Merry Christmas, Dear Reader 😀 If you didn’t find a copy of Underdog Anthology X in your stocking this morning, never fear – Leggy has been exceedingly generous and posted two of his stories from the volume up at UBU…
— RooBeeDoo (@RooBeeDoo1) December 24, 2019
— RooBeeDoo (@RooBeeDoo1) December 25, 2019
… and here is my offering, ‘Lust Christmas’. It’s follows on directly from ‘Secret of the Flaming Zombies‘ which appeared in Underdog Anthology IX, if you missed that.
by Roo B. Doo
“Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.”
I glanced up from my phone and over at the hulking, leather-clad motorbike courier sharing my lift journey up to F. A. Kontrell’s offices, and wondered why in the hell he was talking to me. “Excuse me?”
“’And a taste of honey is worse than none at all‘,” he sang softly, scanning my face with an expectant look on his own. “’I Second That Emotion’ by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. I love Motown,” he added sheepishly.
The ancient mechanism of the painfully slow lift popped and wheezed, filling the silence that followed. Only one button was lit on the control panel, the one for the 5th floor, meaning the courier was going all the way up. Just my fucking luck.
“Sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I told him curtly and turned to face the doors. I hoped that would put an end to the uninvited conversation but my luck that morning, just like my luck all year, was seriously flawed.
“You were singing it.”
“No I wasn’t.”
“Yes you were, I heard you.”
“Doubtful. I hate Motown.”
The lift suddenly stopped with a jolt and shuddering rattle. The control panel displayed the number 3, but the doors remained firmly closed. I reached over and hit the ‘open door’ button several times to no avail. “Shit, we’re stuck.”
I sighed and hit the office number on my mobile, fully expecting to hear the dulcet tones of Shazza answer, and mentally shuddered.
Ian, the ex-apprentice and now general admin clerk, politely greeted me instead. “Good morning. F.A. Kontrell. How may I direct your call?”
“Hi Ian, it’s Harry. Where’s Shazza?”
“Decorating the tree.”
Typical! I fumed. The one area F.A. Kontrell’s mostly useless receptionist excelled in was finding things to do other than her actual job. She must have dressed and redressed the office Christmas tree half a dozen times since she put it up. Christmas was the apex of Shazza’s shirking year.
“Ian, the lift has broken down on the third floor. Call Building Maintenance to get us out.”
“Should I call the Fire Brigade?” he asked anxiously.
“No-” I was cut off by a blast of music; Ian had put me on hold. I wrenched the phone away from my ear. “Bastard!”
“Ride of the Valkyries.”
I’d quite forgotten about my fellow lift captive. “What?”
“Wagner, from ‘The Ring Cycle’. I like opera, too.” The courier placed the motorcycle helmet he’d been carrying on the floor and started to unzip his bulky jacket. He reached inside. “Very rousing although I personally wouldn’t recommend it for telephone hold music,” he said menacingly and brandished a screwdriver with a flourish, holding it out in front of him. “Very rousing.”
“Hello Harry?” The anthem celebrating mythical meaty wenches was suddenly replaced with the sound of an all too real one. She could barely keep the glee out of her voice. “It’s Shazza. Are you stuck on three?”
My eyes had not left the screwdriver held aloft by the grinning imbecile that I’d found myself trapped alone with. “Hello Shazza. Yes, can you call Building Maintenance and 999? We might need an ambulance.”
“Gotcha!” The courier burst out laughing. “Don’t be daft. I’m gonna try and prise the doors open. If we’re stuck on third, we could just walk out.” With that he started to jimmy the lift doors open.
“Why do you want an ambulance? Harry? Is everything okay?”
As much as I didn’t appreciate being the butt of the courier’s prank, I was fully compensated by the unexpected sound of concern in Shazza’s voice. The lazy, sneering cow rarely showed me anything other than contempt; I was touched. “Yeah, it’s okay. Forget the ambulance, just call Building Maintenance. And let Mr Kontrell know I’ll be late.
“Wait, Harry I need to talk to you.”
“It’s not like you’re going anywhere.”
BAM! Shazza’s contempt was back. It didn’t help that the courier had started whistling ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ as he worked the screwdriver from side to side, trying to separate the lift doors. I suspected he heard every word the gobby cow said.
“What do you want?” I asked crisply. “But, if it has anything to do with Christmas, Christmas parties, Christmas trees, Christmas anything, Shazza, including Secret Santa, then no, you definitely do not need to talk to me. Well?”
Silence. Argh, I knew it!
“Call Building Maintenance.” I ended the call and turned my attention to the courier. “Is it working? Are we going to escape?”
The courier had managed to prise the doors apart. Light from the lift lobby on the third floor illuminated our feet. The wretched contraption had passed the third floor and was on its way to the fourth when it decided to give up the ghost. There was no way either of us would be able to fit through the six inch gap between the lift floor and third floor ceiling; we were there for the duration.
My mobile rang. I lifted my palm up at the courier before he could speak. “’Always Look On the Bright Side of Life’, from Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’. Eric Idle. I chose this ringtone.”
He looked disappointed.
“Hello,” I answered.
“Harry, it’s me. Are you alright?” the Fat Kontroller barked down the line. “Shazza says you’re stuck in the lift.”
“Yeah, stuck on three.” I could hear Shazza’s muffled snigger in the background.
“Actually we’re stuck between third and fourth. Has Sharon called Building Maintenance yet, Mr Kontrell?”
I heard the Fat Kontroller ask Shazza, followed by a pause. “Well, get on with it then,” he said gruffly. “Hello, yes, Harry, Shazza is calling them now.”
