It was another cloudless, scorching day in Greystones, proof already that we are in an alternate reality. Above the whirr of the air-con, as it struggled to lower the temperature in our
house castle (sure why not) I heard our doorbell ring. I went to the door to find two men dressed in suits as black as their sunglasses. One of them flashed a badge briefly (very briefly, it could have been a Tesco Club-card for all I saw of it), then looked down at an official-looking piece of paper.
“Mr Real-name-inserted?” he asked.
“Pardon?” I said. He looked momentarily sheepish. “Sorry,” he said, “we only know you as Tinman. We don’t know your real name.”
“Then how do you know where I live?”
“GPS in your pacemaker,” said the other one.
“Look, who are you? ”I asked.
“You can call me Mr Sopa,” said the first one, “and this here is Mr Pipa. We’re with the US Government.”
“And what are you doing here?” I asked.
“We’re here in Yerp to stamp out Foreign Intellectual Property Piracy,” said Mr Sopa.
“And you think I’m a foreign intellectual?” I asked (slightly proudly, I must admit).
“That’s the kind of thing we’re here to stop,” said Mr Pipa. “That joke’s already been used in a comment on Janie Jones’s blog.”
“I know,” I said. “It was my comment.”
“Nevertheless, it’s on a US website now,” said Mr Sopa, “so it’s under copyright in the US. You could be fined up to fifty thousand dollars.”
I was stunned. “I don’t have that kind of money,” I said.
“We don’t like hearing that,” said Mr Pipa.
“I didn’t like saying it,” I replied.
“And that’s only the beginning of your troubles,” said Mr Pipa. “You’ve stolen the three words ‘worth’, ‘doing’ and ‘badly’ from a Mr Gil Chesterton.”
“You can’t steal a word,” I said.
“Ever heard the expression “can I have a word”? Well, if someone can have a word then someone else can steal it.”
While I was trying to construct a smart retort built around the phrase “have a crap” he continued. “Worst of all,” he said, “you’ve stolen the name ‘Tinman’ from, well, the Tin Man.”
“He’s not actually a real person,” I pointed out.
“Yes,” said Mr Pipa, “but he’s an American not-a-real-person.”
I looked pleadingly at Mr Sopa. “Can you talk some sense into this guy?” I asked.
“Sorry,” said Mr Sopa, “he’s on a higher pay-grade. I have to answer to him.”
“That’s insulting a Federal Officer,” snapped Mr Pipa. “You’re under arrest. Sopa, read him his rights.”
Mr Sopa began to read from a book. “You have the right to remain silent -”
“Hang on,” I said, “did you write that?”
“Er, no,” said Mr Sopa.
“Then you’re breaching the copyright of whoever did,” I said. “You could be fined up to -”
“Yes, yes, we know,” snapped Mr Pipa.
“Keep reading me my rights,” I said calmly, “if you can afford it.”
Mr Pipa stared at me for a long time. “You really are a foreign intellectual,” he said (this is, remember, an alternate reality). “Come on, Sopa, we know when we’re beaten.”
The two of them turned and got into a long black clichéd limousine. I watched it drive away and kept watching until it was out of sight.
“Hasta la Vista, baby,” I said.