I been an MP for 13 years, 4 months, 2 days and 3 hours. Stick that in your hookah and chong it.
Been a condor for longer. But I know which one is my true calling.
As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a retailer. Back when my feathers were still all tufty and I could barely fly, all I wanted to do was work for a blue chip company - hopefully a multinational - and folk didn't like that. Back when my talons weren't talons at all, just pesky little claw-things, like human fingernails, I used to discuss my wants, my needs, with my only friend.
My only friend was Wilson. He was a paving slab. A precious paving slab - there weren't many around in our village with all its loose gravel and dust. Wilson was a four-foot square oblong (if that ain't a contradiction in terms) and difficult to carry. Certainly on the back of a burro up five-thousand steps he would have been. It was said he'd fallen from the sky as though called by magic (or gravity).
It was said (by me) that Wilson was more than a friend. Indeed, in a very real sense, he was also my father. After all, he kind of raised me, after I fell from my nest as a fledgling. Landed not-quite-splat on him.
Wilson never ridiculed me for my far-flung ideas, but he was realistic. He'd tell me, as I lay myself down on the cold grittiness of him, that retail wasn't the way things were done in my village. There - five thousand roughly-hewn steps up in the Andes - you had two hopes of making something of yourself in your life: Bob and No.
And Bob had just left the building.
Wilson went further. He told me I could either be a revolutionary, learn the ways of the machine gun. Or I could be a mountain guide, sherpa-ing rich folks' gear up and down the steppy-steps of the Inca trail as they (those honeyed capitalists) feasted their eyes on monuments and somesuch from a time in which we were the centre of the world and invented chocolate (and did fuck all with it).
But not this condor, nosiree. When my wings grew in I decided to serve my own apprenticeship. Set up a little store in the centre of town. Sold yerba mate. Coffee. Chocolates. Cocaine. Rats I caught during my midnight hunting-flights. All I had was that little store with beads over the door and a few stools and a fridge which worked off the genny out back. And a burgeoning ambition to make it the best damned little store in the whole of my country.
Of course that meant I had to raise my prices. Of course that meant I put the squeeze on the farmers provided me with my products. Of course that put me at odds with the village elders. They called a meeting in the square and squawked and squawked, those flabby old bald eagles. They said being so far above sea level must have done crazy things to my head. They said I really put the 'con' in condor.
But it wasn't that at all, I argued.
This condor just had dreams, I said. I wanted to soar in the retail world.
They didn't get it.
I was exiled, sent down five thousand steps into the massmarket of the world with nothing but my old kit bag and a Walkman.
A couple Simon and Garfunkel tapes - I'd recorded a live show off the radio and designed the covers myself, rubbing a crayon over the roughness of Wilson - saw me across the backbone of the Andes and up into more civilised places. Eventually I made it into America, riding the railroads lonely as Paul Simon with no cigarettes. No Wilson either: he'd been too large, too lumpen to twist into my rucksack.
But America wasn't what I was looking for. I saw that immediately. There my only options were to work in a burger joint - Lieutenant Bob's - or scrub floors (with my feathers, I prithee!) and I wanted more than that… I got so miserable all I wanted was a bridge over the troubled waters of my now, back into my then. When I closed my eyes I could practically touch a calabash gourd of yerba mate such as the ones I used to sell in my home town. When I puckered my lips I could practically slurp it up through the typical yerba mate straw.
(On a side note when I crossed the border between Mexico and the US of A, I was strip-searched. Beasted, bodily, on account of the border agents found my mate in a ziplocked baggie in my old kit bag and confused it for weed.)
You see I had to get out of there.
But home wouldn't have me back. Not unless I tucked my head under my wing and played beta male for the rest of my days. Not unless I worked off my capitalist fever in the cacao fields. Not unless I promised to put away my 'childish' gold coins and my 'foolish' ideals.
They wanted me neutered, like them, like the flabby old bald eagles of them. They wanted me 'right in the head' and not talking to fucking paving slabs.
Eventually I got a job. It was this: flapping my wings between the sets of goalposts on a High School Football field as the Al Pacino High school mascot. Pretending I was doing so at the prompting of the sports master - a rotund fellow whose gauntlet I could have torn through with my piddly baby-claws if I'd have so wanted. And the performing-seal nature of these exertions were almost enough to send me back up those five thousand steps into the heady air of my old village.
But they didn't.
They didn't because of one man. Mr. Walmart.
And believe you-me, I'd rather twist a precious paving slab than offend a supermarket, but now, 14 years, 4 months, 2 days and 3 hours since Mr. Walmart happened upon me when I was lying in the sidewalk (imagining it Wilson), my feathers caught in the oil-slick of my own vomit after yet another terrible session on the bourbon to help me forget my performance as the totem animal of the Al Pacino High School, I can admit it. Mr. Walmart wasn't real.
He was a figment of my imagination.
He was the sum-total of all my dreams made (ghostly) flesh.
He got me by the talons and dragged me to my feet. Patted me down like he was performing a soft-sell version of the rigorous search which had been undertaken on me at the border.
Then whispered: Go to Britain, my son. They'll love you there (apart from UKIP, but don't worry about UKIP, they're weirdos). Go to Britain and find a job at Asda. For soon, Walmart will take over Asda and it will become the most venerable multinational company in the world to work for.
Then, in the blink of a sun, he was gone.
Only, in my drink-sodden talons, he'd left a piece of paper which had been torn out of a reporter-style jotter - you could still see the broken rings which formed the top of the piece, where it had once been held in place.
And on that paper, just a few scrawled words.
They said: Britain: The Nation of Shopkeeps.
There it was. The land of my dreams. Addressed on a tatty piece of paper.
My ticket outta there.
A steamship offered me safe passage across the Atlantic, providing I worked nights as the 'eagle-eyes' of the ship. But a condor isn't cut out for seafaring. I got (jealously) green about the gills and was confined to my quarters for weeks on end. I wore out my Simon and Garfunkel tapes trying to soothe myself. Ran out of cigarettes only a couple nautical miles past the Falklands. And began to wonder if I hadn't just made the most foolish mistake of my life.