I bloody knew it!
“Well, we’ve got the doors open but there’s no way we’ll be able to get through the gap,” I told my boss. I slid down the wall of the lift into a comfortable crouch; the courier had already sat down, legs out straight. “I’m not in here alone. I’m with…” I indicated to the courier to give me his name.
“Oh, Brian, I’m sorry for cutting you off on my ringtone. That must be your song.”
Brian shrugged. “My mum loved that film.”
“I’m in here with Brian from…” I checked the logo on his helmet. “Speedy Couriers. He’s also going to the 5th floor, so there might be something on reception that needs delivering.”
“I’ll get Shazza on to that, too. Don’t worry, Harry. I’m sure Charlie and his mop will have you out in no time.”
Great! I’m gonna be here all day, I thought sourly.
The Fat Kontroller wasn’t finished. “I do need to speak to you about the Christmas party tonight.”
Arghhh! Why? Why, God, why?
“Sure, Mr Kontrell,” I said sweetly and rolled my eyes. “Sup?”
“It’s the numbers, Harry,” the Fat Kontroller said gravely. “Pamela in Payroll has called in sick and so you’ll be down a team member for the quiz.”
Seriously? This is what’s so important?
“Well, I’m sure me and Lol can cope on our own,” I assured the Fat Kontroller. This year, instead of the usual sit down dinner and dance, the Christmas party would be held in the top floor, private room of O’Reilly’s pub on the High Street. Chicken in basket, burgers and chips, oodles of booze and a Christmas quiz. My best friend Lol had been invited, courtesy of his being the local branch manager for the blood suckers F.A. Kontrell banked with.
“No, it’s teams of three. It’s all arranged, Harry. Shazza and I have worked hard at putting this quiz together.”
No shit, you have! For the last month, during any spare moment he had, the Fat Kontroller had poured over quiz formats and questions with Shazza. I couldn’t fathom what hold that girl had over my boss, but I was dubious of it being due to her work ethic. More likely it was her voluptuous chest; Shazza had more front than Selfridges and didn’t mind displaying it.
“Okay.” I felt exasperated and I was acutely conscious that I wasn’t alone; Brian caught me looking at him and grinned. I gratefully took a Polo from the proffered packet he held out, and crunched down on the mint with my teeth. Hard. “So what do you want me to do?”
“Is there someone you could bring along tonight to be part of your threesome?” the Fat Kontroller asked.
I thudded the back of head against the wall of the lift. And then I did it again. Thud.
“Harry, what’s that thudding?”
Thud. I was trying to beat out a nasty little thought that had popped into my head about Shazza’s sudden fondness for the number three.
“Nothing. Um, I’m not sure. It’s a bit short notice, Mr Kontrell, and I am presently stuck in a lift.” I looked over at my lift companion. He’d put in earphones and was bobbing his head in time to what I strongly suspected wasn’t Wagner. I had an idea. “What kind of questions are there going to be tonight?”
“Oh well, not to give anything away,” the Fat Kontroller said brightly, “but there will be a mixture. General knowledge, TV, film, music-”
“Music?” Bingo! “Hang on a sec.”
I grabbed the toe of Brian’s biker boot and waggled it to get his attention. “Hey, Brian. Are you free tonight? Wanna party?”
“Cooee! Would anybody like some tea?”
The cavalry had arrived. Through the gap onto the outside world I watched them approach the lift. Shazza, dressed in some sort of crocheted tent, blazed the way and Ian, carrying two mugs of tea, loped along behind. It was uncanny, but from this angle they looked exactly like Laurel and Hardy, if Oliver Hardy had been a porn star and Stan Laurel six foot three.
“You alright?” Ian’s spotty face appeared in the gap. “Got you some tea,” he said, placing the two mugs on the floor of the lift. Mine looked like a distinctly milky and tepid brew. Ian may have brought me tea but I’d bet any money that Shazza had made it.
“Thank you very much,” Brian said, lifting his steaming mug to his lips. “I’m Brian.”
“I’m Shazza.” A pudgy arm and hand popped up into the gap, fingers wiggling.
Brian put down his tea and grabbed Shazza’s hand. He shook it and didn’t let go. “Well hello,” he purred seductively. He peered down through the gap, transfixed. No doubt by Shazza’s ample bosom.
Shazza giggled and simpered; I felt the gorge rise.
“Hello Ian, I’m Harry. Please tell me Building Maintenance is on its way.”
“No, Charlie’s sent for an engineer,” Ian said, sidling toward me, and providing Shazza with more room to show off her cleavage to Brian.
What? “And how long before the engineer gets here?”
“Sometime this morning,” Ian replied with a shrug. “Hopefully.”
“Hopefully?” I sighed loudly but inside I screamed: What do you mean ‘hopefully’, you lanky streak of grease? Don’t give me fucking ‘hopefully’! “They couldn’t be more precise than that? An hour? Two hours?”
“No, sorry.” At least Ian had the good grace to sound apologetic. Shazza on the other hand was, well, Shazza.
“Oh Harry, don’t be such a grouch,” she called up coquettishly. “At least you get to spend the morning in the company of such a charming man.”
Brian finally his tore his gaze away from the gap and turned toward me with a sloppy grin on his face. “This Charming Man. The Smiths.”
I had another idea. Being stuck in a confined space with a stranger was conducive for them apparently. “Not only this morning, Shazza, but this evening as well. Brian’s coming to the quiz tonight.” I paused for effect. “He’s gonna join Lol and mine’s threesome.”
