*Hey Clicky. Is it that time?*
*Hopefully Dear Reader knows my penchant for synchronicity and the number 137 by now… /lights up and smokes…*
Howdy, Dear Reader 😀
I thought today would be a good day to post my short story from Underdog Anthology XVII: The Wrong Kind of Leaves. It sees the return of Harry Egg, last seen in 2020, entering lockdown…
… And I thought it time for a catch-up, 731 days later…
731 Days Later
By Roo B. Doo
The best thing to come out of the past two years of the Rona pandemic was the shift to working from home. Not my home exactly, but my best friend Lol’s home, as he’d asked me to move in with him to ride out the initial ‘lockdown’. How naïve we all were thinking that sacrificing weeks off work for time on the sofa could ever defeat a virus. At least I didn’t partake in the weekly doorstep pot bashing ritual; that seemed totally medieval to me.
Three weeks ‘to flatten the curve’ inevitably rolled over into six and then nine weeks, and even after we were allowed back to work, restrictions remained. Wave after wave of illness and death were predicted, so that the threat of further lockdowns became endemic and it seemed pointless moving out. Besides, Lol and I rub along together great; we’re like brother and sister but without the fights or incestuous thoughts getting in the way. Even his pampered puss Mr Tibbles now considers me fam.
When the opportunity to work remotely presented itself, I gladly took it. Not that I was afraid of the Rona per se, but the possibility of catching the ‘Stupid’ from my colleagues at F. A. Kontrell has always been a constant fear. Well, from one work colleague in particular – our virtue signalling receptionist Shazza is something of a super-speader when it comes to the ‘Stupid’.
Unfortunately, when I woke up this morning, I discovered the wi-fi was on the fritz; I had to go into the office, breaking my current record of three straight months working from home. Up until now, 2022 was going so well.
Good grief! She’s still wearing a mask? I don’t know why I was surprised; of course Shazza would still be wearing a face-mask. Personally, I was torn on the face-mask issue that had come to dominate so much social interaction during last two years. On the one hand, there was no way the weave of a cloth mask could ever stop an itty-bitty virus passing through it – it’s like using a chain-link fence to stop a mosquito – however, on the other hand, wearing a mask is definitely an improvement for some people. Massively so in Shazza’s case.
“Slava Ukraini!” Shazza repeated, this time with a raised fist. Her face-mask was two-tone: bright blue over gold, like the Ukrainian flag. I wondered how long before the next cause de jour would adorn Shazza’s face. Probably May.
It’s wearing your heart on your sleeve in the new normal, I concluded sadly.
Raising my right forearm, palm outward facing, I smartly snapped my heels together. “Heil Hitler!”
Shazza was shocked. I could tell because one of her chins slipped beneath the bottom edge of her face-mask. “Oh my God, Harry, how could you say that?”
“Say what?” I asked, feigning confusion.
Shazza’s eyes compressed into a glittering squint. “Heil Hitler.”
Sometimes it’s just too easy to wind our airhead receptionist up. “Heil Hitler!” I replied abruptly, this time with a straight arm and accompanying finger moustache.
The office appeared sparsely populated, so not too many heads poked up at the sound of Shazza’s astonishment. Pammy in Payroll smiled and waved hello. I waved back.
“Aren’t we doing Nazi greetings?” I asked innocently and signed in. “I’m sorry, I thought we were doing Nazi greetings.”
“What are you talking about?” Shazza demanded.
“You do know that Slava Ukraini is neo-Nazi, don’t you?”
Shazza crossed her chunky arms in front of her ample bosom. “No it isn’t,” she replied fiercely.
“Sure it is. You should research it,” I suggested nonchalantly.
Of course Shazza had no idea the month-long war between Russia and Ukraine had actually been going on for a good deal longer; she thinks ‘Crimea’ are the first three words of a Justin Timberlake song. She didn’t move except to furrow her brow and, I assume, purse her thin lips behind the mask: I know that look; best to skedaddle.
“Seriously, you should google it,” I said, moving away from reception. “I’ll be at my desk.”
Shazza mumbled something darkly into her face-mask that I didn’t catch, but no matter. However, whatever she said seemed to greatly amuse her because she cackled loudly as I rounded the corner to my work area.
I stood and stared at dozens of archive boxes surrounding my desk and piled high upon it. A large paper shredding machine stood off to the side, with fat sacks labelled ‘Confidential Waste’ stacked against the wall. Everything was covered in a film of grey dust and ribbons of paper littered the floor.
