'Cathode' Ray Bland they called him.
Well, after all, they were bound to call him something. Ray didn't mind because it gave him as he thought an air of importance. In reality, of course, it did nothing of the kind. If anything, it made the man most knew as 'That Fool', a bigger clown than ever. Ray didn't mind. In fact, to be known as 'That Fool' made him, so he thought, a figure of note.
Needless to say, this too was a fallacy, but Ray didn't mind that either, in fact Ray didn't really mind about anything. This out of all his many qualities was the one thing that folk liked about him.
"Human nature is as inexplicable in its many sidedness as the Sunday football league," Ray once told Jim Pooley. And Jim, for all his cynicism, was forced on this occasion to agree.
Ray's life was divided, far from fairly, in his opinion, between working in the dry cleaners and watching television. "One day," he said, "man will understand what folly this work business is and spend more time getting to grips with 'viewing'."
Viewing, as Ray termed his obsession, was a more fundamental part of his life than eating is to the gourmet or wine drinking to alcoholic. "I have seen High Noon thirty-seven times," he told Pooley upon one of his rare nights out and proceeded to date each separate occasion.
"That 'Cathode' Ray is a dull one to be sure," Pooley observed to Neville the part-time barman, "although he doesn't mind."
"And lastly, December 3rd, 1975," Ray continued, for he was not to be interrupted over such important details.
"Sing us some of your old fifties commercials, Ray," said Roger, seating himself at the piano.
Pooley drank up and left. He had heard the dismal chorus of Rael Brook Poplin, the shirts you don't iron, and Shippams for tea for tea (performed to the tune of the Blue Danube, circa 1959) too many times.
"Well," said Ray, "Just a couple then."
Pooley lurched drunkenly down the windswept street.
From the Flying Swan the haunting strains of "Keep Going Well, Keep Going Shell," sung in an unconvincing Michael Holliday voice, drifted through the night.
"Boring little tick," muttered Pooley.
"The Esso Sign Means Happy Motoring," wailed 'Cathode' Ray Bland.
"Why doesn't he bugger off home and watch his damn box?" swore an old soldier who had seen it all, but also heard quite enough.
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