Shazza’s sudden bout of coughing told me what I needed to know; someone had snitched! Inside, my scream turned into a raging roar: LOL!!
I got down on all fours to watch Shazza’s coughing fit with a cold stare. She was bent over, hacking into her hand and turning puce. You spluttering, heaving blob of nastiness, I thought. Please choke.
“Here, Ian, give her this.” I grabbed my mug of undrinkable tea and passed it through the gap. Unfortunately for Shazza, my right knee buckled at that precise moment – in no doubt due to the cramped nature of the circumstances – and the mug accidentally slipped from my hand, sending a milky wave of lukewarm tea in Shazza’s direction. She was soaked. On the plus side, the shock stopped her coughing. “Oh no, Shazza, I’m so sorry. Thank goodness it wasn’t hot.”
Shazza screeched like a demented dolphin and stomped away in the direction of the stairs. Ian chased after her, forlornly calling her name.
My mobile sprang into life. ‘Always look on the bright side of life!’
I whistled along to the song before answering. “Hello, Lol. No, no I can’t talk right now. I’ll text you. Yes, shortly. Bye.”
“You did that on purpose,” Brian said with a shrewd squint.
“What? Do you mean like you with the screwdriver?” I replied innocently. “Where you do rousing, I do dousing?”
Brian laughed and shook his head. “Gotcha. Still, that Shazza’s alright,” he said, taking a mouthful of tea.
“If you like that sort of thing, sure. You’re uniquely fortunate, Brian, to have seen Shazza’s two best features today.”
Brian leered. “Yeah.”
“Oh no, her tits are only her second best feature,” I corrected him.
He looked confused. “What’s the first?”
By now my attention was firmly fixed upon my phone, thumbs moving rapidly over the screen as I texted Lol. “Why, the back of Shazza, of course.”
To give Charlie and his mop their due, the lift engineer arrived fairly promptly, and by mid-morning Brian and I had been released from our unexpected captivity. Brian collected the package he came for and went on his way, but not before agreeing to meet Lol and me at our favourite watering hole for a pre-quiz conflab. Shazza, it appeared, had gone home to change and had not come back, so all in all, my day was picking up.
Brian was already at Dionysus, leaning against the bar and grinning inanely at the barmaid when we arrived at six thirty. I couldn’t blame him; Laticia was as graceful as she was statuesque and I’d spent plenty of time grinning at her inanely myself. However Laticia was also married, to a powerlifter, and I’d already experienced the downside of messing with the girl of someone who lifted weights; it was not one I wished to repeat. Ever.
“I thought you said he was butch,” Lol whispered to me after introductions had been made. We’d adjourned to our favourite table and Brian had gone to relieve his bladder. “More like butcher the way he was drooling over the Laticia’s rack.”
“Oh, you should have seen him with Shazza this morning. Ugh! Sorry if I got your hopes up.” I wasn’t sorry; Lol was my best friend in all the world and I loved him to pieces, but he was still under suspicion. Somebody had blabbed to Shazza, I just didn’t know who.
“Are you absolutely sure she knows about what happened?” Lol sipped on his mulled wine and gave me his best bank manager stare. “It seems to me that if Shazza did know that you’d deflowered the HR Manager with a client last Christmas, the whole office would know about it by now, if not, the whole town. Certainly Facebook.”
Lol had a point. And it was a comforting one up to a point, but he didn’t know F.A. Kontrell’s receptionist like I did. Shazza tested my fences on a daily basis, looking for weak spots, like the velociraptor she is. “Not if she’d only recently found out.”
Lol looked at me sceptically.
“I’m telling you Lol, you weren’t there. I’ve developed a sixth sense when it comes to Shazza. She knows alright.”
“And you’re quite certain it isn’t just your guilty conscience at play, Harry?”
“How’d you mean?”
Lol took a deep breath and levelled his gaze at me. “Well, you and Dana did conspire to get Josie into bed. Sweet, innocent Josie that you’d lusted after for three years. But once you did, Josie left. Quite literally, she left the country.”
Lol’s words were like a sock to the jaw. Not a day had passed without me beating myself up over what had happened, what I’d gained and what I’d lost. I’d strived to know Josie’s secret contours and spaces. I might never of found out that Josie tasted just as sweet as I’d imagined without the intervention of Dana’s sassy know how, but then at least Josie would still be in my life. I missed everything about her – her laugh, her grace, her kindness – and life, at work in particular, had been unbearable ever since.
“So it’s just my imagination?”
“Running away with me.” Click: Brian snapped his fingers.
Both Lol and I jumped. Neither of us had heard Brian return from the toilet. He sat down and drained his cup of mulled wine. “Eh? The Temptations. Do we have time for another?”
“Brian is a bit of an idiot savant when it comes to Motown,” I informed Lol, standing up. “I’ll get them. You two get acquainted. I have to pee.”
The bar was starting to fill up when I returned from the ladies, so I pondered Lol’s theory further as I waited to get Laticia’s attention. Had I simply conjured the threat of exposure because I carried a guilty conscience about the whole affair, and feared exposure? It was a perfectly plausible explanation on the surface, but underneath, in my gut, I knew Lol was wrong and I was right. I hadn’t imagined Shazza’s violent triggering at the word ‘threesome’, or her sudden fascination for the number three. Too many coincidences and I don’t believe in those.
“Hi Harry. Same again?” Laticia asked vivaciously.
“Thanks Lat, yes please.”
Laticia twirled away toward the electric urn set up at the back of the bar and grabbed three wine cups. “Nice to see you again, Harry,” she said adding cinnamon sticks and orange twists to the cups, and drowning them in hot, red wine. “You’ve not been in for a while.”
