Mundane Joe

Mundane Joe was, as you might guess a pretty ordinary kind of guy. It was almost as if the nickname had forged out his destiny instead of just reflecting it. The epithet was first labelled on him as a young man at university. Along with a small number of fellow students, he'd been asked to participate in a research program to test the limits of the human mind and body. They were put through some pretty scouring tests, after which each had to find some creative way of describing how they'd felt under such extreme circumstances. The volume which arose out of the volunteers experiences made for some pretty arresting reading – with the exception, that is, of the contributions made by Mr. Joseph Sheperdson. It wasn't just his bland prose and his lack of any imaginative power. You just felt that whatever the circumstance, it was just a part of everyday life as far as Mr. Sheperdson was concerned. It was a reviewer of the book who coined the name Mundane Joe, and it stuck. It accompanied him for the rest of his life, never giving him a chance to break out of the mould, no matter how hard he didn't bother trying. So it was a pity that of all the earthlings who could have been picked for the trials, the lot fell on Mundane Joe.

It was a frustrating time in the world of space travel. The Americans, having beaten the Russians to the moon, had great new ambitions. For the moment the technical means to put these into practice were missing. The Russians could provide a some of the expertise needed, but the age of glasnost and the thaw had not yet dawned. What neither Russians nor Americans could be aware of, was that far out into the universe another power was amassing the know-how needed to transcend worlds and send a manned mission to the earth. After several tests, the space authorities on UFOUNDLAND were preparing to send an advanced probe to our earth in order to examine life-conditions here. It had not been all plain sailing. The operation had been costly and the parliamentary review body had often put the squeeze on their financing; The space authority's chairman was still bore the bruises of many a parliamentary skirmish over much needed funds. But now they were on the point of launching a manned mission to the blue planet earth, as they called our habitat. All that was yet needed, was some inking as to how the bluelings lived, and whether they would prove friendly or hostile to visitors from outer space.

Pete Cardigan sat in his fourth flour office and poured of the millions of names on the various lists in front of him. He knew that the success or failure of his whole mission could depend on what he was about to do. He had to chose an blueling who provide them with a unique insight into the life and civilisation of the planet. He knew it had to be an intelligent person, open to new experiences and willing to undergo experience never before imagined. But how to find his man amongst the millions of bluelings on his list. He quickly whittled them down the numbers by only taking into consideration those who had been to university, obviously a venerated institute of learning on the planet. But this still left him with a painfully large number to chose from. It was then that he'd heard of the research project which had projected Joe Mundane into the limelight for such a brief period of his life. He had even obtained a review of the published volume, written by a fairly mediocre journalist who had not even taken the trouble to read the whole work. It was his conclusion which prompted Pete Cardigan to make his choice.

“These experiences show the heights to which the human mind and spirit can raise itself when pushed to extremes. Beginning with the more mundane group members the book slowly reveals the full extent of enterprise and resistance as it relates, one after the other, the awesome experiences of the young men and women, culminating in the indescribable narrative of Mr. Joseph Sheperdson, the last member of the group, and by far the most fascinating.”

Pete Cardigan his man and he knew it.

Early next morning Mundane Joe rose early as was his habit. Lightly kissing his wife on the forehead he exited through the back gate, leading out onto the vast moors. Every morning he would jog the three miles to the neighbouring farm and return some 45 minutes later with fresh milk for the kids breakfast. Sandy would be up by this time, coffee on the boil and she and Joe would enjoy a few undisturbed minutes together before the kids would begin their descent. Shortly before 9 a.m. Joe would pack them all into the car and deliver them all to the red-brick county school which stood right next to the library where he worked. Sandy would join him at midday and they would grab a bite to eat before she went off on her various errands and Joe return to his beloved books and documentary archives. Joe's life may have been mundane, but are we to say that it was not a happy one.

