Six of us meet at the social club. The testosterone, the stand-up comedy of lives veering from an apparent perfection. Shots are drunk. I abstain; it’ll be difficult enough to get through this evening without the flare of heartburn. Tom tells us about his fox problem, and how he decided to fight back on behalf of his hens. (Though he left school with just an O level to his name, he is high up in a company which takes your money every week. He will not be beaten, in conversation, poker, or life.) Since he came face to face with one terrorising them, he has kept a spade by the coop. The next time he saw one, he went after it with the spade, psychopathically landing a blow on its head as it scrambled out under the wire netting. Twice he has done this. If he’d prostrated either, he would have cut off the brush to wear round his neck.
In the curry house, over a carnage of over-ordering (Tom has the staff bag the scraps for his hens), he and company owner Quentin rut like stags. Tom says, name your challenge; I’ll take you down at anything. Quentin scoffs. Tom alights on arm-wrestling but says he could take Quentin at tennis too, despite not playing regularly. They puff up the contest, but refrain from actually having it, and that’s where and how Tom wins, because he talks the better game; psychologically bests Quentin with every comeback.
But beer tells in the end; they grasp hands. Tom says he can tell from the clinch who’ll win, but we’re not going to do this, are we? And when Quentin relaxes his grip, vulpecular Tom takes him down, as if he were bashing another defenceless fox over the head with a spade.