Telling it like it is
by Mike Evis
The wind blowing through the darkening streets was bitter, penetrating right into Robert’s bones. At least the rain had stopped now, but it had persisted most of the day. For a moment the image of sitting in front of a warm fire came to his mind, and he fought against it. It was a pleasure he could scarce imagine now, and he felt an ugly jealousy rise within, when he thought of all the people who would go home and be warm tonight.
Glancing at the threadbare hat by his feet, he avoided looking at the shop window behind in case he saw his reflection. Today had been a bad day. A pound coin, two twenty pences, and a scattering of pennies. Fat lot of use. Wet days like today were never any good, people just scurried past, keen to get shelter. And the overhang from the building did little to stop the rain driving in, blown at forty five degrees, soaking his blankets. There wasn’t even enough to buy a coffee, let alone the drink he needed to deaden his nerves and memories.
Sitting with his back to the brightly lit department store, he could ignore the enticing images of a life he would never have, but he couldn’t block out the continual thoughts of regret, of a life he could have lived, that he’d thrown away, all because of one impulsive act. But no – that was wrong – it wasn’t that sudden. It was something he’d brooded over, whilst sitting at his anonymous desk in that grey building over long months until he reached boiling point and made his resolution. From now on he would tell it as it was.
He smiled then – briefly – to think of the young man he’d been, a full head of hair, all his own teeth – and his health too – ah, the youthful nativity. And again he was condemned to remember.
In the featureless grey of the sterile meeting room, far removed from windows and natural light, in the middle of the presentation he blurted out ‘This is complete bullshit!’ Everyone looked up, frozen in surprise. Even Chris, his smooth snakelike manager stopped in mid flow before swiftly resuming.
‘These new procedures will ensure a smooth transition to a new work paradigm-‘ he calmly pronounced.
‘You just want to screw us. You want us working longer hours for less pay. You spout a load of meaningless words-‘
Chris looked irritated.
‘I’m sorry you feel this way-‘
‘I’ve had enough. You don’t respect us workers at all.’
He looked round for support, but the others sat there, their eyes looking at the table, or at their feet.
‘We should take this offline,’ said Chris. ‘Let’s go to my office.’
It was over quicker than he expected. Soft words masked the hardness beneath – ‘we need people to share our journey’ ‘you need to freed from your present role’ ‘your goals diverge from the company’s path’ – and before he knew it, he was out.
He remembered that distant, heady feeling of freedom, walking out into the car park. There were plenty of other jobs to be found – except when he started looking there weren’t. The stories differed – the economic situation was bad, his skills weren’t what they were looking for… Gradually he stopped looking, then, bit by bit, he’d lost everything. All because he had to tell it like it was on a day long ago.
Mike Evis is a member of Didcot Writers Group. He has had stories published in various anthologies.