“No, I’ve been really busy at work. Did I miss anything?”
Laticia brought the brimming cups over to the bar. “Um, not much. Oh, Tracy’s gone. Fired. Do you want a tray for those?”
“Yes please.” I was nonplussed; I couldn’t remember who Tracy was.
Laticia read the blank expression on my face. “Oh, she wasn’t with us for very long. That’ll be seven fifty please.”
Tracy? Tracy? Why is that ringing a bell? I wondered, handing over a crisp twenty pound note. “Dark hair, too much make-up? A bit full of herself? Terrible waitress.”
“Yeah, she was awful. We’re well rid. I thought you knew her better.”
“No. Why would I know her better? I can barely remember who she is.”
Laticia rung up the sale and returned with my change. “Don’t you work with her sister Sharon? At least that’s what Tracy told me.”
Shazza? Is terrible Tracy Shazza’s sister?! She must have overheard me brag the whole sordid tale to Lol in here on Halloween?
Cold realisation chilled my heart and burned my cheeks. My fingers clutched at the marble top bar and dug in. “Lat, was Tracy working on Halloween?”
“Of course. You asked if you’d missed anything since the last time you were in,” Laticia chided me softly. “You were really pissed that night, Harry. I’ve never anyone put away as many Flaming Zombies as you two did.” She laughed softly at the memory and raised her eyebrows. “Your change?”
This must be what ambivalence feels like, I told myself. Relief at being vindicated – Shazza did know – and crushing disappointment. Someone had indeed blabbed, and that someone was me!!
“Thanks Lat, keep it. Merry Christmas.”
I returned to Lol and Brian carefully, who seemed to be getting on like a house on fire. My hands were shaking so that the cups rattled and tinkled together with every step.
Brian jumped up as he heard me approach and relieved me of the tray. “Watch out, I’ve already seen what Harry’s capable of with a full cup.”
“Thanks, Brian.” I leaned over and whispered in Lol’s ear as I sat down. “I know how Shazza knows.” I ignored Lol’s questioning look in return.
“Brian, pop quiz,” I announced gaily. “Who sang ‘Red, Red Wine’?”
Now it was my turn to look quizzical. “Did he?”
“Yeah, 1967,” Brian replied and furrowed his brow. “Are you thinking of UB40? That’s too easy.”
Yeah, too easy to lose my job over this whole sorry mess, I thought bitterly. I needed to speak to Lol. Alone.
“Laticia behind the bar asked that we return the tray. Do you mind? I think she fancies you,” I lied.
“Really?” Brian and Lol said in unison, Lol sounding more sceptical than Brian.
“Yes, really.” I shooed Brian off in the direction of the bar and turned to Lol once he was out of earshot. “Do you remember a barmaid who worked here called Tracy?” I asked Lol.
“Tracy doesn’t work here any more?”
“You remember her?”
Lol cleared his throat and drank some wine. “She gave me her number.”
“A few weeks back, just before Halloween.” Lol shrugged.
“And how did she take the rejection?”
“Badly,” Lol said with a grimace. To be fair, Tracy wasn’t the first woman to not realise that beneath Lol’s suave and debonair exterior beat the heart of a raging queer. Lol hid his sexual proclivity so well, and was so practised at it, that I very much doubted she would be the last.
I took a gulp of wine. “Well, Tracy also happens to be Shazza’s sister and she was working here on Halloween. She must of heard me spilling my guts to you and then spilled hers to Shazza.”
“Now hold on, Harry.” Lol squeezed my knee to calm me down. “You don’t know anything. Did Tracy know you work with Shazza?”
My eyes flicked toward the bar. Brian was ambling back with a confused look on his face. “According to Laticia, yes.”
I shushed Lol before Brian returned to his seat. “Any luck, Brian?”
“The barmaid says she’s married.”
“And a lesbian.”
“Oh too bad,” I commiserated. “Come on, drink up. We need to get moving or we’ll miss the start of the quiz.”
Brian still looked bemused. “You thought she fancied me, but it turns out she’s gay,” he said and drained his wine cup in one. He wiped his lips with the back of his hand. “Is it ‘I heard it through the grapevine’?” he said with a smirk.
“Oh, Brian, you got me.” I beamed at him and finished my cup.
Lol clapped him on the shoulder. “Oh, Brian, you don’t know the half of it.”
Any worries I had that Shazza knew my tawdry secret and planned to make my evening as uncomfortable as possible were not lessened on spotting the imposing figure stationed by the stairs at O’Reilly’s. “Oh fuck, it’s Alfie!” I hissed at Lol.
Alfie was Josie’s ex-boyfriend and the brute that had put me in hospital a couple of Christmases before, when he’d caught me trying seduce his girl by exploiting her weakness for chocolate. Built like a brick shithouse, it would not have surprised me if that was also his middle name.
Shazza had once tried, unsuccessfully, to publicly humiliate me about the incident with Josie and the chocolate fountain that I’ve bought for her as a Secret Santa gift. In hiring the venue where Alfie worked for her ‘threesome’ quiz office party, it looked as if my suspicion of Shazza’s evil intentions was well founded. She was nothing if not a loathsome creature of habit.
Lol took the lead. “Good evening,” he greeted Alfie politely, ignoring his menacing stare. “We’re for the F.A. Kontrell private party upstairs.”
Alfie produced a clipboard from behind his back. “Names,” he ordered officiously.
“Lol Williams, Harry Egg and Brian…” Lol looked back at our teammate, who was already bopping his head to the beat of the music coming from the downstairs bar. “Brian, what’s your surname?”
