A brush with the famous (Part 2)
Over the next few days, the toilet became Nigel’s primary thoroughfare to work. Unfortunately, rumours in the Press grew in proportion to the length of his silence. They were more than keen to print reports that he was silent due to stress and shock resulting from ‘the unprovoked and brutal attack from the Bull.’
To avoid publicity Nigel had had to leave home and sleep on a friend’s floor. A policeman was stationed at the entrance of his workplace. Eventually, Nigel snapped. He confronted the army of reporters encamped on the doorstep at work.
“Listen! Brewster hit me once and then walked away. That was it. OK?” He went inside and slammed the door shut. “That’s the end of it,” he told Stan.
The following day Nigel crawled through the toilet window to be greeted by Stan holding up that morning’s headlines: ‘MAKE MY DAY’
‘The truth is out at last. The supposedly tough guy Bull bottled out of a fight with heroic hard man Nigel Bayfield, who stared him out in gutsy Clint Eastwood style. Australia’s best bowler chickened out when he saw his first punch had no effect on our own Test match tough guy, and ran for cover in the pavilion.’
Other tabloids carried stories of Brewster’s cowardice, and Nigel’s heroism and his expertise at Kung Fu. More importantly, Brewster was coming under intense media scrutiny. He reacted to the pressure by demanding that the blow he had struck was a reaction to having been attacked first.
“Just look at this!” said Nigel, pointing to The Daily News’s latest tirade against Brewster’s claims of innocence. ‘WHAT A LOAD OF BULL!’
“I read yesterday, that Brewster was having to take sleeping pills because he couldn’t sleep.”
“Maybe you should swallow your pride,” replied Stan, “tell the truth.”
“It’s not just a matter of pride. I did make first contact. I could get arrested for assault.” There was a knock at the toilet door.
“Quick,” said the secretary, “it’s on the news.” They went to the other office workers who were huddled round a radio. “They said the police made a statement,” whispered the secretary.
‘At last,’ thought Nigel. He was relieved that what he had said to the policeman would come out, even if he would look stupid.
A police superintendent spoke.
“Nigel Bayfield has stated that he has no wish to press any charges. Having made our own extensive inquiries, we are unable to corroborate any particular account in this matter, and therefore, will not be taking any further action due to lack of evidence.”
“They know more than that,” protested Nigel. “They must do. They could have exonerated Brewster.”
“But now, all they’ve done,” said Stan thoughtfully, “is leave the door wide open for more speculation. And more pressure on Brewster.”
“What are you thinking?” quizzed Nigel.
“Come,” said Stan. They retreated to the toilet.
“What you said about Brewster taking pills,” continued Stan, “maybe that’s what this is all about.”
“An attempt to undermine Brewster’s bowling?”
“It wouldn’t surprise me if there were one or two masonic handshakes discreetly exchanged between the M.C.C. and certain powers that be in the Metropolitan Police. The Press being free to maul Brewster is about the only chance we have of winning the last Test.”
“You mean to say, if I keep shtum, don’t let the truth out...”
“...England will win the Ashes.”
“In a roundabout way, my old mucker, the hopes of the entire nation or resting on your shoulders.”
“Thanks Stan. I’ve got enough on my plate what with the Press and masonic conspiracies. Why me? Why did Brewster have to hit me? And why that fluke photograph?”
Stan quoted Shakespeare. “And some have greatness thrust upon them.”
“It doesn’t feel like greatness. This shouldn’t be happening to me. I’m an accountant — from Deptford.”
“You could see this as a kind of privilege, for the sake of the nation.”
“Blow that. Tonight I’m going home via the toilet. For my sake, not to the nation’s.”
The final Test came, and Brewster’s bowling was decidedly off line. It wasn’t helped by crowds mooing as he came in to bowl; and shouts like “why don’t you just hit him!” whenever the umpire refused his appeals.
Once more Nigel manoeuvred his body awkwardly through the toilet window as Stan was holding up The Daily News headline:
‘BULL CRACKS UNDER PRESSURE!’
“This has got to stop,” said Nigel.
“Tough call,” said Stan. “But what price of victory, eh?”
Nigel went to the secretary. “Can you phone the BBC? The news department. Tell them I want to make a statement.”
The news crew arrived an hour later. A pack of reporters who had been tipped off also gathered. Nigel stepped out to face them. “I just wanted to say this: I... I grabbed Dan Brewster first. It was a mistake. I thought he was one of the crowd trying to get under the rope. I didn’t really hurt him. But that’s why he hit me. It didn’t hurt. I kind of ducked and he almost missed. I only got a cut on the inside of my mouth. Dan Brewster is innocent.” Nigel ignored the barrage of questions that followed, and went back inside. He squinted through the blinds and watched the departing journalists. He felt like a murderer. He could see it in their disconsolate looks. He had murdered the hope of the nation.
Stan knocked on the cubicle door. “You in there, Nigel?”
“Yes,” he replied flatly.
“We lost… For what it’s worth, I think you did the right thing.”
The Test finished with Brewster claiming 10 wickets, and his best ever bowling figures.
Nigel sat on the toilet reading the headline,
‘BULL BELLOWS AS ENGLAND CRASH!’
Nigel was happy at last to be using the toilet solely for the purpose for which it was designed. He felt able to raise a smile. England had lost the Ashes. But he had won his self-respect.