In retrospect it was all possible as long as one was prepared to leave all that is considered rational behind, adopting an insanely gullible attitude.
And it is precisely this perspective that Clarence adopted to explain his current situation. He wasn't the type to complain about a comfortable bedroom, regular and healthy meals, plenty of similarly-inclined individuals ready to ignore him without much persuasion and a safe dose of exercise that wasn't strenuous enough to cause a sweat. He felt very secure too. Security was in fact his very last concern on the little list of concerns that he had lost to the wash in a shirt pocket. The compound was as clever at keeping people out as it was at keeping the inmates where public opinion believed they belonged. Or at least the opinion of a couple of men in suits who the public entrusted with dealing with the delicate and let's face it, unpleasant, triage between those who upheld the law and those who walked on the right side of it to their convenience, but alas to the ultimate chagrin of afflicted third parties.
Clarence could have been brought up in abject poverty, a past that he wished for very hard whenever he considered the radically different outcome that would have resulted had he been lucky enough to have been born destitute. In this little dream he had also been subject to the type of physical abuse that doesn't hurt all that much but leaves convenient scars that can be carefully labelled and presented as evidence should the need arise. He had unfortunately been given all he didn't wish for and that included horrors such as a stout education, religion, and a disgustingly conservative family environment filled aplenty with tender loving care and what the judge referred to as Values.
He would have been an unlucky victim of a tortuous past, a mere reflection, possibly diluted by several degrees, of what had moulded him as a child. He would have been in need, crying out for the affection never received, unwittingly mimicking the atrocities of his childhood tormentors, the sum total of the burns on his back. Pleasantly disposed care workers would be standing by him, attending to his every need as they gently steered him along the path to reintegration into the very society that produced him in the first place.
Instead of all that his dream contained he was paying the price for reacting to all the terrors that society flung at him when he hit the streets. He was paying for the sins of those who were currently living his very own dream purely because they were prepared for the horrors that he hadn't been prepared for. He was the fulcrum in the system that was as unbalanced as each of those who were playing himself in his dream while all he could do was sit and watch. On one side of the see-saw sat the huge bulk of the system that produced him, clutching at the tiny seat with one, pork-sausage fingered hand, while stuffing its face with a bag of aspartame. The other seat was occupied by three skinny junkies who squabbled over something their hands concealed, evidently oblivious to the huge bulk that they were easily keeping a few feet off the ground.
His little arsenal included a wad of public exam certificates, the ability to roll a cigarette with his left hand underneath a poncey private school desk and an unshakeable faith in a god that just wouldn't listen but was out there somewhere. It had specifically been totally devoid of the inhuman self control required to deal with obtuse civil servants, patronising health-care workers, arrogant sales-girls and incompetent Spanish waiters at Greek restaurants who pretend not to speak a word of English.
Clarence had turned himself in. He hadn’t resisted arrest, hidden his face from the barrage of press cameras, feigned innocence, or even sought the services of an expensive defence lawyer. He was accused of an act he had committed and had been brought up valuing truth and honesty, recognising them as two completely different concepts that occasionally crossed paths. This being one of those occasions, Clarence had explained the sordid details to the police inspector who was in charge of the case.
He had been broke and jobless for weeks. He had also been the unwelcome guest of an unfamiliar city for weeks. He had also, as luck would have it, been asked out to dinner by a girl he met at the pub. ‘Girl’ was pushing it really, Clarence thought, but he didn’t think the inspector needed the full description of the lady he was pinning his hopes to.
This girl, Clarence claimed, had promised him a job with her firm if he proved to be all he looked like he was and rather than a formal interview she would prefer a ‘chat’ over a meal. On the way to dinner, Clarence thought a gift would be appropriate so he walked into a department store and picked up a neat, fake-leather bound, notebook that was classy without really giving away too much. Having waited for his turn at the till, he carefully placed the notebook on the counter and waited for ages to be noticed.
Reaching into his pocket he reluctantly fumbled around for the fiver that had for the past weeks kept him on the right side of the poverty line. Without so much as a dignified flourish he silently passed the miserable slip of tattered paper across the counter. The girl at the till carefully maintained as supercilious an expression as the layer of foundation that coated her face could permit.
"Wouldn't you like it gift-wrapped?” she ventured, with an oil-slick to her voice that would have several unemployed activists chain themselves to a random public building in protest. Knowing that gift wrap would mean another fiver, a luxury that would not present itself by simply wishing very hard for it, Clarence mumbled whatever he could manage in between firmly clenched teeth and shook his head stiffly, wondering what he could possibly have done to warrant being exposed to such an insufferable creature whose very existence seemed to revolve around making his very existence an unbearable ordeal.
Taking her time, the girl whose name tag proudly proclaimed as Sheryl, tapped the bar-code scanner with long, obscenely pink nails as she rung up the simple bill, humming an irritating monotone as she looked all around the shop carefully avoiding Clarence's murderous stare. Impatience had reached what he considered to be humanly intolerable and he reached out, trying to pick up his precious package. Her timing was impeccable. Sheryl scooped it up just as his fingers were within reach and made an attempt at forcing it into a paper bag that was obviously too small but resisted selecting another, more appropriate one until she was certain. Snorting like a particularly dainty hippo wearing a Miss Piggy costume for carnival, she finally pulled out a decently-sized bag and, much to Clarence's chagrin, waited expectantly for a few kilometres of receipt to print before justifying the existence of several pounds of glossy polymers that for want of a better word shall have to be called a bag.
"Would you happen to have the time to fill out a Customer Satisfaction Survey?” trilled Sheryl, pronouncing each of the capital letters in an unprecedented feat of phonetic acrobatics. As she sat there waiting for a reply, disgustingly prim, legs neatly crossed, both hands tapping the outrageous bag, the livid tsunami of rage reached the shores of Clarence's consciousness. "Pass that bag.” he growled, with an expression on his face that made monsoon rain clouds look like the fluffy cotton wool on a little boy's weather collage. Sheryl's eyebrows met in an exaggerated portrayal of innocent inquisition and the question she never asked was answered with alarming alacrity. "Otherwise I shall hit you hard and systematically until you stop twitching." Clarence seemed to replay his little statement to himself and take a rapid decision with great resolve. In a surprisingly agile leap he was over the counter and with a terribly calm expression he proceeded to deliver blow upon blow to the hapless creature's face, blissfully oblivious to her cries of pain and protest. This carried on for what seemed like hours of finely crystallised time until he paused to inspect the limp body for any recalcitrant twitch.
Satisfied at last, and feeling justifiably relieved, he collected his purchase and walked out of the shop with the smug expression of a first-timer casino better who leaves with the sweepstakes in his jacket pocket.