“Epstein,” Brian replied helpfully.
Seriously? “Your name’s Brian Epstein?” I asked him incredulously. “Did you mum really love The Beatles as well?”
“No, but I do.” Brian smiled. “It could have been worse. Dad wanted to call me Jeffrey.”
Whether that was true or not, I didn’t know but I laughed out loud. My unexpected guffaw loosened the tight knot in my stomach, but earned a fierce stare from Alfie in return. Emboldened by the release of tension, I stared back until his eyes dropped back toward the clipboard. He looked it up and down nonchalantly, taking his time and noisily sucking his lips. Eventually stood aside to let us pass.
Gandalf, eat your heart out, I thought happily and skipped up the stairs, and straight into the back of Lol. “What’s up?”
Lol stood stock still at the entrance to the private room. “You’re not gonna believe this.”
I peered round from behind him at the scene ahead: the majority of my work colleagues – or the FAKkers, as I fondly refer to them – were already sat at tables arranged for the start of the quiz, chatting excitedly. At one end of the room, an empty stage had been set up with a mic stand and speakers, the traditional pile of Secret Santa gifts set off to one side, and at the other end, there was a fully stocked bar. I followed Lol’s stare toward the bar and saw the Fat Kontroller sat at one end of it, with Shazza next to him draped along it, dressed that looked like little more than a bag of tinsel. And then I saw the barmaid she was chatting to. Dark hair, too much make-up and with the appearance of being rather too full of herself; the resemblance was uncanny. Tracy!
“What’s the hold up?” Brian asked, having caught up. He was already unzipping his anorak and surveying the room. “Is that Shazza? Free bar, is it?”
“Yes, go ahead,” I said hoarsely and ushered him past. He practically galloped off in the direction of my office nemesis. My life has degenerated into a Viz comic strip, I thought bitterly. To be brought down by The Fat Slags would be a new low.
I grabbed Lol’s arm and held him back. “What excuse did you give to Tracy when she asked you out? You didn’t tell her the truth?”
Lol swallowed hard and gave me a wan smile. “Mostly the truth. Not that I’m a friend of Dorothy’s, if that’s what you mean.”
“Then what?” Brian had reached the bar and our absence had been finally noted. I saw the Fat Kontroller shake his hand and start to scan the room.
“That I’m a friend of Harry’s and that I’m deeply in love with her.”
“Oh, Lol, you’re too sweet.” I gave my best friend forever a hug and kissed him on the lips. “You’re also full of shit, but I love you deeply, too.”
“Harry. Lol. You’re late.” The Fat Kontroller’s voice boomed out from the the speakers. All eyes in the room turn toward us. “Well, don’t just stand there. Come and get a drink, we’re about to start the quiz.”
I hesitated. I could feel the fugly sisters’ beady eyes looking in my direction.
“Seriously, H, who cares what Shazza thinks she knows. I won’t let her hurt you,” Lol said softly and grabbed my hand. He led me toward the bar. “Besides, you know Shazza; whatever she’s got planned, she’s bound to fuck it up.”
He has a point, I thought. She is a loathsome creature of habit.
“Harry,” the Fat Kontroller gesticulated to the microphone in his hand, “I want you to get me one of these for the office. It suits my voice, don’t you think?”
“Mr K, you already have more than enough gravitas,” I said silkily and kissed his cheek. “Do you want to make us all deaf?”
The Fat Kontroller appeared to give the question some consideration. “Probably not,” he replied wistfully.
I watched Lol greet Tracy like the lost love of his life as he ordered our drinks. He caught me staring and nodded toward Brian, who was revelling in Shazza’s rapt attention. As nauseating as it was to see, at least Shazza had quite forgotten about me. Lol winked at me before turning back to flirt with the barmaid some more.
“Okay, Harry?” the Fat Kontroller asked mischievously into the mic.
The heads of my fellow FAKkers craned round once more in my direction.
I took the mic from the Fat Kontroller grasp and linked my arm with his, leading him toward the stage. I replied into the mic, “Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends.”
In the distance, I heard Brian laugh.
Clicky, Cade and I will be back later this evening, Dear Reader, with ‘songs about drugs or alcohol’, Day 8 of our mammoth 30 Day Song Challenge. I’m off the research the topic now, so have some Christmas cheer ❤
Dear Reader, I thought I’d share with you my tale from Underdog Anthology VII…
*Fanks, Clicky… /pats snout… Be ready at the end with a Song…*
by Roo B. Doo
Caroline Kempton-Truss closed the slim, pink folder in front of her, and placed it on the stack of coloured folders in her tray, ready for filing. Her desk was neatly spartan, like the rest of her office. She preferred to keep her surroundings like her thinking – lean, clean and tidy; everything in its right place. As the Local Authority’s newly appointed Director of Public Health, she fully intended to encourage her way of thinking throughout the workforce.
She gazed out of the picture window at the car park below. A steady stream of employees were leaving for the Christmas break already, tightly wrapped up against the bitter winds that swirled around the building regardless of the time of year. To Caroline they looked like ants – a slack army of fat ants that merely required whipping into shape. Now that the January health campaign was complete and ready to roll, she felt content to start their transformation.
There was a soft rap on the door behind her. Caroline returned to her desk and sat down, smoothing the crease in her tailored trousers as she crossed her legs. “Come in.”
Her secretary, Natalie, opened the office door and stepped inside. “Hi Caroline. I was wondering if I could possibly leave now. I have accrued sufficient overtime.”
Caroline looked at the slim, gold watch on her wrist. “It’s only two o’clock.”
