‘Tackling Middle-Aged Men’. Michael Chacksfield

The first man to be convicted under the “Middle-Aged Man Prohibition Act (2019)” was Peter Perkins – a forty-nine-year-old seen jogging alone in Wicksteed Park. His plea of ignorance about the new law was no defence at all and when combined with his feeble excuse of relocating in search of work, was rightly dismissed.

Summing up, the Justice of the Peace applied the full weight of the law: ‘It shall no longer be tolerated by society for middle-aged men to roam free, wallowing in sybaritic splendour — whether picking their nose at traffic lights in fully expensed company cars or as you were Mr. Perkins, wantonly jogging and sweating unaccompanied in lycra in a public place — these selfish, vulgar acts are no longer lawful. My duty is to the public, to keep them free from men like you!’

The sixty-eight-year-old Justice’s protruding nasal hair tingled in time with his talk as he boomed from the bar of the crammed Kettering courtroom: ‘Your justification for your reckless behaviour, that you were “unaware of this new law” serves only to remind us all here today of the arrogance and danger posed by middle-aged men. Without any sign of remorse, I have no hesitation in following the guidelines as laid down by statute and passing a custodial sentence. You will have plenty of time to reflect on your conduct whilst serving life at Her Majesty’s pleasure. Moreover, I will be recommending to the Parole Board that you not be considered for early release. Life must mean life!’

Addressing the wider audience and a full press gallery, the magistrate’s grey hair sparkled in the morning sunlight beaming through the high courtroom windows and granting celestial power. ‘Let today’s landmark verdict act as a deterrent for any other middle-aged man who might consider flouting the law. Society rightly proscribes them as a nuisance.’

Turning to Mr. Perkins and lowering his voice, he looked over his glasses and issued instructions to the Police constable: ‘Take him down!’ Handcuffed and wailing beneath a grey blanket, Peter could feel the hatred in the eggs as they pelted the side of his head and the van, as it screeched away from the angry mob.

Later that year, to enhance the law and keep middle-aged men in check, an amendment was passed granting power to local GPs to furnish women with small firearms, on the NHS. Where contact was inevitable at men hotspots (e.g. toddler groups, on the school run), meaning extra assistance may be required, the doctor could sign one of the new Pink Protection and Prescription (PPP) forms and automatically the pharmacy would double the dose of pills and supply a Glock G42 slimline handgun with a single clip of six .380mm rounds, to be used at the owner’s discretion. Adept as market leaders, Mulberry was first to adapt by adopting a small firearm pocket into their range of handbags. Other designer brands of clothing soon followed, sensing money to be made and providing a much-needed boost to retail businesses as the economy emerged from recession and High Streets reverted to safe spaces. British Transport Police launched an awareness helpline to nullify the threat from male commuters – the automated announcement on the trains informing passengers: ‘If you see a middle-aged man that does not look right, then call MAMSTOPPERS or txt 5189. If you feel you are in immediate danger…See him…Stop him…Shoot him!

Panic buttons were installed at every customer checkout in shops and reception desks in case the attendant was smiled at by an unaccompanied man. A National TV Advert campaign was The Blue Nib – Short Story 2 launched to raise awareness of a typical profile; even major Department Stores awarded extra customer loyalty card points if a single man was spotted making idle conversation and removed on the recommendation of a female customer.

With clear incentives to rid society of smooth-talking, leather jacket wearing, motor-bike riding men, there was no end to the schemes that popped up. Within the first twelve months of the Act receiving Royal Assent, the streets had been cleared of more than thirty thousand “pests” – with offences ranging from “walking the dog alone with intent,” to “striking up a pointless conversation in the queue at the Post Office,” society was becoming a much safer place to live.

In a breakthrough case, a young mother with two children was parked in her enormous SUV outside a Community Centre, waiting for her six-year-old daughter to finish ballet class. As it emerged during the trial, the lesson had finished early and the accused in heavy rain had dashed across the car park to tap on the window of the victim’s car. According to his dubious testimony, he stated that he was trying to be helpful and inform her of the delay, at one point even offering an umbrella, but the discerning victim sensing immediate danger, panicked, screamed, beeped the car horn and shot the man in the leg. When the police arrived at the scene, the intruder was easily found rolling about on the ground (in a pathetic attempt to hide), so was tasered and spread across the bonnet of the woman’s car. The episode was traumatic for the children, helping the prosecution upgrade the offence to aggravated, and through good detective work, the Police found a local carwash that agreed to discretely clean the blood from the victim’s metallic paintwork and post the invoice to man’s home address.

As the number of prosecutions continued to soar (validating the need for the law), HMRC launched a new campaign called ‘TAX-MAN.’ Increasing the basic rate of tax to 80% on all middle-aged men’s income, it was aimed to hit men where it really hurt. Women unemployment reached an all-time low, as entrepreneurs set up businesses to track and oust the remaining middle-aged men who pretended to live as couples. In the early days, bootleg apps were launched for men to ‘buddy-up’ so they could continue to go outside. But the Police soon uncovered this strategy, banning the clubs from operating and the law was quickly updated to demand that marriage certificates were carried at any time in public.

Inevitably the backlash came as men started to mobilise, the short men moving first. #beenperkined and #mentoo started trending on social media, galvanising support for the plight of middle-aged men. Large groups gathered at the lake to fish or supermarkets for the weekly shop. In the park, it became common for large groups to run together wearing balaclavas; a clear incentive to keep up with the pack or risk being shot in broad daylight.

Eventually, the countdown to the release of Peter Perkins made national news as a huge digital countdown clock (bought cheaply from Parliament Square after Brexit) was installed in the Kettering Market Square; Peter was returning to where it all began, a beacon for justice and redemption. Plastic bunting flickered in the autumn breeze as a bald and frail man, cured of his misdemeanours, hobbled up the podium steps to shake hands with the Mayor and thank everyone for welcoming him home. Despite no-one hearing his mumbled speech, (he could no longer stand up straight or reach the goose-neck microphone), he smiled, waved at the cheering crowd, folded his notes, wobbled back down the steps and slumped back into his wheelchair. As his young care assistant poured soup from a flask and tucked a blanket tight around his legs, he leaned towards her and whispered: ‘Thank you, my dear,’ then spanked her across the arse.

About the contributor

Michael is based in Northampton. An alumnus of the Faber Academy, he is also a proud member of the PG Wodehouse Society, publishing articles, book reviews and speaking at literary festivals.

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