"Selfishness is the unwillingness to give up your soul for the rehabilitation of your future." - Michael Bassey Johnson
There were twelve cunts gathered round the table.
I pulled up a chair and made it a baker's dozen.
No-one was going to invite us any time soon to sit down as a jury. You could tell from the errant tufts of hair, the furtive glances, the chewed on hangnails, that we were likely more accustomed to being molested in the dock.
One of us sported an alarming contusion where practicing Sannyasi daub paint upon their brow.
He was frigid and unflinching under polite interrogation. He gave no indication as to whether he was tripping out his socks or simply mad.
He rolled the pen across the table when prompted a little too fast.
There was a hint of agitation in his delivery. A touch of the disorderly.
A pregnant woman in her forties did her best to pacify us with lure of charitable inclusion while fellating a Subway sandwich.
"I'm Mabel," she said. Pausing to let this new enormity percolate on down. "Have any of you's done unpaid work before ?"
A boy with acne raised his hand.
"Ah did," he volunteered. "But then I got ill."
"What happened ?"
" Mania," he said. "I was diagnosed with mania."
Mabel blinked. "Nae bother."
Fair play to her. She was not about to let drop. Ball, breakfast or brat.
She went on briskly to describe the proactive role voluntary work had to play as part of the recovery process. Most of us knew the script.
It's a side effect of being subject to repeat examination. In court. Detention.
The dugout at half-time.
You eventually learn to give a little of what's expected.
Mabel fed us from the line. Pointed at the spot.
Two or three of the clever ones converted a free kick down the wing and finished with a well rehearsed set piece. Some dribbled inside the box. The more blatantly injured - the most cunning, maybe - never set foot off the bench.
I wondered when Mabel got fucked last.
More recently than me. It was not the reason I was here, but it was part of the conundrum.
Over time the various medications turn a body flaccid. The tissues hang like an overcoat left out in the rain.
It runs deeper than appearance.
I glanced around the table. Most of us looked like we'd never been laid at all. You could almost smell the underlying arrest. The frustration. We resembled a bunch of deviants getting ready to rehearse a walk in the park.
Even those of us with bread crumbs still in our beards had lost their hard-on for pretending to feed the ducks.
And the women all nursed menopausal chiselings.
We just did not tick the boxes.
Initiation into the "Young Persons Befriending Services" quite frankly seemed absurd. Two tickets for a Sunday matinee. "Accidents & Disasters", while initially more promising, smacked of malingering. On closer inspection.
"Do any of you's have a bus pass ?"
Two or three woke up just long enough to delve unnecessarily in anorak pockets.
It was not clear whether Mabel's experiment in largesse might prove prejudicial to our financial interests.
Most of the vacancies offered no remuneration for travel expenses. Lunches.
By the time Mabel signed off, interest in the accompanying PowerPoint presentation had waned to a degree where A&E nurses wheel out little square trolleys and doctors administer atrial fibrillation.
"All right," sang one of our patrons. "All right."
There was an inevitable smattering of applause. All the red crosses had been laundered and folded away. Our facilitators all nursed wounds.
"Next week is DVD week, so you're all invited to bring in something you feel might benefit the group."
Thirteen pairs of eyes mildly blinked in unison. Crutches were palmed.
The boy with acne lit up like Linda Blair on a crucifix.
"La plume de ma tante," he rasped.
His face a rosy stepped on welt. The quarter inch of tongue a turd smothered in Peri Peri sauce.
"Well," one hausfrau standing near the door smiled. "That's not entirely appropriate.
"Frozen? Have any of you's seen "Frozen" ? I kid you not, it's a fabulous film."
A tiny shiver waltzed through us, erupting zits and spasms.
She had recently had her hair done. It hung like sculpted ice cream scallops. Defrosting curl by curl.
""Frozen", it is, then. And don't forget to tell your chums."