the average uninformed, general, regular, normal, non ordained, uninitiated, ignorant, clueless, out-in-the-cold human being 




There was no doubt, no real doubt, no doubt that would be justifiable, no reasonable person would doubt, how could it be doubted, there was no basis for doubting… thus ran Smith’s thoughts. And they ran on, in this peculiar manner, for quite some distance further, and ended up with the following hard won but certainly worthwhile conclusion: everything must be doubted. Question everything. Everything must be questioned. Nothing should go unchecked. Every word is a disguise. Every picture is an illusion. Every answer is just another question.


The Cumulonimbus Society, for instance, was not just a society of harmless cloud gazers and the socially retarded – it was more, so much more, it had to be more, how could it be less, how could that be it, that can’t be all, that’s not it, there’s something else, there must be… but what is it? That’s the question. And that there was a question couldn’t be doubted. Doubt everything but doubt itself. Doubt the perspicacity of the universe. Doubt the gross pointlessness of interpreting the shape of clouds. Doubt the motives of a random collection of the socially maladjusted – they have come together for a reason, a reason above and beyond the idle speculation on the shape of clouds… of that, there can be no doubt.


The most important rule: never doubt yourself… unless…


…but that’s not getting us anywhere… getting Smith anywhere… and Smith is going places… he’s already taken up position in the back garden of a semi detached house which backs onto the back room of the pub in which the Cumulonimbus Society have their weekly meetings – every Tuesday.


That the meetings are held in a back room is of itself significant, as is the fact that the number of the group meeting is never the same, at least not for the last two meetings, and the fact that the meeting lasts much longer than the allotted time of two hours, and the fact that its leader wears a neatly trimmed beard, and that he walks to the meeting – not wishing to be identified by his car’s registration number – that he wears round glasses, carries on his back a large back pack, walks with a slight limp, more of a lunge to the left as he picks up his pace crossing the street, an almost imperceptible lunge, not a lunge but a slight discrepancy, as though his left leg was slightly shorter than his right leg, and so a man suffering from an imbalance all of his life, a man for whom the world sways as he walks, the sides of the street rise and fall, as though he was forever out at sea.


When Oscar fobbed Smith off with the label “conspiracy theorist”, he wasn’t too bothered. He held both words in high esteem, as he did the words “paranoia”, “paranormal” and “unusual”.


The unusualness of something warrants its further study, just as the unlikliness of something renders it probable and its preternatural appearance renders it more natural than nature and everything else that’s natural. As far as “conspiracy” goes what could be more interesting. And “theory”? Smith had a theory for everything, at least he would have if he had the time to sit down and think about it for half an hour over a cup of red bush tea. And fortunately he had several such half hours over cups of red bush tea in the days following the last meeting of the Cumulonimbus Society, and then the days became the days preceding the next weekly meeting of the Cumulonimbus Society, which he looked forward to with a feeling of… with whatever feeling accompanies Smith’s looking forward to anything, a feeling at once sharp and dull, dulled by the fact that it is a feeling he is never without, always looking forward to something of great significance.


All theories centred on the person of the leader of the Cumulonimbus Society who was the perfect hub for a number of inconsistent and outlandish theories, in that he wallowed in his own insignificance. He stood like a man who no one would notice. He walked like a man after seven pints of larger. He sat like a man who wasn’t there. He smiled like a man who wasn’t smiling. The streetlights and the lights from people’s windows never glinted off his glasses. The collar of his coat always obscured the lower half of his face. A thick woolly hat obscured the upper half of his face. When the collar and hat were folded down and taken off respectively, nothing of any great significance was revealed. However, the revelation of a man with round glasses and a neatly trimmed beard was revelation enough for Smith, who had sat himself in a dark corner of the room, after gaining admittance on a plea of an interest in clouds undimmed by a lifetime of looking up at them.


The bearded and bespectacled man adopted the position of one who was not in charge and who had no claim to even the lowliest position on the hierarchy of the Cumulonimbus Society. He gave every appearance of being an insignificant member of an insignificant society, an insignificance which struck Smith as highly significant. He sat himself in the shadow of a window seat in a back corner of this back room, the window which looked out onto the back garden in which Smith had taken up position the Tuesday before and the Tuesday before that, to spy on the goings on in the Cumulonimbus Society. He made no contribution, this bearded and bespectacled man, to the debate centring on the distinction between cirrus clouds and cirrostratus clouds, which could intermingle and look almost the same on a misty morning. Only once did he look up and take a glint of interest, the fluorescent light sparkling on his glasses – when Smith stood up to argue for the primacy of cirrus clouds on the basis that had the greater significance.


It was a deft move by Smith. It was his roll of the dice. It was a sign. It was a declaration. It was his move now, the bearded and bespectacled man, and Smith looked over at him, subtly nodded at him, briefly smiled at him, blinked a note of recognition at him, but wasn’t quick enough when he ran for the door and bolted it behind him.


After tripping over numerous chairs and people and hitting the bolted door hard and bouncing off it and ending up splayed across the floor with sundry members of the Cumulonimbus Society looking down at him, Smith wasn’t lost for words, wasn’t surprised, wasn’t shocked, wasn’t embarrassed, wasn’t discomfited in the least. Smith bounced back up and eyed them all with suspicion. He was suspicious of all of them, individually and collectively, and wanted them to be fully aware of it, so he told them all there and then.


“You are all suspects,” Smith said.


The whole of the membership of the Cumulonimbus Society had to exit through the large window in the corner of the room and climb down into the back garden of the semi-detached house which it looked out onto. Smith promised that this wouldn’t be the last they saw of him.


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