That was all to change on this cold November morning. As he reached the crest of the hill that lead to the farm, Joe saw car headlights approaching him in the distance. It never crossed his mind that this wasn't exactly a normal occurrence on the moors and he continued on his way... almost getting away. It was only when Pete Cardigan realised that this man did not show the inquisitiveness he expected that the alien party was despatched to bring Mr. Sheperdson into the capsule by other means. Once inside Joe had a face to face interview with a kindly looking man who seemed to have jumped directly out of a James Bond film. After explaining who he was and the purpose of his mission he came to the point. He offered Joe a key, apparently a very special key. With this key he could go anywhere he wanted on the blue planet, breaking down all barriers of space and time. All he had to do was to concentrate his mind on the scene he wanted to visit, introduce the key into the lock of the wardrobe which that very moment was being delivered to his house, and in the blink of an eyelid he would be where he had imagined himself. It was all so very simple. All that was required of him was that he carry this little box with him wherever he went. The box would enable Pete Cardigan's men to monitor all that was going on during his adventures.

“Oh, and one more thing, I almost forgot,” went on Peter. “Each visit you make, will last a maximum of 60 minutes. So make the most of your time.”

Joe thought little about what had happened as he continued on his way to fetch the milk. But he was very put out by the fact that this fifteen minute diversion made him late. Indeed, it was the most unmundane thing to have happened to him that month and his worried wife was so relieved when he finally burst through the back door and sat down to a hasty breakfast without a word of explanation.

The day went off pretty much as usual. Yet Joe and Sandy still found a lot to to share as they shared a warm embrace on the sofa that evening. Sandy had been excited all day. Her favourite filmstar, Cameron Diaz was on TV last night, and she was hoping to persuade Joe, to forego their usual reading and watch the film instead. Joe had no real desire to watch TV but he acquiesced gracefully to Sandy's wish. But as the film went on, he became slightly unnerved. He was suddenly aware of the key in his pocket and of the little black box. All day he had carried these around with him without a thought; Now they began to worry him. He kept wondering what it would be like to... but he quickly repulsed these thoughts and turned back to Sandy. But all the next day the what ifs returned to plague him. What ifs have no real power over us, but what if they really can be transformed into reality. By the next evening Joe was ready to launch himself into the adventure. It was Sandy's night out and she was going to visit an old school friend who had recently come back live in the area. Joe watched her drive off and then stretched his had into his pocket. But where was the wardrobe? He had to put the key into the lock of a wardrobe, but he couldn't remember seeing it anywhere. He looked all over the house without finding any trace of a new wardrobe. Maybe he had misunderstood. Maybe it was his normal, old wardrobe which was meant. He took the key out to try it in that lock but the moment his fingers touched the key, a new wardrobe appeared before his very eyes. Gingerly, he placed the key in the lock and thought long and hard.

Cameron Diaz's bedroom on the night after a long Hollywood party, he thought and instantly, he was beamed across the Atlantic and found himself in a strange unoccupied room. Outside he could hear screaming voices and as he entered the next room he saw his new-found heartthrob in the midst of a raging argument with her latest conquest. Clothes were strewn all over the floor and empty bottles and upturned furniture told their own story. Evidently, the latest Hollywood party had taken place in this very house. But Joe didn't get the impression that it had brought much joy to either Cameron or her partner. And it certainly wasn't the exciting scene Joe had been expecting. After a few similar pleasantries of a similar genre Cameron's partner agreed to help tidy up. But their heart wasn't really in the task and their attempts were only half-hearted, compounded by the fact that Cameron's way of tidying up the bottles was by emptying whatever of their contents remained inside, into her own body.

She flopped down exhaustedly into an armchair and ordered Roger to come and give her a massage. He began around her neck and his magical hands soon had the desired affect upon Cameron. She loosened her robe somewhat as Roger's hands began their slow and soothing descent down her body. Joe moved in to get a better view but suddenly found himself back at home. His first sixty minutes as a peeping Tom were over, and to be honest he was not impressed. Give me the mundane life any day, he thought.

But it wasn't long before other thoughts began to interest Joe. He had always been keen on rhetorics and listened avidly to Any Questions and similar radio programms whenever they came on. It wasn't so much the different political opinions that interested him, but the way the were presented and the force of each participant's arguments. What wouldn't he give for the right to look in on that most sacred of debating chambers, the cabinet room. To attend a session of the cabinet would be a real education. He resisted this temptation for some time, not forgetting his first disappointment, but with the little box in his pocket to continually remind him, his resistance once again soon wore down.

