Like everything else, Poole was a once great epicenter for middle of the road folk to relax–in addition to being a playground for the rich, which it remains, and as all things must be in the epoch of universal destitution. There is even a pocket of the area, called Canford Cliffs, that is often compared–by the Brits at least–to Beverly Hills. Able to furnish lodging only for the top two percent of the wealthy in Britain. Jack found it rather unimpressive after so many years spent driving through it, day in, day out. He supposed he most appreciated it during the off-season. When it wasn’t what the woman on the voiceover for the tour called “exploding with life.” No, in the pre-summer months, exploding with death was more like it, the aged and decrepit walking along the paved shoreline like so many zombies with pensions.
Actually interacting with them was worse still, with Jack forced to totally dissociate when dealing with their inane questions and petty requests. He did his best to make a game out of it, telling the same old jokes about Churchill falling thirty feet from a suspension bridge in nearby Bournemouth while revising his timing of saying, “And don’t you think England would have been a very, very different place had he not survived?” Occasionally, he would hear a laugh-cough trickle down from atop the double decker bus. Old people still wanted to believe they had enough life in them yet to climb stairs. It was worse when they stayed down below though, for it allowed Jack to catch snatches of their mindless chatter, arguing about whether it’s Florida that’s on the East Coast of the U.S. or if it also rests near the west with California.
It was almost as though the purpose of his job was to remind him on a quotidian basis never to get old. For it was the surest way to permit the unbridled atrophy of the mind. Whereas when you’re young or middle-aged, you at least still have the “sharpness” to tell yourself that you can “get smarter” anytime, whenever you want to–just as soon as you put down the crack pipe that is your screen. Poole was both a terrible and ideal place to disconnect. For on the one hand, its purported “postcard vistas” (these days populated by the infiltration of cranes on freight boats moving objects of nebulous content–objects that simply had to be illicit, for Poole had a history of smuggling that was likely also thriving in the present) were enough distraction from the pull of national dystopian news–until they weren’t. Jack would perhaps like to get on board with one of the overtly illegal operations going on in those freight boats in the future, as he increasingly wanted to deboard his tour bus while it was in motion. The trouble was, he wasn’t much of a networker, something of a dichotomy considering his “people person” profession. That was yet another disadvantage of working with the elderly: they had no useful contacts. Unless he wanted a brilliant deal on hearing aids or a quick tip on where to buy nappies in bulk. It didn’t amount to much that would be useful to him. Nor did the repetition of the same song-chant on the automated voiceover that would play, “A toe dipped in Poole is the Dorset rule,” over and over until he wondered if he were living a waking nightmare. Or if perhaps he wasn’t really in Poole but an alternate dimension of it: its underground hell (for Jack believed every town had its own jurisdictional Hades–it would just be too complex to manage otherwise, what with most of the world’s population going there).
As the ancients started to increase their bus-riding due to the natural period of migration of the retired set to the south coast in droves–as though the cool “pine air” was actually going to tack any more than a month, at best, to their wastrel little lives–Jack found himself reaching a certain threshold he was not formerly aware he had. He hadn’t signed on for this in his decision to become a tour guide, which seemed somehow more glamorous when he was still doing it in Paris, a period that lasted just two short years before the UK beckoned him back as a result of his aged mother getting cancer and needing her only son back at home with her. The sodding olds had been cocking up any remaining trace of his youth for almost a decade, Jack was suddenly beginning to grasp as he settled into his own irrevocable agedness. How much longer could he keep this up? And when would he ever get a fat pension to use as a means to torment the young as he holidayed in faux luxurious environments of the British coast? Never, of course, for his generation missed out any fatness provided by the Queen’s government other than the Queen’s physique itself.
It was in this somewhat, let’s call it, “replete” state of mind that drove Jack to careening off the cliff that day in late May. The bus was at its most packed state–more burgeoning with the stench of death masked by ladies’ perfume than any other trip he could ever remember. And the ignorant joy with which the clientele cackled and clucked as he went through the motions of his route to Poole was more than he could any longer bear. He didn’t even bother to make that increasingly unpalatable Churchill joke. He found it to be pandering to the point of making him want to retch with the same ferocity that bulimic Americans likely did upon sampling heavy British cuisine.
So he did what no one else was willing to do for these people: inform them that their number was up, that it was time to die. He felt himself generous enough to allow them, as middle class citizens posing as something above their station, the poetic extravagance of expiring near the coveted Canford Cliffs neighborhood. For it is everyone’s wish to leave this world in a place just a little better than where they started.