“You shall not pass”

Vernon was convinced that nothing in his background, his head or his wallet would satisfy this inquisition.

Vernon was convinced that nothing in his background, his head or his wallet would satisfy this inquisition.

Section 128 seems in stalemate

“I don’t have anything else” Vernon insisted defensively.

“Then you will have to get someone to change it for you.”

Women, he thought, so practical. “Ok I will, but please let me back in the queue promptly I’ve been waiting nearly three hours.”

Unimpressed, the guardian of India’s vulnerable borders looked at him as though he were a very lightweight invader of the realm, “Very well” she said.

Vernon’s next move startled even himself. He clapped his hands together dramatically and said loudly to those assembled in the room, “Excuse me does anybody have two ten pound notes for this twenty? They’re not taking twenty pound notes it seems, and that’s all I have.”

Insensible to the fact that his words might invite panic and certainly not encourage help, Vernon was nevertheless surprised to find that the response was generally sympathetic from his co-sufferers in purgatory. The quickest response however came from two Indian Muslim women wearing burkas. One rummaged in her purse and said, ‘”You’re welcome” in response to his profuse thanks.

There, goddess of doom, thought Vernon approaching square one, do what you can with that. Kali, in human form, inspected his proffered money sceptically and then, to his astonishment, retrieved another £10 note from her cashbox and compared the two. “This is not correct. I cannot accept it.”

Vernon, expecting to awake any minute with his head on the bedside table or his face in his beer, failed to appreciate the joke. He said so with the words “What do you mean you can’t accept this I’ve just changed it as you advised me to.”

“It is the wrong picture” The cashier replied.

“No” Vernon insisted daringly for a lightweight, “British Pounds have been like this for years. I live here, I know.”

“I cannot accept this” Kali decreed, “I do not recognise this note, it is the wrong picture.”

Vernon realised that passing through purgatory was no easy matter.

Vernon realised that passing through purgatory was no easy matter.

Tempted to advise her to get out more, Vernon realised that it was the wrong Charles. Apparently Charles Darwin was acceptable Charles Dickens was not. Both his £10 notes championed the wrong Charles. Trust him to pick the wrong side. Trust him to have Charles the lightweight. Wondering if he had become a new chapter in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Vernon insisted that the cashier consult her supervisor. She was gone for fifteen minutes and she did not bring Vernon’s anticipated vindication with her when she returned.

“Get your £20 back. I will change it.”

Centuries worth of philosophical debate about Evil and Suffering were articulated in the sigh that escaped him. Women are so practical, thought Vernon, hating this one. “But there is nothing wrong with these notes.” He did not bother to wait for a reply and his previous surprise was bumped up to first class when he found that his Muslim Samaritans were still willing to rescue the monetarily disadvantaged.

He tried taking his glasses off but escapism didn’t make things any better.

With a sense of diminished worth he submitted his money and received in exchange a receipt.

Check out the whole story on The Novel page

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