Monday, 14 December 2015
Are You Sitting Comfortably? (part 2)
The next morning, Billy woke up later than usual. His face still stung from where she’d slapped him and, if he’d had time, he probably would have been too scared to go and look in a mirror at the damage. For all he knew, there may be a very large cut that her swinging hand had left.
He rolled out of bed and wandered into the bathroom, the light through the open window hurting his eyes. He clawed at the bobbly cable which hung from the side of the window and pulled the blind. The darkness was refreshing.
He grabbed the cup and filled it with water, dipping his toothbrush in and then covering it in tooth paste. As he brushed his teeth, causing a white froth to form around his mouth as if he was a rabid dog, he wandered over to the mirror and looked in. With his spare hand, he tried to tame his ginger hair. It looked brighter than usual, but he expected that was because of his pale skin. His nose looked rounder and redder, but he suspected that was just a product of his sleep deprivation. He’d stayed up pretty late the night before, drowning his sorrows with banana milkshakes and litre large coke cups from Burt Ger’s.
Once he’d finished brushing his teeth, he returned to his room and pulled on a shirt and a pair of trousers from George. A mock leather belt tightened around his waist, he fixed his tie and then headed over to get his shoes. He slid his feet into them, but discovered the end of the shoes far too often.He looked down, bemused, and discovered with complete horror that his heels were sticking out of the rear of the shoes. He took his feet out and then reached his hand into the shoes, scrambling around to see if there was anything that might stop his feet from fitting in. Nothing. How odd.
He undid the laces a bit, to prevent the shoes from being too tight, and slid his feet into them again. No difference. They were too small. He wiggled his feet around but discovered that no matter what he did, the shoes were far too small.
He cursed under his breath and threw the shoes to one side. With heavy stomps of his apparently bigger feet, he went over to the wardrobe. He pulled the door wide open and reached in, searching for his other shoes. He tried on a pair of hiking boots, some swimming shoes and his other pair of formal shoes. None of them fitted. Sighing, he picked up his flip flops and pulled them on. His toes overhung at the front and his heels overhung at the back, but it was better than wandering around with nothing but socks.
He ran downstairs and contemplated whether he’d have time to grab a brief bite to eat. A quick check to the watch on his wrist confirmed he didn’t, so he ran out of the door, down the drive and hopped into his car. He pressed the accelerator after twisting the key and the car roared off, towards work.
Upon reaching the entrance to the Burt Ger’s carpark, the car began to make some rather awful noises. Whereas before the engine had produced a slight drone or whir, due to it’s electrical status, it now made an unhealthy chugging, as if it was a train.
“Come on, girl.” Billy said, stroking the steering wheel. “Make it up the ramp.”
The chugging of the engine grew louder, the wheels seeming to screech. It began to move at an exceptionally slow pace, grinding it’s way up the ramp with a painful clanking coming from the axel. Billy scrunched his face, empathy for the pain the car must be going through seething through him. “Come on!”
The car reached the top of the ramp, but then gave up the ghost. The doors exploded off, smashing into the walls and the floor, flinging in all directions. The wheels fell off and rolled away. The wing mirrors broke away from where they were fixed to the body and fell to the floor. Billy heard the registration plate fall off and begin to spin. If it wasn’t for the fact that the steering wheel had fallen off, he would have smashed his head into it.
“For crying aloud.” He said. After a few moments of silent contemplation of whether life could get any worse, he grabbed his bag and climbed out, walking over to the stairwell that led to his office.
When he finally got to his office, the wet slap of his flip-flops against the laminated floor still echoing inside his head, he sat down and buried his head in the growing pile of paperwork in front of him.
“Nice shoes, Bill.” Said Robert, who was stood at the photocopier with a group of his manly friends. They all burst out laughing when they noticed Billy’s flip-flops.
Billy sat up, trying to retain an air of composure about him. As he did this, however, he noticed the vase on Patty’s desk. It had some proper flowers in it now.
He clicked on his computer and started typing but truly he wanted to start crying.
The day after was the last before the Christmas Holidays. As had become a tradition since Mr Jones had took over the business, everyone had to bring an item of food into the huge canteen. As the number of employees was so high, it inevitably meant that would be enough food to create a reasonable buffet and thus born was an end of term party. They called this a Jacob’s Join. The official reasoning behind having a Jacob’s Join was that it brought everyone together, increased popularity levels for those who brought the best food, made sure that everyone had at least one food that they liked and created a sense of unity. The true reasoning behind having a Jacob’s Join was that Mr Jones was too stingy to cash out on a full buffet, unlike the previous management.
