Yesterday, standing in line in Starbucks, I spotted Yuko. She looked awful. She was sitting with her back to me, but I could see her face in the corner of a smoked wall mirror, sipping frothy mocha through a bendy straw. Perched on a plate in front of her were two brownies, molto big and molto chocolatey. Both for her.

Like a puddle of bleach on the kitchen floor my resentment evaporated, leaving a soggy patch of pity fringed with crystals of guilt. I wanted to snatch her up and hug her to pieces.

“Yuko — I’m sorry,” I murmured. It was loud enough for her to hear, but soft enough for her not to, if that’s what she preferred.

She didn’t look round, but her lips detached themselves from the straw. A murmur floated back to me.

“Sorry for what, Dave?”


A pause. “Me too.”

I should have left it there but I didn’t. I certainly didn’t mean to gloat. “I told the honkers you were Tojo’s great-great-granddaughter.”

“That’s all right Dave,” she said at last in her baby-doll voice. “I tord them you were Winston Churchirr’s first cousin, thrice-removed.”

It’s awesome knowing how I’m going to die. I don’t know where, and I don’t know when. But I do know how.

It doesn’t scare me. Not really. Nothing does. I guess I won’t feel a thing. But when I’m out-of-doors I put on shades and muffle-up for the street cameras. Unless I’m actually phoning someone I keep my mobile switched off. I’ve banished plastic from my pockets, paying for everything in cash. And I avoid big stores with their RFID readers and their silent-sentries, put there nominally to deter shoplifters.

I’ve stopped sleeping at home. I’m hardly ever seen in town and I tell nobody where I’m going. If I had pots of money I’d be like Saddam Hussein: hire a couple-dozen body-doubles just to strut around being me.

For up there in the sky there’s a 20 kg ice-dart with my name on it. In Chinese letters.