Thursday, February 08, 2007


When Pestilence walks into a room everything darkens and the temperature drops a couple of degrees. She’s a minus sixty watt light bulb.

I was happily filing yellowing sheets of A4 into my new folder with the transparent sleeves. I was collecting all my shit together into the same place, no longer randomly scattered but in sequential order! I'm taking chaos and creating order. Bring unto me your tatty, coffee stained papers, and I will make them seem glossy and organised. Oh yes I will.

Then I felt a chill descend upon my shoulders, a dimming in my sunny cubicle regions. Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, wasn’t around so I took a message: the Good Ideas Committee had been in session and had rejected all of Stella’s suggestions. There was a gleeful twinkle in Pestilence’s beady little eyes. They are the windows to a dank, bottomless pit.

Some time later, Stella lurched back tearily from a long lunch, slamming the door behind her for emphasis. I kept a safe distance and waited a while before passing on the message.

“Shit!” she said, her voice low.
Disappointment hung heavily in the air like an Iraqi dictator.
“I had it all worked out. We’d go for a canter on the beach every morning, then have a jump afterwards in the paddocks.”
She’s had to cancel the riding holiday with her friend Becky. The bank has brought everything forward, and Becky leaves for China next Friday.
“Lazy lunches. Stormy afternoons...”

“This seal walks into a bar,” I said, because I was afraid for a moment she might start, you know, crying - no, seriously - and when in doubt you should always say something. “It was an iron bar.”
Stella flicked sadly through the pages of a magazine.
“It said ‘Ouch!’”
Her eyes rested on a headline asking whether flashing your breasts on a night out is empowering. She sat there quietly for a while, contemplating probable and improbable futures for herself, fleeting glimpses of this, or of that, foolish and not so foolish possibilities: with her friend Becky, without Becky, with somebody else, without anybody. Nobody at all; not a soul scenarios.

A light flurry of snowfall passed by the window. I watched a pack of salesmen running for their cars; Rex gritting; Pestilence skidding and falling on her bony arse.
The rest of the country was enjoying blizzards, mayhem on the roads, schools closed, snowmen on the BBC website, but here on the temperate Ribble Estuary all we saw were a few snowflakes that were gone in the time it took to say “Is it sticking?”

“So what do you say, Tim?” she said, standing up to switch off her PC and collect her stuff. “Sticking or not sticking?”
I said, “ No wait. It wasn’t a bar. It was a club. And did I say it was a nun that walked in? If I did, what I meant to say was a seal,” then she left to go home and I returned to admiring my new folder for a bit.

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