Monday, June 20, 2011

Get Through This 

Summer’s here and the grass is high. So are the nettles and foxgloves and the oxeye daisies with their smiley upturned faces – the car park embankment is brim full of them, bending in the breeze as one, like a shoal of fish at a rave - and so too are the help desk staff who are off their faces on Red Bull and Youth, horny as hell, hyper with carnal urges, stupid with the breeding imperative, with love or its closest equivalent.

Preston skies are sullen and low, listless as goths, going nowhere, doing nothing.
The theme of this morning’s team meeting with Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, was of reaching for the stars, following your dreams, never taking no for an answer – “Tenacity, Tim! Tenacity!” - but by lunchtime she was slumped in her chair, maudlin, messy, furtively slipping a little something in her coffee to take the edge off. A half bottle every couple of days, not that I’m counting; brandy usually, sometimes vodka. She keeps one in her shoulder bag and an emergency bottle in her desk drawer, hidden beneath the paper cups and baby magazines. I wasn’t snooping. She asked me to look one time when she couldn’t find her phone. It turned out she was talking to me on it.

I go up to the roof for some air, to look for my mojo, to just get away from it for a bit.

“Ever killed a man, Tom?” asks Bill Surname, CEO.
“Not so far as I know.”
“Ever wanted to?” and before I can say “It’s Tim. It’s not important,” he has thrust his rifle into my hands and is going through the naming of the parts. Lee Enfield No. 1, Mark III, ten round magazine, bolt action, sliding ramp rear sights, fixed post front.
“See that Vauxhall? Racing green. See it, Tom? I’ll give you fifty quid if you can take out its headlights. A tenner for the windscreen.”
“Isn’t that Robertson’s car?”
“He’s on his final warning. Best salesman in the North West my arse. He’s inside the building so it’s quite safe. Now remember - safety catch, then gently squeeze the trigger. Don’t lunge at it. Gently does it, Tom.”
I look around the car park. There are several shot up company cars. Vehicular carnage everywhere.
“Wasn’t there an ambulance here earlier?” I ask.
“That was Jones and Jones. Shouldn’t have been at it during office hours. Entirely unforeseeable and I told Charlotte not to blame herself. Bloody good shot, Charlotte. Wish I’d known that years ago.”
“And they’re ok?”
“They’ll be tweezing glass out of their backsides from now until Easter.” He laughs. “Never did me any harm. Shouldn’t have bloody been there in core hours.”
I take aim, pull the trigger as carefully as I can, gently, gently and hit the car four down from Robertson’s. There’s a tinkle of windscreen, followed by the dull clang of personalised number plate on tarmac. Bill Surname is delighted, reaches down to where I’ve fallen over and hands me a twenty pound note.
“Did I hit it?” I yell, deafened.
“You tried!” he yells back. He takes the rifle, adjusts the sights and gives the doomed Vectra both barrels, so to speak.

“Hey Tabs, look at this one,” says Stella. “It’s got sports wheels, an iPod charger, 3G and GPS so you always know how far to the next changing station.”
“And twin G&T holders,” replies Tabs. “They’ve thought of everything.”
“Duh? Gin and tonic?”
“Oh. Yeah. Right,” says Stella. “God, it’s amazing isn’t it, Tabs?”
“Sure is. Eight hundred quid of amazing.”
“No, I mean, you know – the ‘having a baby’ thing. I can’t believe it. I’m so happy.”
“Yeah,” Tabs sighs. “I know you are.”
Outside my window Rex the Security Guard is forking over a clump of ragwort. Geraldine, the Company X goat, nibbles contentedly on his gooseberries, which they say are almost ready now. Somewhere a radio crackles and Murray is worrying Centre Court. The clock tick tock ticks. A distant water cooler glugs.

“You’re going to be a great mum, you know?”
“Ha! I’ll get back to you on that.”
“No, but you are. Seriously you are.”
“Aww, thanks mate. We’ll see.”
“And what about Terry? Is he excited?”
“Yeah, course he is,” says Tabs. “He doesn’t show it here much, but at home, you know... Yeah, he’s been a complete star. He’s well excited.”
The going home bell rings and the building shakes with the low rumble of young executives pissing off.
“I’m completely made up for you Tabs, God’s honest truth, yeah? But I’m so frightened. I want to reach out and help her and I don’t know how.”
“Hey, baby girl. You’ve been a star too. Becky couldn’t wish for a better friend.”
“I feel useless, Tabs. She wanted it so badly. She was so happy.”
“It sucks, Stella. It totally sucks. But you’ll get through this. And when you’re both ready, well, you know, there’s nothing to stop you trying again. Me and Terry were starting to think it’d never happen and now look at us, shopping for buggies and painting the spare room. Look at me, Stella love, look at me. You’ll both get through this. You will. Listen to me. You will both get through this.”

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