Especially for you

Johnny was on his way to Snoozeville, and today’s conductor, the Right Honourable Duke of Wellington (the first). Did they know that it was an honorary title, created specifically for Arthur Wellesley, commander of the British troops charged with the defeat of Napoleon?

Johnny was almost away. There was something about the tone of the Prof’s voice when he was in full on lecture mode. Was it the timbre? The drone? He’d told the Prof he should record himself, sell them through a website, make himself a fortune he would. The Prof had been well puffed up at the thought of that. Johnny had told no one he’d meant as the world’s greatest sleep app.

Then a chair fell with a clang, ill piled books slipped to the floor as the low table jerked below Johnny’s feet. The Prof continued gamely. The Duke of Wellington, Britain’s foremost solider general, an actual Irishman, could they believe that?

Johnny was fully awake, but he kept his eyes closed. He listened as the noisy newcomer shuffled in his flip flops into a spare chair and then wheeze and puff as he tugged it just so.

‘Hey, how’s it going, Kenny?’ Johnny said, and only then did he open his eyes.

Kenny grinned, shaking his head in disbelief. ‘How do you always know? I was sure I was quiet today.’

‘You were catlike,’ Johnny said. ‘I’m just magic. What’s it you have to show us today?’

Kenny puffed out his chest. ‘No. This is magic. I got them from a man selling them in the street.’

‘Oh goodness,’ the Prof said. ‘Please, not beans.’

Kenny’s forehead wrinkled. ‘Huh? No, I get them in Iceland. I get the four pack, the big tins, and even if it’s just me, I put half the tin in a tub in the fridge.’ He turned back to Johnny and shoved an arm inside one of his bulging carrier bags. ‘Are you ready?’

‘Edge of my seat.’

Kenny eyed the whole group of them sitting around their table, and when he was satisfied he had their full attention, he said, ‘Tada,’ and pulled out a big bunch of roses. Only, these weren’t soft and pliant, errant petals fluttering to the carpet tiles. These roses rattled and bopped against each other, and the stems, though green, were stiff and unyielding.

Johnny took his feet off the table so he could sit up and get a closer look.

‘Are those…wooden flowers?’

Kenny beamed at him. ‘Yep! They were a tenner. Aren’t they brilliant! She is going to love them.’

‘What’s the occasion?’ Johnny said.

‘Every occasion. That’s the beauty of them! She’ll have them for her birthday now, then it’s Christmas, then Valentine’s. I never have to buy flowers again. She’ll always have flowers.’

‘I’ll say it again,’ Johnny said. ‘You are a genius.’

The Prof rolled his eyes and leaned over so he could speak only to Johnny. ‘There’s a news headline for the new year,’ the Prof said. ‘Christmas morning, man found battered to death, a blood-spattered flip flop stuffed down his gizzard.’

‘Nah,’ Johnny said. ‘We’ll see him in the New Year, couple of dozen plasters across his face. I mean, some of those rosebuds look pretty lethal.’