Graham brought the drinks from the bar to find Lloyd staring across the room.
“Don’t tell me, another hot blonde,” said Graham.
Lloyd didn’t smile but lifted his chin slightly, indicating a man staring into his beer at a corner table. “Does he look familiar?”
Graham saw a portly man of about sixty with close-cropped grey hair and a look that said he didn’t understand what had just happened to him. A shot glass on the table suggested that whatever it was had left him in need of something with a higher proof than his favourite beer.
“I don’t think so,” said Graham. “Just another ordinary bloke wondering how he just lost his job or why his wife’s run off with his best friend or something.”
“Look again,” said Lloyd. “Look at his suit.”
Graham swung a stool round to sit next to Lloyd and facing the man. “Looks like an expensive suit that he’s been dragged through a hedge in. A bit like… like… Ohh!”
Graham met Lloyd’s gaze. They both stood together and bolted in the man’s direction, leaving their beer behind them.
Graham reached the portly man first. “Boris Johnson! It’s an honour!”
He seized the man’s hand while Lloyd asked him what he was drinking.
“What? Ah, I’ll have a… I mean, no. You’re mistaking me for someone else entirely.”
The timbre of the man’s voice dissolved any lingering doubt in Graham’s mind.
“It’ll take more than a haircut to hide who you are. And as a lifelong Labour voter and supporter, I’d like to thank you very much for splitting half the Tories into your new party. It was brilliant. The two lots of them will spend the next ten years squabbling about who’s nastier to immigrants and hates Europe more, making sure neither of them will ever win an election again.”
A tear rolled down the portly man’s cheek, but his voice sounded admirably level. “May I have my hand back?”
“What? Oh.” Graham realised he’d been pumping the man’s hand up and down for so long that his grip was getting moist. He let go. “But really, you must have nerves of steel to play a game as long as that. You had us all fooled completely. When you threw in for Brexit, I actually thought it was all about setting yourself up to be the next prime minister. I’m so glad to have the chance to apologise for everything I said on Twitter back then. I had no idea it was all a scheme to boot out the only Tory leader since Thatcher who could win a majority in an election.”
The portly man made a noise that sounded like, “wah”.
Graham paused in case it was the start of a sentence, but the man turned back to looking into his pint glass. He said no more, so Lloyd picked up where Graham had left off.
“Graham’s right. All the time you were foreign secretary, I thought you were a bumbling idiot. It’s embarrassing how long it took me to realise that making Britain into an international laughing stock was all part of your plan to make Brexit impossible by making sure no other country would negotiate with us.”
The man’s head sank deeper between his shoulders. He made a very small noise.
Graham picked up the story. “Lloyd and I talk about this all the time, but it was only when you and your friends marched off to start a new party that we worked out how long you’d been setting up the Tories to cut their own throats. All the time we all assumed you wanted to be prime minister, you’d been working away to set up a situation where it could never happen. Boris, you are a genius.”
The man looked up. “A genius. Yes indeed.” His eyes widened in horror at what he’d said. “I mean, I don’t know any Boris. You have bamboozled yourselves.”
“A full sentence,” he cried. “Thank you!”
“No wonder no one could find you since then,” said Lloyd. “The blond mop was such a brilliant disguise. Shaving it off almost had us fooled. It’s like you’ve simply vanished.”
“I’ve absolutely no idea what you’re talking about,” said the portly man. “Please amuse yourselves by accosting someone else.”
Neither Graham nor Lloyd noticed the newcomer until he was standing between them.
“Did you say you’re Boris bloody Johnson?” The newcomer’s voice was the product of private education, which suggested the muscular frame and kink in his nose were the products of a rugby field.
The portly man’s Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. “Boris who? Never heard of such a fellow.”
“Everyone in the country’s heard of Boris Johnson.” The newcomer’s voice emerged from his broad chest carrying an air of menace that made Graham take a step back. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lloyd do the same.
“Oh, Boris Johnson,” said the man. “The Falstaffian chap with the bright yellow hair?” he patted the crown of his head, pantomiming looking for something. “Nothing yellow here, more’s the pity. Sorry to disappoint.”
The newcomer said nothing but looked doubtful. Graham reflected that while a private education can add great depth to a man’s vowels, it could not do the same for his thoughts.
“No yellow, no Boris,” said the portly man. “Quod erat demonstrandum.”
“That’s Latin.” Doubt cleared confusion from the newcomer’s face. It was like watching a thundercloud blot out a clear blue sky. “You are him, you backsliding, backstabbing little fat…”
Words failed him as he stepped forward to loom over the portly man, who managed a timid, “fwah?”
Graham took a deep breath. The rugby-playing newcomer might outweigh him and Lloyd put together, but Boris Johnson was the man who had dedicated his life to breaking the Tory party. He put a hand on the newcomer’s shoulder . “C’mon, mate. He says he isn’t Boris so he isn’t Boris. Why don’t you calm down and have a drink – uh!”
The newcomer had grabbed the front of Graham’s T-shirt and bunched into two massive fists that he held under Graham’s chin.
The newcomer let go. Graham was so stunned at not being punched or headbutted that his quivering legs nearly dropped him on his backside.
“Right you are.” Graham’s mouth babbled without input from his brain. “Very good. Effing right off. Whatever you say.”
It was only then that he noticed the chair that the portly man had occupied was vacant, and his beer was left half undrunk on the table. The street door was swinging shut.
The growl of a polar bear cheated of a fat seal escaped the newcomer’s throat.
Graham looked at Lloyd. Lloyd looked at Graham.