Back to Chuck Wendig‘s flash fiction challenge this week, and a Random Title Generator. Chuck generated the titles for us, and in a change to my usual method, given I’ve been a bit busy this week, I wrote a story based on something a friend told me, and fitted it to the title, rather than the other way round. It’s 999 words, including the title. Some mild profanities. The views expressed by Martin are not my own.
The Saint Stalls the Scum
Simon Templeton cringed at his desk. In this office sound carried from one end to the other. Other people’s conversations assailed him from the moment he walked in to the moment he left. Conversations ranged from the banal to the excruciating: one of the telesales team was assuring the customer “the XL74 is absolutely perfect for a sea-going yacht.” It wasn’t, it was designed for inland waters only. If they took it into open waters they would be lost. Well and truly lost. Maybe they wouldn’t put to sea, though, if they needed to ask questions like that.
He turned back to his CADCAM. His problem today was to fit three lockers, a three burner cooker and grill, plus the run lines for fuel, water and waste into a cramped space between the main cabin partition and the key transwarp rib. He couldn’t take more space in the cabin because the bench that converted into a fourth bed had to fit a six foot sailor into it. He scratched his head and tried another configuration.
Two partitions away, Martin leant back from his desk and yawned. “What have you got on this weekend, then, old chap?” he asked Colin, sitting behind him. Martin addressed it to the ceiling, so Simon and the rest of the office were included. Martin’s artificial British accent since the takeover reflected his ambition for a secondment to London.
Colin was a quiet, shy type who probably looked after his mother or kept bees on his weekends. He replied, though, judging from Martin’s hearty response.
“Oh, you should get out more. Leave the old duffers to look after themselves. What you should do, Colin,” despite an air of confidentiality about Martin’s tone, the whole office could hear his advice, “is to find some tart and give her a good shagging. It would do you the world of good.”
There was an instant where the office silently gasped, save for the formal voices of those on scripted sales calls. Like the bees that Colin may have kept, the hum started up almost self-consciously to remove the sound of Martin’s voice.
“The trouble with people like Colin,” the voice came into the office kitchen accompanied by a hapless girl in her second week. Someone crazy had assigned Martin as her mentor. “They need to get out more. Too much exposure to church and those dreadful preachers. Mind you, he’s probably a raving queen. Look at his tie, for god’s sake. Who wears ties to work these days, so prim and proper, and PINK!”
Simon filled his mug with tepid water, since he couldn’t wait with Martin there. Martin started up on another favourite subject, the decline of his neighbourhood since the Italians had left and the African-Americans had moved in. Only he didn’t call them African-Americans. He didn’t call Italians Italians, either. Simon remembered the steely look Mrs Manassero had given Martin when he was complaining about surnames and why the Poles and Italians had so many letters in theirs. Simon had wondered whether Martin had counted the number of letters in his own surname.
Simon smuggled his drink back to his desk. He checked his emails for a while and noticed one from HR setting out formal guidelines for various issues in the company, including dress code and expected behaviour, with both company employees and clients. He skipped through it and had a thought.
The weekend passed pleasantly. A leisurely Saturday with skating in the park, dinner with some friends, a lie-in on Sunday, the crossword from Saturday’s paper, and his diary. At about 5 pm he sat down with his computer and started compiling the evidence.
It took three hours to complete his list of names, dates, witnesses and disparaging comments. 16th December: Martin had insulted various Jewish customs and said they ought to celebrate Christmas since Jesus was a prophet to them too. 23rd January: he held forth on the gun laws, implying that anyone who let their child go to school in a quiet neighbourhood was asking for an attack on the school by a madman. 31st January: a well-known politician’s wife was related to a third-world terrorist. Valentine’s Day was the trigger for a ‘discussion’ on the ‘well-known’ fact that all Italians were Mafiosi. 3rd March he pointed out that a community of Welsh-speaking people who lived in Patagonia were responsible for popularising sodomy as a means of birth control. From 12th to 19th March he let himself loose on a daily attack on people of Irish descent, starting with Kennedy family for their handling of everything from the missile crisis and ending with birth control (again). Simon grouped the rest of Martin’s misdemeanours: verbal attacks on colleagues for their dress sense through to their assumed sexual orientation, often once they had resisted his ‘charms’.
He re-read the list; Simon realised that Martin had to go. The main question was, did the company have the guts to sack him outright, or were subtler means needed?
On Monday the head of HR received an email with Martin’s misdemeanours attached. After discussing it with the CEO, he called Martin in and gave him a reprimand.
On Tuesday, Martin boasted about “some frigid turd who had sneaked on him to the higher-ups.”
On Wednesday, the new girl was in tears. Simon found her in the cleaners’ closet with half her clothes torn, but refused to say who had attacked her.
On Friday morning, Martin announced he’d been invited for the weekend on a friend’s yacht and the rest of the office could do without him for the rest of the day.
Like most in the office, Simon Templeton smiled as Martin left. For him, though, it was a smile of satisfaction. What a shame the friend would be abandoning the yacht in the middle of the night, leaving Martin with only the XL74 on which to call for help. It really wouldn’t be of any use at sea.
(c) J M Pett 2014