come back out of the bank carrying small leather sacks that looked heavy and get back into the car, and he didn't see the car drive off.  When the bank alarm started ringing fifteen minutes later, he didn't hear that either, as he was preoccupied with explaining why neither Hopward with the stress on the first syllable, nor Hopward with the stress on the second was a good name for a shy five-year-old with an imaginary friend who was a duck-billed platypus.
The first time he noticed anything was when he stood up to go back to his office and the police-man who was supposed to be keeping people away from the crime scene saw him for the first time and demanded to know who he was.  Hopward, hating his name, had said "Mr. Bagthard," and things had just gone downhill from there.
The Sergeant glared at Hopward again, and suggested that a night in the cells might jog his memory.  Before Hopward could say anything at all he had been picked up under the armpits and frog-marched out of the interrogation room and down towards the cells.

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