If you happened to stumble your way through the buffed and shining revolving door to stagger forward to the sanitised, public-facing cubicles of the cover-story building, you’d be forgiven for thinking that all was as it seems.
Except, as we all know, things are rarely so simple.
The smiling helpers ensconced in their shining, plexiglass cocoons are merely a front. A façade. Like a Cuban shopfront on a different continent in a different time.
For all their beaconing promise what lies behind them is a standard government issue corridor. You know the sort. All straight lines, expressionless doors and stark lighting. Like a beige-carpeted runway to hell.
Behind one of the doors – don’t ask me which one, I swear it changes after every designated tea-break – sits a man. A perfectly ordinary man, with a perfectly ordinary life in a perfectly ordinary office. He is neither handsome nor ugly. You could criticise the fact that he has far too much face for the size of his head but that would be churlish, not to mention utterly ignored.
You see…he has a job to do.
And do it he shall.
Before him upon his orderly desk, next to his bland, orderly family photographs sits a deep stack of papers. Last year’s trees become last month’s scrolls filled with last week’s writerly dreams. Yesterday’s news and tomorrow’s offering to the fish and chip gods.
A metronome measures out time with an almost metronomic precision – its occasional deviation the only rebellion it can mount. With each successive tick the man alternates between two well-practised actions. Tick. Pick up a page. Tick. Stamp it with a blood-red cross.
And so on.
And so forth.
At some chaotic pre-determined moment the man places a page on his desk and sits back, his too-large face a study of consideration. He pauses the metronome with his finger and opens a drawer underneath the desk with his other hand. From the drawer he removes a box which he places on the desk. He stares at the needle of the metronome, the weight of his gaze a warning. He pauses and then nods, satisfied he has been understood. He draws his finger away. The needle quivers but holds firm. Another nod, and then both hands are on the box.
Inside the box, another. And inside that, another. And inside that, another still. At the seventh box the man plucks a tiny key from his waistcoat pocket and turns it in the lock. It clicks and opens under protest, groaning like a soul who seeks to recall but has forgotten the mechanics of language.
The man dips thumb and forefinger into the small wooden box and plucks out a yellow smiley sticker which he affixes to the top right hand corner of the page. He reaches into the box once more and pulls out an eighth container from which he retrieves a golden bell no bigger than his elegant right thumb. His hand shudders and the bell responds with a crystal peal that belies its stature.
A scant moment passes before a door opens in the cork-panelled wall behind the man’s desk. A head too big for its associated face extends into the room, followed by an impossibly long arm which whips forward and snatches up the smiley-bedecked paper before disappearing back to the relative safety of the outdated fixtures.
The man blinks heavily, creases his mouth into the faintest of smiles and nods once more.
And so it begins again…tick…tick…tick…
The say when life gives you lemons you should make lemonade. Personally I think you should fuh…fuh…ffff…forego the lemonade and seek out the the tequila and salt but that’s just the way I feel most breakfasts.
I got handed neither lemons, nor tequila, nor salt…but I did receive a rejection for a story that I like from a publication that I (still very much) like. So I figured, there were two options – either sit around drinking virtual lemonade or write something spontaneous based on rejection.
I’m not much of a one for lemonade.
And besides, there’s always time to have a tequila and a bit of a cry.