Thursday, 22 January 2015
In Triplicate - Friday Flash
The Boss arrived and strode into his office, with the swagger of his strut beckoning me in after him. He had assumed his customary stance, presenting his back to me, arms outstretched at the level of his shoulders. Like Rio’s statue of Christ the Redeemer; like a footballer celebrating a goal with mock diffidence; like a pop singer gathering the audience’s acclaim at the end of a song. A humble messiah would have his hands clasped together, but then I wouldn’t have been able to get the arms of his coat over them.
With his garment over the crook of my arm, I approached the coat stand. I carefully enveloped the plush mantle over two of the wooden spikes and stepped back to check the flawless symmetry to stave off creasing. With the upturned talons for hats remaining empty, the array looked like a primitive pagan idol with antler horns; like a hollow man penitent bearing a crown of thorns; like a well-groomed scarecrow not yet gone to seed.
I was snapped from my reverie by the sough of compressed air, like a refuse lorry hitting its pneumatic brakes; like a hospital respirator; like the discharge of a paintball gun. Even without looking, I knew it to be the sound of his blubbery corpus inclining into his leather chair. I quickly plopped into my own lowly supplicant’s berth and wheeled round to face him.
He was already sweating, with a sheen of beads above his lip, like the glue waiting to receive a fake moustache; like careless crumbs from a breakfast pastry; like the accusatory powder residue of an excessive cocaine snort.
“Some Dick-tation” he enunciated, part dyspneic wheeze, part self-satisfied susurration, fully libidinous pant. I turned to a pristine page in my spiral notebook free from my murderous doodles. He started his address. I watched his bulbous hands carve through the air as he hewed his bureaucratic inveigling; like an arthritic orchestral conductor; like a cricket umpire signalling a boundary; like a man swatting away a fly. The mote of his own thoughts at the very limits of his creativity, destroying any comprehensible rhythm when read back to him from the page.
He clicked pudgy finger against stubby thumb with a squelch like a clown’s outsized footfall; like snapping a saturated twig; like the very sough of his chair each time he toppled into it. “Yours sincerely, signed, etc etc. Three copies in triplicate please, top copy go out second class post with my signature. My copy and file copy as per normal”. Yes indeed, how well I knew the drill. Since it had been exactly the same every day for three years. I rose up from my chair to go type.
"You know, I can never read you. I never know what you’re thinking Miss Givens. Behind those tri-focals of yours”. His lips rolled back to reveal his yellowed teeth in some sort of smile Like caterpillars emerging from their leaf cover by consuming it; like skittles being released in the bowling alley from their metal pinsetter; like a stage curtain being raised to reveal hammy pastel sets.
“There is one more letter I’d like you to transcribe… If you please…” He handed me a hand-written sheet of paper, the first occasion of such a thing. “I hope you can read my scrawl. Probably looks like a spider dipped in ink has crawled across it!” Not a spider, more like a, oh never mind, I can’t be bothered.
I perused the letter. More bureaucratic film-flam, part hectoring, part wheedling, wholly platitudinous. But then I noticed the signature at the bottom. Not a whole colophon, just the first letter of his name, plus three ‘X’s’. Perhaps three blown kisses; or implying a triple-X certificate content to follow; or the thirty pieces of Roman silver cost of betrayal. “And if you wouldn’t mind nipping out at lunchtime and buying a present for my wife. it’s our anniversary you see. Here’s the catalogue number…” The sweat above his lip had now multiplied; like an outbreak of translucent cold sores; like a clump of frogspawn; like a- Gaaaa! I snatched the money proffered and beat it from the room as rapidly as I could.
I sat down at my desk and picked up three sheets of A4 paper. I slipped two carbon papers separating the leaves, then began drawing. The Boss in outline, then a knife at his throat, a gun to his heart and a bomb against his blubber. A trinity of death. I removed the carbon papers. Execution now not just in triplicate, but nine-fold. Signed etc, etc…