Usually, Billy would go across to Burt Ger’s at the lunch time before the Jacob’s Join and bring over a bag full of hamburgers. It was the only thing he was popular for in the company. This time, however, he had a brain wave. How about he had a go at cooking? He’d always wanted to; he was a big fan of the Great British Bake Off, and he’d taken Food Tech for a GCSE.
He’d stayed up most of the night experimenting. In his bin were the crumpled up remains of hundreds of empty flour bags, alongside smashed egg shells and an empty bottle of milk. The result? Three trays full of incredible, culinary delight. He had managed to create the ultimate food stuff, in very little time at all. Now he knew what God had felt like on the Sixth Day.
He put lids on the trays to stop his masterpieces from being ruined, and then pilled up the trays and carried them with both hands to work. He’d managed to find some new shoes at a specialist shop. Surprisingly, very few places sold size seventeen shoes. Those he had bought, however, made a nice slapping sound as they danced across the concrete pavement. They were bright yellow, much to his distaste, but he decided he could cope with them. They’d been hidden beneath his desk for most of the day, anyway.
He got to work and took his trays towards the canteen, where a few sample had already been dropped off. He saw three boxes of Party Rings, a few microwaveable pizzas and a platter of sausage roles. He put his three trays down, removed the lids and then headed towards his office. The second he got there, he checked the clock and began the countdown of the last three hours until the Jacob’s Join and then home.
The three hours passed like a mobility scooter at the head of a traffic jam; very, very slowly. Billy liked to imagine that he got more work done in those three hours than he’d got done all year so far. He didn’t mind, however, as it had given him a good chance to catch up with everything he was behind on.
The clock struck twelve and a cheer went up. Computers were logged off, presents were handed over, and everybody clapped each other on the back and wished their mates a Merry Christmas. There was almost a primal stampede down the steps and towards the Canteen, where the food began to be feasted upon within seconds. Billy caught sight of Mr Jone’s head, bobbing amongst the other scalps like a shark’s fin in a ball pool. He tried to ignore the feeling of impending doom the cold grey eyes impaled him with, but the action was like trying to ignore decapitation. It was all very well and good, but the consequences would ultimately catch up with you.
He meandered over to the buffet table where he saw Patty eating a vegetarian burger. Although the latter part of the equation was as good as blasphemy in his book, he still felt thoroughly enchanted by the sight. Despite the addition of it being a meat burger, he couldn’t quite imagine anything more perfect. He took a few more steps forwards, onwards to her. He prepared to open his mouth, to make some apology for the actions of the other day. The side of his face stung as he blushed. Somehow, however, he didn’t think the red of a usual blush would show under his bright white face.
“Nice shoes, Bill.” Said that same mocking voice. Billy turned to see Robert sneering at him. He was looking at the bright yellow balloons that covered Billy’s feet. “Perhaps you can give me some fashion tips some time?”
He laughed his horrid laugh, whilst continuing his pilgrimage across the canteen to where Patty was stood. He gave her a glass of wine and said, “Do you want to go back to mine after this?”
“Sure.” Patty said, putting down her glass. “You lead the way, I’ll drive after you.”
“No need.” Robert said. “I’ll drive you. I don’t want your shabby wheels parked out my house.”
Billy felt his fist tighten. He marched over towards the nearest buffet table and pushed a girl from accounts out of the way. She managed to grab a sausage roll from the platter before she nearly fell over.
He stepped over and surveyed the things he had brought. How odd. He thought. They were all still there. He reached forwards and grabbed one, raise and shouting, “Yo! Bobby!”
Robert turned around, slightly bemused. “What?”
Billy threw his hand forwards, and from his palm leapt the food he’d spent the previous evening slaving over. A cream pie sailed through the air, spiralling over and over, until it smashed him straight in the face. A white foam covered him, as if he’d been bitten by a rabid dog, whilst a untamed anger lit in his eyes.
The entire room went silent, except for one commanding voice. “Whoever threw that. My room. Now.” Said Mr Jones.
“I will tolerate a lot of things, Billy, hence why you still have a job.” Mr Jones said, one of his spindly fingers straightening a pencil before him. His office was large, imposing, with the only detail other than the minimal decorations being his oversized desk. His chair was bigger than the one in which Billy was sat, giving the impression that the boss was looming over his employee. “But I will not tolerate such acts of stupidity as the ones you are currently perpetuating. I ignore how you turn up late in the mornings and after lunch, I ignore how you drenched poor Patricia the other day, I turned a blind eye to the way in which you blocked the car park or declined to follow our strict uniform protocol. I cannot ignore this. With no regret at all, you’re fired.”
Billy didn’t argue, didn’t protest. He opened his mouth and out rolled a horrific laugh. A smile danced across his face. He didn’t want to laugh, he didn’t want to smile, but he couldn’t help it. Mr Jones looked as infuriated as a tortured demon.
