‘The ultimate in job satisfaction’, said Jenson, ‘must surely be leading a religious cult.’
We were sat on the fire escape outside the office.
‘A winning combination’, he said, lighting a cigarette. ‘Spending your time being adored, and financially lucrative.’
‘I suppose so,’ I said.
‘I’ve been giving it some thought.’
‘As to which job is most satisfying? Or to becoming a religious cult leader?’
‘The latter. I just need an angle. Something that speaks to man’s primal instincts. A reaction against sanitised, 21st century living, but with middle-class appeal… no riff-raff.’
‘Some sort of natural world, Mother Earth twist. Know what I mean?’
I gazed out at the skyline. London was gleaming in the late-afternoon light.
‘Thought of that,’ said Jenson. ‘There’s already a bunch of them in Ipswich.’
‘Ah,’ I said.
‘I’ve got it,’ said Jenson, sitting down triumphantly on the steel staircase.
‘We’re a nation of animal lovers.’
‘We are,’ I admitted.
‘We love our dogs.’
‘Many of us do.’
‘We spend a fortune on them.’
‘What’s your point?’
‘Why do we do this?’
‘We’re jealous. We yearn to be dogs ourselves. Unfortunately, society doesn’t allow it.’
‘People want to be dogs?’
‘We yearn for freedom. The freedom to run about, shit where we like, fuck who we want. That yearning is what I propose to cash in on.’
‘It doesn’t sound very spiritual.’
‘It needs a doctrinal veneer,’ he admitted. ‘Something to let my followers feel morally superior.’
‘I’m working on something. Keep it to yourself, though. It’s hush hush.’
‘Author of that ad. We all start somewhere.’
‘It seems a bit pricy.’
‘Price is a reliable indicator of quality. It’s going into Woman & Home, Baking Today, Anglers Monthly and The Economist.
The response surpassed Jenson’s expectations: eighty-five people signed up to attend the Order of the Hound’s inaugural gathering. He announced follow-up camps in Saxmundham, Grindleford and Knockando. By May 1st, over 3oo people had registered for his various meetings. Clearly, he had struck a chord.
May 9th, 10 pm.
‘Wolfgang J. Enson calling!’
‘How’s it going?’
‘Un-fucking-believable. It is wild.’
‘Cool! Wild, how?’
‘People are going mental. They’ve been fucking unleashed. It’s insane, man, insane!’
‘Great! Well, ah, good luck.’
After that, I didn’t hear from Jenson for a while. He didn’t return to work. Nobody at the office knew about his involvement in the Order. All I could learn was that he was sick.
And then one day, he returned. A lot quieter than usual, and with a bandaged throat. I didn’t press him for details. I waited.
‘It was going great until the second night,’ said Jenson, as we sat on the fire escape. ‘Me and two female lieutenants were down at the riverbank. Romping around in the moonlight, getting dirty… you get the picture.’
‘Sure,’ I said, struggling to picture this.
‘Suddenly, out of nowhere, this huge, hairy fucker lunges for me, bites into my neck and starts shaking me around in his jaws. I’m screaming at him. “Colin! Get off!” I recognised him, a maths teacher from Sevenoaks. Blood’s spurting out of me, I’m begging him to stop, he’s throwing me around like a ragdoll. And what do you think the women are doing?’
‘Howling at the moon!’
‘They were fucking loving it. Then the three of them ran off, leaving me there in the mud. A battered, crying mess.’
‘I crawled back to the camp, chucked my stuff in the car and drove off.’
We looked out over London. It was a beautiful, bright morning.
‘There’ll be other opportunities,’ I offered. ‘The experience won’t have done you any harm.’
He rubbed his bandaged neck wistfully.
‘Suppose not,’ said Jenson. ‘I bit off more than I could chew, that’s all.’
‘Sign of a healthy appetite,’ I said.
‘Thanks, man.’ He sparked up a cigarette. Inhaled. Exhaled.