“Yes, but it’s Christmas Eve,” Natalie spluttered nervously, “and the offices are closing early today at four anyway.” She hopped from foot to foot. “Plus it’s very quiet out there. It’s Christmas Eve.”
“Yes, I know it’s Christmas Eve,” Caroline snapped, immediately regretted her tone at Natalie’s flinch. Velvet glove, Caroline, she reminded herself, Velvet glove. “Of course. Yes of course you can leave early, Nat, but come and sit down first. I have a couple of things I need to talk to you about.”
Natalie closed the office door and sat down dutifully next to Caroline’s desk, hands tightly gripped in her lap. “Should I go fetch my pad and pen?”
“Good thinking, but not necessary,” Caroline replied, sliding open the bottom drawer of her desk. “This is for you. Merry Christmas,” she continued, handing over a cellophane wrapped basket filled with tubs and bottles, nestled in straw. “Smellies. They’re all natural and sustainably produced.”
Natalie sniffed the cellophane package gingerly. “Oh yes, I can tell,” she said, blushing, and placed the basket under her chair. “I’m sorry but I didn’t get you anything.”
“That’s okay.” Caroline leaned back in her desk chair and surveyed the secretary she’d inherited when she’d taken the job. Natalie was efficient, attentive and punctual; everything she could wish for in a PA. Her extensive knowledge of Local Authority protocol and procedures was a boon for Caroline’s ambitions. But Natalie was irredeemably flawed in Caroline’s eyes: she was a mess in need of fixing. “How old are you, Nat?”
Natalie raised her eyebrows at the bluntness of the question. “Oh.” She shifted in her seat, deciding to sit on her hands. “Um, well I’m going to be forty-five tomorrow.”
Now Caroline felt uncomfortable; she thought Natalie looked much older. “Tomorrow? Your birthday’s tomorrow?”
“Yes, that’s why my parents called me Natalie. Because I was born on Christmas Day.”
“Oh well, very many happy returns for tomorrow.” Caroline smiled broadly but thought, Forty-five? You look at least ten years older. Perfect. “Nat, I hope you don’t think me rude but you are exactly the type I’d like us to hit, and hit hard, with the ‘New You’ health campaign for January.”
“How do you mean?” Natalie asked, her eyes narrowing. “You want another secretary to look after you?”
“No, not at all,” Caroline exclaimed, realising her gaffe. She attempted to reign in the situation. “You’re brilliant, Nat. No, I was thinking more broadly about middle-aged women in general. You know, too busy working and maintaining families to have time to look after themselves properly. No time to cut out the vices that, they wrongly believe, help them to cope.”
“But I don’t drink or smoke,” Natalie replied cautiously, “and I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.”
“Ah but you do vape.” Caroline licked her lips. “I’ve seen you downstairs in the car park at lunchtimes. The vapour clouds those things make are hard to miss.”
Natalie cocked her head to one side and gnawed at her bottom lip. “But vaping helped me quit, Caroline. Without it, I’d still be smoking twenty a day.”
“And it’s commendable that you’ve quit smoking, it really is. Tobacco is the worst,” Caroline said emphatically. She herself had tried smoking once at college but the taste disgusted her, so she had no trouble in not taking it up. “But when you’ve gone through the pain and strife of kicking one disgusting vice, why replace it with another?”
Natalie shook her head. “I don’t think of vaping as disgusting. I find it relaxing and it’s much safer than smoking.”
“Ah but the jury is still out on its safety, Nat. When smoking first became popular, the long-term health problems it causes weren’t known. In fact smoking was promoted as a good thing. The same could be true of vaping. We just don’t know.” Caroline re-crossed her legs, again smoothing the crease of her trousers. It was a sound argument, regardless of her personal view of the practice.
Natalie continued gnawing her lip. “And it would only be for January?”
“Yes!” Caroline smacked her hand flat against the surface of her barren desk. “Exactly. For the ‘New You’ campaign. Think of it in terms of Caesar’s Wife.”
“Yes. It means to be seen to be above reproach. Look at it this way – how can we persuade the public to change their ways if we are not prepared to do it ourselves?”
Natalie’s lowered gaze flick up toward the office door. “I will think about it over Christmas.”
“Don’t think, Nat. Do!” Caroline chuckled. “‘Do for the New You’. It is the campaign’s strapline after all.”
“Okay,” Natalie murmured. “Is there anything else or can I go now?”
“Well,” Caroline mused, “You eat an awful lot of red meat. Bacon sandwiches at your desk for breakfast several times a week. I’m vegan, but fortunately I can tolerate the smell. Others though might find it too enticing – going vegetarian is one of the key planks of the ‘New You’ campaign.” Caroline could tell from the look on Natalie’s face that she was still sceptical but ploughed on regardless. “It would really help others around you if the bacon butties could be knocked on the head for the month as well.”
Natalie stood up. “No, I mean is there anything else you need me to do before I can go home?”
“Oh sure, well just this filing, thanks.” Caroline grabbed the stack of folders from her tray and handed them over to Natalie. “And then you can go. As the Duty Officer until we close up at four, I’ll be here for a couple of hours yet. There’s no rest for the wicked, eh?”
“No.” Natalie turned to leave. “Merry Christmas, Caroline.”
“You too. And have a very happy birthday, Nat. I look forward to seeing a ‘New You’ in the New Year.”
After Natalie had left, Caroline turned her attention back to the scene outside her window and contemplated how the conversation with Natalie had gone. True, she hadn’t got a firm commitment from her, but Caroline felt confident that it had gone pretty well, despite the shaky start. Every journey starts with a single step, she reassured herself smugly.
