Dobson’s SWAT Team

One wintertime, in a period when he was watching far too many action films, Dobson decided that he wanted to have his own SWAT team, to deploy as the fancy took him. Marigold Chew pointed out to the pamphleteer that this latest notion of his was particularly demented. She asked him where he expected to billet his team, how he proposed to pay them, in what delusional circumstances he might order them out on a mission, and, crucially, what resources he had to ensure they were given a thorough debriefing, with access if necessary to post-traumatic stress disorder counselling. Dobson replied with a series of low grunting noises, before clambering into his new oversized Uruguayan fair trade kagoul and crashing out into the downpour. The kagoul was second-hand, stained and rent in many places, but it was new to Dobson and he thought he cut a dash in it, though of course he did not, for Dobson rarely if ever cut a dash, and then only by accident.

As he trudged along the canal towpath into town, Dobson composed in his fuming brain the advertisement he planned to place in the “Situations Vacant” column of the Evening Sofa & Last Trump. It duly appeared, remarkably free of misprints, a few hours later.

Wanted. SWAT team to carry out engagements on behalf of out of print pamphleteer. Some of the missions may be perilous. Applicants should be armed to the teeth and preferably dressed from head to foot in black, with big black boots and shiny black helmets with visors. You will be able to give a full account of the vitality of your pneuma, in the ancient Greek sense of the fiery essence in the air, the creative and animating spirit drawn into the body through the lungs and generating your innate heat. Benefits include free pamphlets and lots of smoking breaks.

It did not escape Marigold Chew’s notice that the advertisement failed to address any of the questions she had raised with Dobson earlier. That evening, on the way to a peasant theatre adaptation of Airport Chaplain, she tried a different tack.

“Assuming for a moment that a sufficient tally of persons with vibrant pneuma apply to be on your SWAT team, Dobson,” she said, “What sort of missions do you intend to send them on?”

“SWAT team missions!” replied Dobson, excitedly, as their tram ploughed through a puddle of ice, “Missions that will test their valour and grit as well as their pneuma!”

Pressed to supply just one tiny example before they arrived at the dilapidated barn that had been converted by goateed trust fund gits into a “performance space”, Dobson suggested that he would deploy his SWAT team in the event of a calamitous tram collision resulting in dozens of dead and injured tram passengers. Marigold Chew pointed out that as there was but a single tram that plied the tram tracks of the town, no such collision could take place. Dobson countered that the tram might collide with a bus. Marigold Chew pointed out that the timetables and routes of the tram and the bus had been designed with just such a calamity in mind, and so clever had the planning been that a collision of bus and tram was both theoretically and physically impossible. Dobson thought she said “implausible” and clutched at that straw for a few seconds until corrected. He then aired the idea that the tram might collide with wild roaming cows. Marigold Chew was forced to admit that wild roaming cows did sometimes roam wildly through the town, and could conceivably roam wildly into the path of the oncoming tram. Dobson looked smug. Marigold Chew then landed the killer punch by asking Dobson pointedly what his pneuma-inspired SWAT team would do if sent to intervene in a scene of smashed-up tram and the tangled and bloody bodies of tram passengers and wild roaming cows dead, dying, wounded, scarred, fractured, and hysterical. Dobson had not thought beyond the excitement of his SWAT team descending on cables from their whirring helicopter, and had no ready reply. But at the very moment that he was going to improvise some unconvincing flimflam, the tram clanked to a halt next to the dilapidated barn, and the conversation was forgotten as both Dobson and Marigold Chew alighted in the snow and rummaged in their pippy bags for their Airport Chaplain tickets.

Remarkably, in the ensuing weeks, Dobson received several applications from SWAT team wannabes. It is to his credit that he granted each one a lengthy interview, less so that irrespective of what they said he rejected them all on the grounds that their pneuma was deficient. One hopeful felt crushed by Dobson’s decision, called on him armed with documentary evidence of absolutely fantastic pneuma, and became belligerent. Marigold Chew set the crows on him and he fled. The following spring, he and Dobson passed each other in the street. They spat at each other.

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