“I said, you’ll be lucky, Harry,” Shazza laughed from right behind me; for her size, she can be deceptively light on her feet.
“What’s going on?”
“We’re having a clear out.” Shazza couldn’t keep the glee out of her voice at my consternation. “Getting rid of the old crap, you know.”
“And you’re using my desk?”
“Why not? You’ve not been around to use it.”
Shazza had a point – I hadn’t stepped foot inside the place since Christmas – but I didn’t appreciate the total takeover of my work area, nor the snarkiness with which the point was made. “It would have been nice if you’d let me know, just in case I had to come in to work. Like today.”
“Sorry.” Shazza’s apology dripped with insincerity. She was far too happy to be contrite.
Touché, I thought and smirked. I do believe you’ve missed me.
”Apology accepted,” I replied graciously. That was a mistake.
“It is very dusty round here,” Shazza said, wiping a fat finger over the nearest archive box. “I can always lend you a mask.”
Eww. Now she’s getting nasty.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, Shazza, but I’d rather lick a tramp than wear one of your masks,” I replied irritably.
Fortunately our sparring was interrupted by the sound of rolling laughter, as the side door to the office opened. The Fat Kontroller stood holding it open for a young woman I didn’t recognise. She shuffled beneath his outstretched arm, intent on not spilling any tea from either of the mugs she was holding.
“Boss,” I called out.
“Harry!” The Fat Kontroller seemed genuinely happy to see me. “The prodigal assistant returns.”
“’Fraid so.” My eyes swept over the mountain of boxes. “Glad you’ve not let my desk go to waste.”
The young woman carrying the tea stopped and smiled shyly. I’m a sucker for doe eyes and this filly had the biggest doe eyes I’ve ever seen. I could feel the wolf in my loins start to salivate.
“This is Lucy,” the Fat Kontroller said, placing his hands on the young woman’s shoulders. “My wife’s niece.”
Oh shit! I hoped he hadn’t spotted the lascivious look on my face.
“Lucy’s been helping us out with the archiving since the leak,” he said, giving those slender shoulders a squeeze.
“That’s right,Uncle Farn,” she said sweetly.
Lucy must have been all of 18 years old and nubile as fuck. She was petite but fully rounded in all the right places. Her thick, blonde hair was feather cut like a 70s rock chick, but coupled with those doe eyes, she could have walked straight out of manga. Or hentai…
“A leak?” I suddenly felt adrift. “What leak?”
Shazza, was still hovering and eager to join the conversation. “The leak from the roof caused by the storms last month. Rainwater got into the store room. I sent out an email.”
Ouch! Shazza is a prolific sender of emails. They’re usually over punctuated and full of inanities, but I do read them all. Eventually.
“Has the leak been fixed?”
“Oh yes,” the Fat Kontroller said, taking one of the mugs of tea from Lucy. “But we had to move the box files out here while the room was drying out. Your desk was the obvious choice, Harry.”
I couldn’t fault his decision; it’s the logical place to put them.
“No problem. I can work from any desk.” I looked around, trying to work out which one would give me the best view of luscious Lucy at work, but not place me in Shazza’s direct line of sight. I could feel her beady eyes boring into me – I’d already disrespected one of her sacred cows and Shazza had a whole herd of them.
“You can set up in my office, if you like,” the Fat Kontroller offered. “I’ll be out here going through the old paper records with Lucy. I’ve become a dab hand with a shredding machine,” he boasted jovially.
“It’s always nice to see you roll your sleeves up, Mr K,” I gently teased. “Thanks, I’ll go and set myself up. Nice to meet you, Lucy.”
“Yeah, you too.”
Perfect! The glass front of the Fat Kontroller’s office would give me a very good view of Lucy in action. I could feel my nipples stiffen in anticipation; it seemed I was destined not to get any work done today after all.
* * *
“Please tell me you didn’t hit on her, Harry,” Lol asked as he refilled my wine glass. “Not your boss’s niece.”
We were sitting in Dionysus, our regular place of respite after a hard day at our respective grindstones. Or rather it used to be before the Rona turned everyone’s lives upside down. It was still our weekend bar of choice, but this was the first week night Lol and I had pitch up there in quite a while. It wasn’t very busy, which suited me just fine. I’d had enough of people for one day.
