BY JAYNE EVANS
Copyright is held by the author.
TONY COLLINS breezed past Ken’s cubicle. “There’s a message from your wife at the front desk amigo.” He said. Bloody Tony Collins. “Everyone look at me! See how busy and important I am! Look how indispensable I am to the company!” Bloody brown-noser.
A message? At the front desk? From my wife? Ken pushed his chair back and gently patted his hair as he stood. Although these days, what was left of his crowning glory was never in much danger of shifting, even slightly, from where he placed it carefully every morning.
The last time someone at the company had gotten “a message for them at the front desk” it had turned out to be one of those awful strip-o-grams for a youth in the mail room who’d just turned 18.
Well, Ken certainly wasn’t 18, so at least it couldn’t be that.
But why would Marion leave a message for him at the front desk? It was all very inconvenient and rather embarrassing. Why hadn’t she just called his extension as usual? And of course, it had to be bloody Tony Collins who’d delivered the message. No doubt thinking the same thing, with his supercilious smirk.
I’d like to wipe that smirk off Tony Collins’ face one day. Maybe I’ll do it on the day I retire, thought Ken. Yes, that’s what he’d do. Everyone would be gathered in the lunch room where all the staff presentations and birthday celebrations took place and he’d give a gracious thank you speech after accepting the usual cut glass fruit bowl engraved with his years of tenure. Then, he’d carefully place his retirement gift on the table and punch Tony Collins right in the kisser. Yes, it would feel good.
On his last day in the office, Ken would be unpredictable and Marion couldn’t accuse him of having no spontaneity then, could she? It wasn’t that he lacked spontaneity, he was all for a surprise, just as long as he knew about it beforehand. It was just that he liked to plan, you see. That way if something came up unexpectedly, you could be prepared for it. Marion said that was Ken’s problem and that he should learn to live with unpredictability. After all, you never knew what might happen in the future. She said.
Ken was certainly learning to live with unpredictability these days, what with Marion waiting for him like a coiled serpent when he came through the door in the evening when she’d unleash a torrent of fury or an avalanche of tears on him for something he’d done or hadn’t done, or had said or hadn’t said, or had thought or hadn’t thought. It was exhausting. Then there would be supper, virtually thrown at him from across the room some evenings. In fact if he was being honest, supper had been thrown at him from across the room once or twice recently.
Marion had turned into a whirling dervish of emotional turmoil. Or the menopause, as Ken had been reliably informed by Tom, whose wife was going through the same she-wolf-like transformation. Although Ken couldn’t see what his brother had to complain about. Whenever the four of them had gone out to dinner, Sally was always great fun. But Tom said that Ken didn’t know the half of it and that Sally’s mood swings had him walking on egg shells. One minute they’d be sitting watching TV everything perfectly fine, then the next she’d be running to the bathroom in floods of tears over the way he’d looked at her.
Marion had gone on and on about them taking Spanish lessons together as a way of “expanding their minds.” Well, work already had Ken’s mind fully expanded, thank you. The last thing he needed was further expansion with bloody Spanish lessons.
So, Marion had gone ahead alone and signed herself up for the classes and now sprinkled vocabulary en Espanol into every conversation. Even more annoying was how she would translate every word for him, like he was some half whit who couldn’t work it out for himself.
But Ken couldn’t deny that the Spanish lessons seemed to have given Marion a new lease on life and at least they’d taken her focus off him. Although, he hadn’t been prepared for just how involved she would become in them. It seemed that Marion had formed quite a friendship with the others in the group and each week after class they’d all go to a coffee bar “to consolidate their learning” as Marion called it. What did that even mean? Marion never used to talk like that. In the old days she would have said they’d gone to the coffee bar “for a bit more practice.” But no, now she was “consolidating her learning.” Then there were the weekend workshops where the class had the chance to practice their conversation skills with native Spanish speakers which, apparently, was very important if you wanted to really embrace the language. Marion said.
The usual slackers were collected around the water cooler as Ken smiled his hellos on his way down to the front desk.
“You know, it’s the only way to really embrace the language.” Bloody Tony Collins was there of course, giving Mary from accounting the benefit of his wisdom.
“Hello, Courtney. I understand there’s a message for me?” Getting a message at reception from your wife was embarrassing enough, but knowing that Courtney’s indiscretion could always be relied upon, well, it just twisted the knife. The whole company probably knew about it by now. She handed Ken a sealed, letter sized envelope. The size of envelope that bills and bank statements come in, but red. It could have been an invitation.
“Not bad news I hope?” Courtney’s head strained over Ken’s shoulder as he ran his finger along the seal.
“No, no, no nothing like that!” Laughed Ken, casually stepping out of Courtney’s eye line.
His eyes began to blur as he took in the first few sentences.
Something about them not communicating anymore and them wanting different things; he didn’t understand her needs as a woman; better to say it now; Spanish lessons; she’d met someone else…
Bloody Tony Collins slithered into reception. “Tony, your three o’clock is here. I’ve put him in the small meeting room,” Courtney said, smiling.
“Muchas Grrrrracias,” said Tony, his lips contorting into a volley of r’s that ricocheted around reception like a machine gun.