The sky was already starting to darken and the stream of departing employees had turned into a trickle. Soon I’ll be the only person left, Caroline thought and stifled a yawn. She decided that a brisk walk around the emptying building would liven her up. Stopping only to pick up her mobile phone, Caroline left her office.
Her stroll took her through several desolate floors of the building. She sighed and tutted at the desk clutter on display, safe in the knowledge that hardly anybody was still around to see her displeasure. Caroline passed bank after bank of desks that heaved with paperwork, tacky personal effects and garish Christmas decorations. The kitchenette areas on each of the floors told their own horror story. Sweet tins full of uneaten cakes and biscuits were piled high on counters, just waiting for staff to return after the break. The fridges were no better, packed as they were with plastic milk bottles, all at varying levels of emptiness, marked with each owner’s initials in thick, black ink. This whole place is infected, she thought disdainfully, I’ll have my work cut out for me here.
It was just past four o’clock by the time Caroline returned to the deserted Public Health department. With everybody else gone, the overhead lighting had switched off automatically, and the floor felt abandoned. Caroline shivered and wondered if the heating had also been turned off. She walked smartly back to her office, glad that she could finally pack her things up to go home, but when she got there, it wasn’t empty.
“Nat?” Caroline stopped in the doorway and called to the shadowy figure, looking out of the window. “What are you doing standing in the dark. I thought you’d already left.”
“I had,” Natalie replied. She turned her head toward Caroline. “But I forgot to take my Christmas present, so I walked back.” She pointed at the cellophane basket still sitting under the chair next to the desk. “And I also have a gift for you.”
“You didn’t have to do that,” Caroline chided with a smile. The flutter of concern Caroline had felt on spying a shadowy figure in her darkened office had dissipated to be replaced with warm glow of acceptance. She decide to push her luck. “You know, your active participation in the New Year campaign would be present enough.”
Natalie shrugged and turned her head back to view outside the window. “Look. The Moon is rising. It’s not quite full.”
Caroline joined Natalie at the window. “Oh yes.” Caroline smiled, “Thank God it’s not a full Moon. The last thing anyone needs on Christmas Eve is a werewolf on the rampage.”
“Yeah,” Natalie laughed softly. “It’s a fiction created by Hollywood, you know.”
“What is? The Moon or werewolves?”
“Oh the Moon is real, but so are werewolves. The first has no effect on the other though. Except in the movies.”
“Really? How do you know that?” Caroline checked her wristwatch; it was all very well chitchatting with staff but time was ticking on. She moved away to collect her handbag and coat.
Natalie didn’t move. “In Poland, where my grandparents came from, there is a long tradition of werewolves, and many legends. Practically the whole of eastern Europe has them. And none of them involve the cycles of the Moon as far as I can tell. Still, everyone believes it does.”
Caroline pulled on her coat and started buttoning it. “Have you made a study of it?” she asked distractedly.
“A little because of my birthday. According to Polish myth, werewolves are born on Christmas Day. It’s an affront to God or something.” Natalie turned to Caroline and grinned. “I’m not one, by the way,” she said, holding up her hands.
“That’s good to know,” Caroline said, belting up her coat and hoisting the strap of her handbag over her shoulder. “Well, I think it’s time we pushed off. Do you live very far from here? I can give you a lift.”
“Not far, but no.” Natalie retrieved the gift basket from under the chair and joined Caroline at the door. “I’m meeting my brother downstairs. Actually there’s something I wanted to ask you about.”
“Sure. Let’s walk and talk.” Caroline led the way through the darkened office to the brightly lit lift lobby. She pressed the button to call for a lift and smiled at Natalie. “What’s on your mind?”
Natalie watched the progress of the lift’s journey up from the ground floor on the electronic display above its doors. “It’s about what you said earlier and Caesar’s wife. Is that going to be in effect for all our health campaigns from now on, or just the ‘New You’ one?”
“Ideally, yes-” A whistling howl of racing wind filling the lift shaft interrupted Caroline’s reply. She grimaced at the noise. “Leading by example is so important, I think.” The lift arrived and she ushered Natalie to get in first. “At the very least I’d like us to be seen to be practicing what we preach.” She hit the button for the ground floor.
“Like a religion?” Natalie asked slowly, gnawing softly on her bottom lip.
“Well no, but in many ways, yes.” Caroline tittered at the analogy; she hadn’t thought of Public Health quite like that before, but now that she had, she rather liked it; she would use it in the future. “Our bodies are temples after all.”
They reached the ground floor and started toward the exit to the car park. Caroline’s elegant heels click-clacked on the polished stone floor as she crossed the Reception area. A lone security guard sat behind the counter, looking bored. “Merry Christmas,” she called to him as she passed.
Natalie stopped at the counter, placing the gift basket on it. “Hey Caroline!” she shouted at the retreating figure of her boss. “Caroline. Have you met my twin brother Gene?”
Caroline stopped and walked back to Natalie and the guard, who was prodding at the gift basket with his finger, nose wrinkled.
“I didn’t know your brother worked here, Nat,” she said, apprehensively. She’d barely paid the security guard any attention before, but now that she looked, she could see the resemblance between him and Natalie. He was darker and hairier than her, but they had the same eyes. “So it’s your birthday tomorrow as well? What time will you be finishing?”
“Tomorrow,” Gene replied sullenly.
“Oh well. Happy birthday for tomorrow anyway.” Caroline nodded and turned to leave. “To both of you. And have a lovely Christmas.” Pleasantries concluded, and with the exit in sight, all she wanted to do was leave.
