London 1962: Ten year old Stanley Atlas is sat alone on a park bench in Hyde Park stuffing his face with a cheese and pickle sandwich lovingly made for him by his mum. It is after all lunchtime and Stanley is starving rotten hungry. He has no idea that his world is about to change irrevocably as he opens his gob to take the last bite. Unbeknownst to Stanley the legendary ‘Whitechapel Earwig of Doom’ out for an early afternoon constitutional has taken it upon himself to crawl into the boy’s lughole to nourish itself upon that part of his brain that emits the signal to young Stan’s body to ‘walk.’ Having had a sufficiency of skull fodder the earwig makes to leave; maybe have a kip or whatever. It matters not as the ‘Whitechapel Earwig of Doom’ is to play no further part in this sorry tale. Stanley, not the wisest of kids has no idea the henceforth he will be able to ‘stand up,’ ‘sit down’ and ‘run’ yet never again will he merely ‘walk.’
Wimbledon 2014: Stanley 62, a lonely, single man and after forty eight years in the same job readies himself for work for the very last time. You see it is today that Stanley retires from the only job available to a man who can only ever run and never to know the joys of a casual stroll. He exits the front door of his maisonette in Mitcham at some pace and sprints to his place of work at Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium a mile or so away for tonight there is his final race meeting to attend and Stanley is, as he always has been in adult life, the reluctant ‘Human Hare’ for the dogs chase each race – my how he hates this fucking place.
“Best get your hare suit on sharpish Stanley boy the first race is off in just 5 minutes. I reckon you’re slowing down in your dotage matey boy,” says Frank the steward on the gates as Stan whizzes past him muttering a heartfelt, “Piss off” under his breath. He grinds to a standstill in the changing enclosure and puts on his attire one last time then veritably gallops off to the starting line noting that the greyhounds are in their gates ready for the traps to open. With all punters bets duly placed the flaps go up and Stan is chased around the track struggling for the first time in his life to keep a decent safe distance from the hounds. There are six races on the card and they all go much the same way with the animals hot on Stan’s heels to the extent the bookmakers are giving odds on Stan being caught by the canines and ripped to shreds.
Finally the last race. Stanley is so very, very knackered and ponders the point just how much he wishes he could simply walk about the place like a normal bloke; how much he would have loved a job behind the counter in the post office or such like; of how he would have also loved to have married and raised a family like a normal bloke – things like that. He recalls that once his sister Mavis let him push the pram when her baby son was tiny yet Stan shot off at such momentum down the Mile End Road that he got a speeding ticket and points on his driving licence. That story even made it into the local newspaper under the headline, ‘HARE MAN DONE FOR SPEEDING WITHOUT A CAR.’ With his mind full of a lifetimes regrets quite elsewhere he momentarily forgets entirely that the traps have opened and the last race is underway. The only thing spurring Stanley on is the fact that the CEO of the race tracks is to present him with his retirement present at the close of the evenings events. He understands that that present will be an all belts and braces expensive treadmill for him to keep in his lounge so as to run on whilst watching the TV of an evening.
Then disaster! For a man of his age Stan is still quick yet the delayed start gives the dogs the edge this time. Just on the cusp of the final bend the greyhounds catch up with poor Stanley and do indeed rip him to shreds. An air ambulance is called yet Stan is declared dead at the scene. Women in the crowd of spectators go moist and dab their eyes; grown men sob uncontrollably whilst the dogs having had their fill of Stan’s meagre fleshy parts lay scattered about the track sleeping it off after what to them was a feast of fresh raw meat.
With the stadium all locked up and tickety-boo Frank the steward leaves for home in a sorry state for whilst he had spent years joshing with Stan – sometimes cruelly – he really had a soft spot for the old boy. Frank puts his key in the lock of the two up, two down Victorian terrace he shares with his missus Charlene who, in an anxious state is waiting for him just inside the front door. “Frank I’ve heard the terrible news about Stan on the TV. The poor, poor man – to die such a death on the very night he was to retire.” Frank ponders the point, nods his head mournfully, puts a manly arm around his wife’s shoulders and says, “Charlene luv I was thinking.” “What’s that Frank?” “Well you are getting a tad beyond the optimum point of chubby in my book – so I’ve got you a treadmill. We’ll keep it in the lounge so as you can work out whilst watching those fucking soaps that bore me shitless yet you are constantly glued to on the telly whilst filling your fat face with endless Pringles then at least you might end up looking half decent again.”