Table for Twelve

Cain wandered into the park and collapsed on a bench. Then he heard the noise. The sound of sucking and belching and careless chewing. He looked up and saw them. It was three in the morning and someone was having a tea party in the park. There was a large table with a dozen tramps round it shoving food down their throats. He looked around for the cameras – it had to be some kind of TV stunt.
Nope.
Nothing. Just the night and twelve tramps round a table. Then a dark figure stepped up.
‘Don’t panic,’ he said, ‘it’s just, err . . . an experiment.’
Cain looked at the roughly hewn faces, the spiky beards, the red noses and black eyes, the broken teeth and spattered jackets.
The stranger held out his hand. Why was he so friendly? People weren’t usually so friendly.
‘I’m doing an experiment. A kind of last supper for the planet. See that table: so far it’s been to Tibet, Brazil and Siberia. Straight up. Not kidding. Flown it all over the world. This is the England bit.’
‘The England bit of what?’
‘The trip. Taking bread and wine to the people. It was theirs all the time but it got taken from them. Took it to a football club last night, an art gallery the night before. Want something to eat?’
‘You’re nuts.’
‘Maybe – but these guys don’t care. You look as if you’ve been through the mill a bit.’
‘Then I’m in good company,’ he said and Cain nodded towards the guests round the table.
The man laughed. ‘Come join us,’ he said. ‘No one’ll mind. The body and blood come to you whoever you are, but it’s not easy to accept it. These guys love it, they have nothing to lose. You should have seen ‘em at the art gallery – walking out in droves they were.’

‘I don’t get it,’ Cain said. Then he spotted the dog collar. ‘You’re a minister of the church?’ He was suspicious now.

‘Maybe, but all I wanna do is offer something. Look, would you read this for me, I’ve been doing this for six months now, all over the planet, and I’m a little . . . familiar with it.’
He handed Cain a book with a steel cover and steered him to the table.
As he got closer Cain caught the smell of sweat, urine, wine and fresh bread. It was a heady mixture. The guy nodded and grinned again. He was tall and thin, but with a protruding beer gut, like a pregnant beanpole. He gestured to Cain, encouraging him to read.
‘“On the night he was betrayed he took some bread, tore it into bits and handed it round. This is my body, he said, I’m giving my life for you, it’ll be ripped and devoured like this bread.”’

As Cain read the man of God took a fresh loaf and tore it up, he nudged a few of the tramps and passed it round. They took little notice and just shoved it in along with the meat and vegetables they were already chewing.
‘Do I have to do this? Only I’m in a hurry and no one’s listening . . .’
The pregnant beanpole had a bottle of Pinot Noir in his hand. ‘Keep going,’ he muttered. ‘You’re doing great . . .’
Cain studied the guy’s face. He had bulky curly hair, a smattering of scars and a broken nose. He clearly hadn’t been a vicar all his working life. He uncorked the bottle and waved it at Cain. ‘I know what you’re thinking. Stupid, right?’
Cain shrugged and looked at the men shoving food in like they were shovelling cement into a mixer. He shook his head and read on. ‘“Then he took some wine, poured it out and handed it round. This is like my blood, he said, spilled for you. Drink it and think about my sacrifice. Corrupt leaders are only in it for themselves, the good leader gives himself for the people.”’
As the guy poured generous rations into nearby glasses, some of the wine missed and red spurts exploded across the table like fatal bullet wounds.
‘Can I go now?’ Cain said.
He nodded. ‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘Oh, one more thing.’ And he handed Cain a cup of wine and a hunk of bread.
‘Take these. You never know when you’ll next need it.’
Cain downed the cup slowly and steadily, with unusual reverence, as if he was drinking his first and last communion.

(Taken from the novel No More Heroes: No More Heroes can be found by clicking here.)
For a podcast reflection on this extract click this sentence.

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