“You can’t wear that.”
I was aware that I was speaking out of turn. That Gordon was my boss and that I shouldn’t have challenged him. But some situations require you to take a stand. In this instance over the t-shirt he’d had printed and was planning to wear to a pirate-themed event funded by one of our suppliers.
He’d been so pleased when he’d shown me. So proud of his work. The front bore our camera shop’s logo, festooned with clip art cutlasses and Jolly Rogers. On the back he’d listed the photographic services our store offered, tweaked with a pirate theme and written in a quilled font across a foxed, yellowed scroll.
1 hour rape
4 hour murder
24 hour pillage
“You just can’t.” I persisted.
“Why?” he replied, deflated. Worryingly oblivious.
“Because it says you provide rape. For a full hour.”
“Within the hour,” he said briskly. “We print photos within the hour.”
“But this says rape!”
“Oh, everyone will get the joke,” he said. “They have a great sense of humour at these events.” He paused to consider my opinion. “I mean, 24hr rape I’d understand…”
The cleaners were chatting in the staff kitchen this morning.
“Alan something,” One of them said, trying to recall the name of a deceased local barber. “Brilliant. Only charged £3. Didn’t believe in hairspray.”
“What did he use?” her colleague asked.
They always spoke like this. In dryly amusing fragments. Snippets and sighs. As if their exchanges were determined efforts in efficiency. But when I walked in on their conversation the other morning it seemed especially concise.
The three of them were sitting around a table, each speaking in turn. The first with a note of victory, as if she’d just successfully answered a quiz question. The second like she’d just failed to answer the same question. And the third as though she was confirming the answer.
I waited for more. Some context. But they all sat back in contented silence. Staring into space. No more needing to be said.
The quiet was heavy and compressing. I fought a sudden, rising desire to speak. A desperate, tick-like compulsion. I stirred my mug of tea and bit my lip. The clock hit 8am.
“Right,” One of them said, slapping her knees then getting to her feet with a soft grunt. The others followed suit and the three of them left the room.
I waited for the door to fully close behind them before releasing the word like a long held breath.