“Caroline’s a vegan, Gene.” Natalie’s voice rung out clearly across reception. “She wants us to give up eating meat for the New Year.”
Caroline stopped in her tracks. “Now Natalie…” She turned and was enveloped in a cloud of steam.
“And vaping,” Natalie said drawing on her vape contraption and releasing another cloud of steam in Caroline’s direction. “She’s thinking of starting a religion.”
“What? Another one?” Gene sneered. “Is there a fucking seminary, churning out Public Health priests?”
Caroline held her breath and batted the vapour cloud away. She was lost for words and perplexed at the sudden change in her secretary; she’d never encountered such insubordination before. “You’re not allowed-”
“Not allowed?” Natalie roared, interrupting Caroline. “I’m not allowed to vape inside? Why not? There’s nobody else here.” She turned to her brother. “Is anybody else left in the building, Gene?”
Gene’s jaw jerked forwards several times, as if it was trying to leave his face. “No, sis. Just us,” he barked and gnashed his teeth. “They made sure they all left in good time,” he croaked.
“Now look here-” Caroline was interrupted again, this time by Gene falling off his chair, his body convulsing violently. “Oh my god! Is he okay? Natalie?!”
Natalie peered serenely over the reception counter. “Yeah, he’s fine. He’ll just be a second.” She turned her attention back to Caroline. “But you might not be,” she said coldly. “That’s up to you.”
Caroline’s mouth flapped silently. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing or hearing. The sound of tortured whines and yelps coming from behind the desk hurt her ears. The stretching, cracking and snapping noises were turning her legs to jelly. “I… I… I…”
“That’s right,” Natalie spat, “it’s all about you, isn’t it Caroline? You want to turn everybody into an replica image of you because you’re so wonderful.” She blew another cloud of vape in her boss’s direction. “Don’t think the rest of us here don’t know what you’re up to. The way you constantly judge us. We’ve seen it all before. And to be frank, we’re fucking tired of it.”
A maleficent howl reverberated around the empty reception lobby. Caroline’s bladder gave way, as did her legs, and she collapsed to the floor with a sodden thump. She sobbed in horror as the howling suddenly stopped, to be replace by a deeply sinister growl. What is happening? her mind whimpered.
Natalie crouched down next to the quaking Caroline. She put her arm around her back and held her upright. “It was funny you mentioning werewolves earlier. It must be your obsession with transformation that made you think of it. Time for your gift, I think.”
She lifted the shaking woman to her feet and walked her closer to the reception desk. Pulling up Caroline’s coat sleeve to reveal her trembling arm, Natalie gave three sharp whistles. A snarling maw appeared.
“I like you Caroline. I don’t want to have to kill you like all the rest,” Natalie cooed. “They’ll just install another knob, exactly like you, to try and change us.” She gave another whistle, low and long.
Caroline shrieked in pain and terror as Gene’s slavering jaws clamped around her arm. She felt a viscous pooling of blood and saliva on the desktop beneath her arm. She screamed again.
Natalie smacked Gene’s snout firmly and whistled again. Caroline’s arm fell limply from his jaws and he backed away, growling and licking his chops.
“That, Caroline, is your Christmas gift from me and the rest of your work colleagues,” Natalie whispered fiercely into her ear. “Transformation. You are going to be amazed at how different the ‘New You’ will be next month.”
Have a Song, Dear Reader 😀
Happy Day, Dear Reader! Thoughtful Man saw a news story this morning that brought a smile to his face…
This is how you respond to idiocy. Don't cave to it. Confront it. pic.twitter.com/mmpJUqshDu— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) December 18, 2018
…And ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ is not the only Christmas classic receiving calls to be culled. Thoughtful Man has been extremely vexed of late…
Shane MacGowan responds to calls for the word ‘FAGGOT’ to be removed from ‘Fairytale Of New York’
… And talking of outside…
Breaking: The Govt is today pushing the button on every single one of its no-deal Brexit plans and implementing them all *in full*.— Jack Maidment (@jrmaidment) December 18, 2018
There are 320 workstreams across Whitehall on no-deal with each workstream likely containing numerous plans.
*So they’ve finally decided to shift their arses, Clicky?…/stubs butt... Talk about leave it to the last minute…*
Have a Song 😉
Thoughtful Man sent me something to watch on Arse-about-Facebook this morning. A Christmas ad from 1978…
*Crikey! That brought back memories, Clicky… /lights up… Packed with stars of yesteryear…*
*Thirty years apart butt…/flicks ash… also packed with stars, Clicky…*
Apart from the quality of the production, the biggest difference between the Christmas ad of 1978 and the Christmas ad of 2017, is that one concerned itself with selling products whilst the other is selling an idea…
‘Unlike John Lewis’s famously tear-jerking adverts of 2011 to 2015, the tone of Moz The Monster is more in line with last year’s lighter ad, Buster the Boxer.’
*/:O… He does?! Go and get it Clicky… /deep drag… For Dear Reader…*
*/squints… Moor covfefe-coloured chillin, Clicky? *
Of course, the M&S advert doesn’t feature any products either but it is flogging a movie…
Butt what of Moz?
*No, Clicky, the one under the bed… /relights fag…*
Sew… could be moose, “would-be-Arab” and/or cheese…
*Knot lanky Cleese, Clicky… /rolls eyes… Although… /coughs… At least that one’s short…*
*Thank you… /stubs butt… Enough of Christmas ads, Clicky… /sticks out tongue… Ugh! This year’s batch are gruesome… Go get sumfing to cleanse the palette…*