“No, of course I didn’t. What kind of idiot do you take me for?”
Lol didn’t look convinced; he knows exactly what kind of idiot I can be.
“Really, I didn’t,” I said, taking a surreptitious sip of wine. “I mostly just looked.”
Lol laughed. “Harry, when you say ‘mostly’, I picture a TV reporter describing a riot as ‘mostly peaceful’, whilst stood in front of a building on fire.”
“Yes, but you fancied the pants off that guy. You were glued to his reports.”
“Well, that’s true, but stop deflecting, Miss Egg. Did you go out of your way to talk to Lucy, the young and impressionable niece of your boss?”
I could feel the wine start to course through my veins and flush the day’s tension away. “No. As a matter of fact she approached me.”
“Really? And where was this?”
“In the kitchen. I was making a coffee and she came in to get some god-awful concoction in a Tupperware box from the fridge. It was her lunch. Ugh, it was full of carrots and beans-”
“Stay on target,” Lol interrupted. “What happened?”
I took a gulp of wine. “Nothing, we just chatted. She’s going to Manchester University in September and we talked about that.”
“Our university? Interesting. Did you give her any tips?”
“On how to become a PA? No.” I placed my glass back on the table.
A look of concern crossed Lol’s face. “Harry, what’s up?”
I wondered if I should tell Lol about the epiphany I’d had whilst talking to Lucy. I thought about it as I emptied the last of the wine into our glasses. Oh fuck it. Just tell him.
“Lol, I want to have a baby.”
To his credit, Lol didn’t spit out his mouthful of wine, although I thought for one moment he was going to choke.
“That’s… that’s…that’s…” he stuttered after he’d swallowed his wine.
“Unexpected? Yeah, for me too.”
Lol was speechless, his bottom jaw hung loose.
“Please don’t hate me for what I’m about to say, but you did ask.” I took a large slug of wine. “Whilst Lucy and I chatted, I could see that her bright and shining future in front of her was exactly what I had in front of me once. And I didn’t take it.”
Lol furrowed his brow. “You didn’t want it. You’ve told me before. How does that get to you suddenly wanting to have a baby?”
“Well, that’s the thing. See, as I was telling Lucy about you and our university days and how we’re best friends and that I’d moved in with you at the start of the pandemic.” I paused to check Lol was following along. “She said ‘Lol? He sounds like a laugh’.”
The corners of Lol’s mouth twitched. “I have heard that one before.”
“Well, I hadn’t. In fact, I laughed like a drain when Lucy said it. I think I frightened her.”
Lol shook his head. “But I still don’t understand, Harry. Why would I hate you? I love you.”
“And I love you.” I reached over and placed my hand over his. “Do you realise that today is the two year anniversary of the first lockdown?”
“Yes, it was on 23rd March 2020, I looked it up. We’ve been living together for two years exactly and they have been the best 731 days of my life. The very best.”
Lol turned his hand over so that he could hold mine. “Me too.”
“And whilst Lucy is gorgeous and vivacious and under different circumstances I could totally plate her, in that moment I knew exactly what I want, like right now want, and that I’ve actually known it for some time.”
I took a deep breath. ”I want to start a family. I want a real baby, Lol, and I really want to make that baby real with you. You would be a fantastic dad. Please don’t hate me.”
Lol stared at me intently before raising an eyebrow. “Is this because you had to go into the office today?”
Now my jaw dropped. Why didn’t I keep my mouth shut. Oh, why didn’t I keep my fucking mouth shut?!
Lol barked out a short laugh and stood up. “You never cease to surprise me, Harry,” he said, holding out his hand. “It’s one of your more endearing qualities.”
I let out a sigh of relief; he didn’t say no.
“I am intrigued to hear your views on the mechanics of your suggestion. Shall we go home and talk about it some more?”
I took his hand and stood up. “Well, I was thinking turkey baster, unless of course you prefer-”
Lol shut me up with a kiss. It was tender and surprising and full of love. Lots of love.
Oh my God, I’m having incestuous thoughts. Who knew the new normal would turn out so perverted?
“Yes, let’s go home, Lol. Mr Tibbles will be wondering where we are.”
*Not for a while yet, Clicky. Harry and Lol will have to conceive first…*
*I have some ideas…*
*We shall see… /stubs butt… Time for a Song, Clicky…*