Utterly ridiculous, but fun all the same!
James McGrath worked with animals. At least that is what he told people at dinner parties. It wasn’t deemed polite, so his wife had told him, to mention the seven degrees he had from various Ivy League colleges. It was in fact, rather rude to start explaining why Mrs Jefferson couldn’t possibly grasp the intricacies involved in the superlatively important work he performed every single day. So, his participation in the inane and banal conversations of social formalities was limited.
That said, James had never expected that he would ever be ashamed of his work. I mean for pity’s sake, he worked with animals. But when you’re a Marine Biologist, specialist in animal behaviour and you work for a section of the government not commonly spoken about in decent company, it would be naïve to expect anything less than shame. In fact, shame was the least of it. Guilt, stomach crushing guilt, sickness, anger, remorse, paranoia, anxiety and then, then the weight of shame fell on him. Shame at his own utter stupidity. When the men in suits and perennial sunglasses show up at your house to request your skills in a highly sensitive situation, you don’t blindly follow just because you’re flattered. But he did. James McGrath was smooth-talked into co-operating in a covert mission to kill the president.
Dolphins. That’s how they did it, or rather, how he did it. The beauty of it lay in its sheer preposterousness. He had unwittingly trained a single animal to recognise the president as a predator, specifically the president. I mean, it was a miracle really. His genius had allowed it to infiltrate the waters surrounding the president’s holiday villa and attack him whilst he was swimming with his family. It was all perfectly co-ordinated. The thing was, he had no idea of the intended outcome. He was just testing the theory of using animal attacks in covert warfare, it wasn’t real. Some smart Alec in the lab had jokingly suggested he use the president as bait, some grudge about the rise in the price of beer, harmless fun. Only it wasn’t. He couldn’t have known that that had been a set up too. He’d been stupid and arrogant. His failings would haunt him for the rest of his life.
It had all been hushed up of course. James had been gagged with threats; his hands were stayed by the men in suits and sunglasses. He’d had to watch whilst they’d butchered the dolphin and burnt his files, eradicated any trace of the operation. He would remain anonymous, no record would ever be kept of his involvement, but he would never be allowed to speak out, never whisper his confession. They would be watching him from behind darkened glass. They would watch as the guilt and shame festered in him, contaminating his relationship with his wife, his family, his neighbours and friends until there was nothing left but pleasantries.
And what is it that you do?
I work with animals.