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A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison


The phone rings and Sarah answers.

‘Hello, this is Sarah from the Samaritans. How can I help you?’

‘I’ve just had some rather bad news.’

‘Would you like to talk about it?’

‘Yes. I’ve just had the result of my intelligence test.’

‘And you found that upsetting?’

‘Yes. My IQ came out at 180.’

‘I don’t know much about these things, but that’s exceptionally high, isn’t it?’

‘It certainly is. It puts me in the top thousandth of the population.’

‘Many people would be delighted with that. What about it troubles you?’

‘Well, I can’t understand most of the control functions on my TV or video or DVD player. I find the wash routines on the washing machine bewildering. The questions on my tax returns, and most other official forms, look like they’ve been written in some foreign language.’

‘I have those problems too.’

‘Yes, but I imagine you don’t have an IQ of mean that statistically...nothing personal.’

‘No offence taken. You’re probably right. I didn’t do that well at school. But I still don’t really understand what’s so upsetting for you.’

‘Well, if I’m not clever enough to cope with modern living, virtually nobody else can be either. The fate of this planet must be mostly in the hands of people who are less able than me, so the situation must be hopeless. We’re all doomed!!’

‘I see. But it’s not just about being clever, you know.’

‘Isn’t it?’

‘No. It’s about being nice too. The fate of the planet probably has more to do with people caring about each other than about being clever.’

‘Oh God...that’s awful!!!’

‘I’m sorry, you’ve lost me again.’

‘I’m a complete bastard. I don’t give a damn about anyone but myself. I never contact my grey-haired old mother. I hate animals and children.’

‘Well, you probably can’t change how clever you are, but you can make an effort to be nicer.’


‘Take some interest in other people. Visit your mum. Send some money to a charity for animals or children.’

‘Will that make me feel better?’

‘I don’t know. Try it. If you make an effort to behave in that way, then, gradually, that might be the sort of person you become.’

‘I thought you said you weren’t clever?’

‘There’s different sorts of ‘clever’.’

‘Do you think I ought to stop bullying the people who work for me?’

‘It might help the growth of the new you.’

‘And stop spreading lies to discredit those who disagree with me?’

‘I think so.’

‘And stop claiming to passionately believe any damn thing which focus groups indicate will impress the electorate, just to gain votes?’

‘I thought I recognised your voice.’

‘Oh God....Are you going to sell this to the papers?’

‘No. The Samaritans are totally confidential.’

‘Are you really this decent and ethical?’

‘I try to be.’

‘Are there others like you?’


‘Thank you, Sarah. The polls show that we politicians are out of touch with the people. Now I think I understand why. Goodnight.’