A short story: Name Droppers by Robert Glancy

Exclusively for The Independent on Sunday, Robert Glancy creates a new short story and a world in which not a single word is wasted

Suit: Here it is.

Suit puts a radio on the table.

Creative 1: Let me guess. Another sodding iPhone.

Creative 2: But, no, wait! This iPhone is yellow and smells of butter. Wow!

Creative 1: Pretty sure radio has already been invented.

Suit switches radio on. It plays Creative 1 saying: Pretty sure radio has already been invented.

Creative 1: But wait! It records too! Ground breaking stuff, Suit!

Suit turns dial. Radio plays Creative 1 saying: The agency is utter bollocks. I should be writing my film script not drafting lame copy for shitty nappies.

Creative 1: Hang on! I said that at home, yesterday, to my wife, in private. You bugged my home! I’ll sue this agency for breach of rights, my human rights and .…

Suit: Pipe down. We didn’t bug you. Now: you ready to hear something incredible?

Creative 2: What? That you’re a moron. I think we’ve already established that.

Suit: This little invention here can tune into anything anyone has ever said.

Creative 1: What bollocks!

Suit: It’s a big idea I know. So wrap your heads around this. There was a scientist called Babbage who said the air itself is one vast library, on whose pages are forever written all that man has ever said or woman whispered.

Creative 1: Very poetic. But so what?

Suit: Well, this little puppy can read all of those pages; everything everyone said from the dawn of time vibrating outward and onward like rings on an infinite pond.

Creative 1: Bullshit!

Suit: Some proof is required I see. OK. So why don’t we listen to some of your past?

Suit turns dial. Radio plays Creative 1 talking in a high-pitched voice: I really love this girl, mum, I do, I do. Samantha is the sun, the moon and sky, but she won’t even go out with me. I’m lovable aren’t I? You love me don’t you mummy?

Creative 1: What! No! That’s impossible. How the hell did you do that! That was when I was, like, twelve or something.

Suit: You were seventeen actually.

Creative 1: Wait! This is mind-blowing. I think I’m having some sort of heart attack.

Creative 2: But this’ll change the world. Governments will hear everything their enemies say. Friends will hear friends backstabbing them. No one will be able to lie in court anymore. We’ll rewrite history by listening to what historical figures actually said. We will hear everything, we can tune in to the cosmic boom of the Big Bang, we can listen to the voice of Jesus, or God himself, oh God! But then people will stop talking for fear of being heard, they’ll slice out their tongues, Christ, nothing will ever be the same ….

Suit: OK please just calm down.

Creative 1: Is this even legal?

Suit: We’re ad men. Legal isn’t our problem. Our brief: come up with a killer name.

Creative 1: iRadio?

Suit: I don’t pay you to plagiarise.

Creative 2: The DOP?

Suit: Stands for?

Creative 2: Death of Privacy.

Suit: Funny guy.

Creative 1: The Conch?

Suit: Too Lord of the Flies.

Creative 1: It’s about spying, why not: The KGB.

Suit: Too Russian.

Creative 2: The CIA.

Suit: Too America.

Creative 1: The al-Qa’ida

Suit: Too soon.

Creative 2: RadioBug! 

Suit: Good name, something there, go on.

Creative 1: RadBug.

Suit: Like it so much I’m taking the name out to dinner.

Creative 2: The Bug.

Suit: Love it. I just divorced my third wife so I can marry the name.

Creative 1: Or just: Bug.

Suit: Yes, yes! I’m bonking the brains out of that name, love it! Keep going, I’m about to blow my ….

Secretary opens the door balancing a tray of coffee and Suit screams.

Suit: Sod off! We’re on to something here! No distractions!

Creative 1: Easy Suit, she’s just bringing coffee.

Secretary: Sorry, I’m the new secretary.

Suit: Soon to be ex-secretary!

Secretary: Should I come back?

Suit: You should piss off!

Secretary wobbles and a cup smashes on the floor.

Suit: Who is this idiot? We’re on the cusp of naming history! You’re fired!

Secretary: Well you’re a prick!

Suit: What did you say to me! Do you have any idea who I am?

Secretary: You’re a dick who’s paid too much to think up lame names for dumb things.

Everyone sits back in shock.

Suit: Well, if you think you’re so smart, darling, why don’t you name this puppy? Here’s the brief: a radio that can tune into any conversation ever. There you go, sugar-tits, now tell me what you call it.

Secretary: Well, it’s so obvious.

Suit: Come on then, dazzle me with your amazing idea.

Secretary: The Eavesdropper.

Silence. Everyone smiles at everyone else.

Suit: You, sweetheart, are a beautiful genius.

Robert Glancy has just had published a  new novel, Terms & Conditions, which tells the deliciously cynical story of a nice-but-dull terms & conditions lawyer who is struggling to remember who he is after a mysterious car crash leaves him with amnesia and certain suspicions about his allegedly nearest and dearest ....

Terms & Conditions is published by Bloomsbury (hardback, £12.99).