Billy stood, his laugh continuing. He turned and began to walk towards the door. His large yellow shoes splattered against the white floor, his large red nose shone in the centre of his bright white face. From his head, a gigantic frenzy of red hair exploded away. Red seemed to be a consistent colour; his nose, his hair and now his lips were bright red. For some reason, he found it hilarious.
He strolled down the steps and out into the world beyond the company. He crossed the road, weaving his way across the car park. The automatic doors slid open and he found himself once more immersed in the incredible atmosphere and beautiful smell of Burt Ger’s. A waitress hurried over.
I knew I was a regular but I didn’t realise they knew me so well. He would have made a bigger smile, but he doubted such a thing was possible.
The waitress had a few tears in the corners of her eyes, her eyeliner having run a little bit. “Ah! Thank God you’re here! We just got the news and we’ve got two children’s birthday parties.”
“Did Head Office tell you?” She asked. “Our in resident clown, Fred, has passed away. They reckon it was an attack of diabetes. He’s been one of these burgers everyday for God knows how many years! Thank God we got you!”
Billy’s smile grew a little wider. One door closes, another one opens.
Thirty Years Later:
An empty burger bun. It sits still on a worktop. Sesame seed on top, dazzling in the cleansed light of the electric panels above. It's delicious, Perfect, even, like it’s straight out of an advert. Elsewhere, there's a pan on a hob, a burger on top of that. Beautiful. It sits in the centre, frying. Grease sizzles. Simmering like a puddle in the middle of the desert. Perfect. There's also a piece of cheese. Emmental. Beautiful. Perfect. It looks as if it's gone ten paces with a machine gun, the amount of holes it's got in it. It's delicious nonetheless. It’s as if we're in a Burger King advert.
There's a tray of salad and stuff, ready to be put on. The tomatoes are juicy, the lettuce is crisp. The onions are diced, the gherkins are ready to woo some women. As we all know; a gherkin is the way to a girl's heart. A fast-food server steps forwards. A minty green uniform is above their pale white flesh, protective gloves give their hands a blue sheen. There’s a heavenly glow around them. They reach forwards. Their protective gloves wrinkle as they open the bun, put the burger on the bread, add the cheese which instantly begins to sizzle, the salad, the sauce in wild zig zags of helter-skelter squirting. They close the bun again. It slides perfectly onto a plate. The plate is picked up and placed onto a tray held by a similarly uniformed waiter. The man, lanky and blonde, takes the tray and spins around, walking forwards. Out of the kitchen and onwards. Through the restaurant, around the plastic coated furniture and the ever frothing drink machine. The waiter’s face is about two feet above this. He gives us an omniscient, all knowing smile, as if he knows we’re currently imagining this story. He rounds a corner, ducking under the trail of an abandoned balloon. In front of him goes the source of the balloon. Old Billy. Poor old Billy. He was the restaurant clown, a frail old man who was so naturally pale that he needn’t wear makeup. His nose was naturally red and bulbous, just like his lips and hair. His car did actually fall apart when rounding a corner, and whenever he went within a mile of a flower it squirted a steady stream of water. The grapevine had it that Billy had been pushing his little trolley of balloons and tricks around, a grimace glummer than a depressed donkey on his face, for the last thirty years! Poor old Billy. Old Billy’s eyes, hidden behind arcs of his bulbous red nose, noticed the waiter and suckered out of his way. With a nod of thanks, the waiter continued his dangerous pilgrimage of meat and ketchup.
With a definitive thud, the tray was placed on a table. It sat on the table, pristine, perfect, almost smoking, in front of a striped jumper. Protruding from the jumper is the head of the owner. Arthur. He’s staring down at the burger, satisfied, happy. A smile bigger than anything Billy had ever hoped to smile grew across his face. Arthur loved burgers.
“I don’t get it.” The FBI agent said scratching his head. “That last bit was the same as the opening bit.”
“Exactly.” The suspiciously young bar tender said. He mopped a bit of sticky liquid off the bar. “It’s a bit of fancy literary technique, almost like prolepsis, but not quite. The type of thing English teachers like to highlight.”
“So, is Billy Fred?” The other FBI agent asked.
“What?” Asked the bar tender.
“Is Billy Fred? And if so, does that mean Arthur is Fred too?”
“Which, in turn, would mean that Billy is Arthur as well.” The first FBI agent said.
The bar tender shook his head. “God, to think that a country’s safety depends on you two. Times like this I’m glad I’m British. None of what you just said matters. What matters is that the name of the clown Billy, Fred and one day Arthur will become is Burt Ger.”
“Why does that matter?”
“Because the moral of the story is that you are what you eat!”