He went to his desk where he had hidden the secret key, and started to meditate on the cabinet room. He'd never seen the place but he forced his mind on all those ministers he knew would be present, and before long he saw himself floating past the policemen guarding the entrance to Downing Street and up to the door of number 10. The door melted before him and he found himself on the hallowed turf of the Prime Minsister's residence. He listened carefully. Why couldn't he hear anyone speaking. Where was the sound of all the cut and thrust? He concentrated his mind once again on those oh so familiar faces and pushed open the door which led to the Cabinet room. What he saw inside, surprised him. The ministers were huddled together around the table trying to decide what gloss to put over the latest Home Office figures blunder. Most seemed totally apathetic. One or two even seemed to be asleep. One really was asleep. As the meeting went on, few had anything really siginficant to say. Government policy was passed by the shake of a drooping head with very little reflection. And as to the quality of the debate, the least said the better. Joe looked at his watch. He'd been here just 10 minutes. He still had to endure another 50. What on earth had given him the idea of coming here. He ended up falling asleep like two of his government colleagues and was woken over an hour later by the first customer arriving at his desk in the library.

For any normal person the Cabinet experience might have been the last nail in the coffin, but Mundane Joe was now hooked. He immediately thought of what to try next. He wanted to experience some real passion and immediately thought of Welsh rugby. Where could he find more ardour and zeal than at the Arms Park, as he still referred to it.

Wales had just played one of their most important games of the professional era. The reward was a place in the quarter finals of the 2007 Rugby World Cup. During the first half of the game they had been completely outplayed by an wonderfully exciting Fijian side who threw the ball around like the Wales of old. But when the team came out for the second half, they were as if resurrected. Within no time, they had clawed back the points difference and seemed to be reasserting their game upon a stunned Fijian side. A battle royal then developed and Fiji did actually run out as winners of an exciting game. But more importantly, what had the Welsh trainer done to renew his side's strength and faith in themselves. He wanted to assist at that dressing room talk, to hear the fire only the Welsh can muster, and perhaps have some of it rub off on him.

But it was a sorry sight that greeted him inside the dressing room. The team was totally demoralised and the trainer was already beginning work on his resignation speech. He wanted to get it finished in time for him to resign before being given the push - the honorable thing to do. No one was talking to each other. No one looked each other in the eyes. It was a complete disaster. Once the ten minute break was were over, the team trooped back into the tunnel. As they appeared onto the field, and well out of the hearing of a very disappointed Joe, a fan shouted at his former idol: "Get off the field you bloody cripple."

Shane Williams looked up into the stand and saw the fire in the eyes of the man who had come to the stadium with such great hopes. And this same fire spread to him. So as Wales were putting in a second half performance of a lifetime, Joe was passing the agonising minutes reflecting on what he would do, once his 60 minute purgatory was over.

It was all the fault of that infernal black box, he realised. The moment I get back I'll smash it to smitherenes. Then I'll be back to normal, with nothing to worry me.

Meanwhile back in UFOUNDLAND Colonel Mankins was venting his anger on a cowering Peter Cardigan.

"Do you mean to tell me, that all those years of research and preparation was all in vain!!!? We were making plans to invade one of the greatest superpowers in the whole universe and we've ended up with a bunch of nicompoops."

His phone rang and Mankins picked it up with a start.

"No I'm not going to calm down, and I don't care if I trigger of ten nuclear explosions! At least, it would rid me of you all. All I've ever lived and worked for up in smoke, because our govenment doesn't consider their planet worth invading. We have to start all over again... and you expect me to stay calm. Get off the line!"

And thus it was that Mundane Joe settled back into his normal life without no one ever realising that he was, in fact, the saviour of planet earth.


This was long - but well worth the read. You certainly bring up a number of interesting and pertinent points - especially the huge disparity between what we 'the average joe bloe' (as we'd say in Australia!) imagines and what the reality is.

And who would think that someone like Mundane Joe could save the earth!! Go Mundane Joe!!

16 November 2007 at 12:10  

The writing took me all the way to end in what seemed like a flash. I love the details about the morning jogs and notion that the slightest diversion throws everything off--even for a hero;)

16 November 2007 at 14:58  

This was wonderful! I loved it. Any time I start thinking about how mundane my life seems from time to time, I will remember Mundane Joe, and hope that it is serving some kind of greater good!

16 November 2007 at 19:21  

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