The purging of Thomas Equinus
Thomas Equinus was for many years the readers’ favourite anachronism, a horse-racing column for people who knew nothing about horse racing.
The central character was a wayward priest who used the column to thumb his nose at The Weekly Mail
The editors have won the last “Spot the Mistake” competition. They took me to that bastion of high-class elegance, the New Nugget Hotel in Marshall Street, informed me that I’d been demoted, told me that R3,95 was the most I could ring up during this, my last free lunch, added that my column was “the mistake” and then went on to tell me I’m to be replaced by “Pepe the Revolutionary”, who can be relied on to take the right line on the Freedom Charter.
However, all is not lost. Clive “the cheque’s in the post” Cope, the WM moneyist, has been going over the terms of my demotion with me and it appears that one of the foreign governments that the Weekly Mail has offered me R10 000 if I promise never under any circumstances to write anything but horse-racing again, and further promise always to speak well of the paper and the said government’s heroic regime, at Melville dinner parties.
There is also the possibility that I could find myself involved in an exchange programme for journalists that nobody wants. The idea is that we get shunted round to serious world flashpoints, like Beirut or Wits University, until we collect a World Press Award for courageous journalism, or a bullet.
I have accepted the package, which allows me to pay off two gambling debts, my new mattress and my account at Belinda’s Escort Agency for Spunky Priests, where you can find “the heavenly consort of your dreams”. (My dates always ended up looking like something from Alien II.)
Everyone is happy, especially Pepe the Revolutionary, last seen at a five-star restaurant with the Fat Editor, Thin Editor, Almost Thin Arts Editor, the American sub-editor and Small Sports Editor.
Already on his seventh glass of Glasnost, Pepe was giggling hysterically at the extravagant promises being made to him, such as a two-month pension scheme (short-term in case the paper is closed, Pepe gets fired or the fund goes bankrupt); death benefits: the right to join a union (which negotiates with its absentee employers via the telex machine) and the right to go into the monthly draw for a date with the Thin Politics Reporter.
What more is there to say except that my new column has become just one more footnote in journalistic history, an intrepid anecdote in the literary struggle against empty space, which can’t be fired up with advertisements or gratuitous photographs?
All I’ve got to show for it is a king-size headache and the promise of Nicaraguan currency. I would finally like to close by congratulating Z Bowls of Mondeor for his intriguing theory on the WM. Bowls has invented a computer which breaks written articles down until the “base linguistically structural coefficient” is established.
No two writers have the same coefficient. Having fed all WM articles into his machine, Bowls has found the same coefficients coming up time and again, which has led him to postulate that: I am the Fat Editor, the Thin Politics Reporter and sometimes the Thin Arts Editor. The Small Sports Editor is also the American sub-editor and is undoubtedly also the Tall Advertising Representative.
In fact, the WM is written by four people, all of them white, three of them over20, two of them female, one of them gay and all of them psychotic. This is obviously untrue and now that I’ve finished my sports column, my two arts reviews, my article on the economy, my cartoon, my cover story and some fake memoirs of Robben Island, I’ll tell you why.
That’s why this column has to go folks; I’m too busy writing the rest of the paper. I also have to oil the printing press and get my bicycle ready for Friday morning deliveries.
This column appeared in August 1987. Equinus appeared until 1991, when the author was spirited away by The Star, which was interested in his skills as a tipster, not his philosophy of life