Friday, April 27, 2007

And She Closed Her Eyes 

"I'm going to ask you a question, Tim," shouted Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, above the rattle and drone of her walking machine. I wiped some soup off my desk with the roll of kitchen towel that I've started carrying around with me.

"Sure," I said. "Shoot." ("Shoot?" WTF?)
"Just supposing you died tonight..." she yelled.
"That's nice."
"Don't worry. It'd be quietly in your sleep. It wouldn't be anything violent or horrible."
"Oh. Thanks."
"So. Supposing you died tonight, peacefully and everything... How many people do you think would come to your funeral?"

Oh great. I stood up, shaking off my breadcrumbs as I wandered to her room, and did some totting ups.
"Well. Family: I guess there'd be about fifteen, give or take a couple," I said. "Friends: Hmmm. Half a dozen definites? Then I suppose another half dozen of 'maybe if somebody tells them and they're not doing something elses'. Rough estimate. Call it twenty seven with tolerances either way of, say, five. Does that answer your question?"
"Twenty seven?" she panted, switching off the machine and removing her sweatband. "Is that all?"
"Erm. Probably."
"God." She swigged from a water bottle. "I'm having at least eighty. Maybe a hundred."
"I'm not in competition with you," I said.
She took another swig and I passed her some kitchen towel.

"Is everything, you know, okay?" I asked. "Anything you want to tell me?"
"Yeah. No. Just feeling a bit morbid. I'm fine, honestly. You?"
"I'm fine too. We're both fine. Seems a bit early to be planning for the caterers then, don't you think?"
"Would you come to my funeral, Tim?" she asked.
"Well. I've never really thought about it. I don't know."
She sat down to catch her breath.
"I will if you want me to."

Outside her window Neil, my former team leader, was disappearing in and out of view as he played jumping off the ha-ha.
"Funerals aren't really for the deceased, are they?" I said. "They're for those who survive you. To help them come to terms, and that..."
Neil stayed out of view for a long time, then reappeared half a mile away, chasing a Friesian with a stick in the lower meadow.
"Ah, fuck it. Of course I'll come. Don't forget to tell them I'm vegetarian."
"Excellent!" she said, springing up to reach for her PDA. This was clearly what she wanted to hear. "Tim, plus guest. Eighty two!"
"And you can come to mine," I added. "If you want."
"Brilliant! Thanks mate." She noted this down too.

Tabs suddenly burst into the room.
"Come quickly!" she said, urgently. "Come into Reception now. Quick!"
We dropped everything.

Ivan the Terribly Thorough was performing tricks with his Dyson and the cherry blossom petals that had blown into the building. The blossom, pink and white, seemed to be dancing around an invisible maypole.
"Oh Ivan, that's so pretty," Tabs squealed with delight. A sizable audience had gathered, maybe twenty seven or so.
"Is very pretty. Yes," he confirmed. "And now they dance other way."
He flicked a switch on the Dyson and adjusted the angle of his extension pipe, and sure enough, the cherry blossom about turned and danced in the opposite direction.

"Clockwise!" he yelled, and people began to clap their hands in rhythm.
"Counter-clockwise!" and everybody cheered.
"Clockwise!" The mad confetti circus swirled around and around at Ivan's bidding, skirting the coffee table and the magazine stand and the displays of Company X promotional materials.
"Counter-clockwise!" Up and over the switchboard and Tabs' flatscreen monitor and around the visitor's signing in book and the piles of reports which had only this morning been through the scary binding machine.
"Clockwise!" Joyful laughter.
"Counter-clockwise!" More laughter.

Tabs leaned in towards Stella and said, "See! I told you it was important! Isn't it wonderful?"
"Yes," sighed Stella. "It's absolutely beautiful," and she closed her eyes and smiled for the first time in weeks.

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