She paused her typing for a moment. “And I’ll tell you another thing, Daniel,” she said, then fixed him with her child-like gaze and informed him: “He’s as sly as dry rot, that one.”
Daniel looked back to his screen. He was assessing job applications from disabled candidates, but soon after he was given the task, the database developed the curious tendency of spontaneously transforming the entries on any application form he opened, so as to reject the candidate.
He thought about Nipple-face, who seemed to keep hovering over him, whispering strange comments to him, which he could never understand the purpose of, except to realize she was obviously “on the warpath”, as Gail had told him one day, and had then gone on to inform him that—if he were asking her, which he wasn’t, but if he were—she would say he had gone too far the previous week when he stood up to Nipple-face; though—she told him—he was rather impressive; when she paused—which was quite rare for her—and watched him for a moment, meaningfully, which meaning he misunderstood to be alluding to the great peril he was under, being a “combatant” of Wendy “Nippo” Jenkins, their nipple-faced office manger who whispered her attacks to her victims in such a way as to leave them clueless as to the nature of her attack, but in no doubt that they were most definitely under attack.
Yes, Nipple-face had it in for him and was hovering over him, waiting for any mistake she could pounce upon, and at the same time, every application form he opened seemed to adopt a mind of its own, and that mind was bent on self destruction.
Daniel looked up at Gail, whose fingers were happily dancing on her keyboard as she recited the spectacle of her previous night’s date, recited it to no-one in particular, for no-one seemed to be listening and she did not seem to be addressing anyone in particular. He thought about repeating his last question to her but he could still sense a seemingly impenetrable pressure cocooning the word “sure”, so he typed a message to Gail:
“So the answers NO is it?”
Gail’s monologue stopped mid-sentence and she looked up at him as though stunned, and perhaps a little afraid. He thought he could detect a blush on her child-like cheeks. She said, in a lowered voice, “This is out of the blue.” She watched him for a moment, then even her fingers stopped typing.
Daniel, weighed down by the memory of his childhood traumas, and now also by the whispered attacks of his office manager, started to say, “This p— pro—” but the words seemed too heavy, as though they were great boulders he could not move, and he nodded towards his computer screen.
Gail said, “There’s no rush; take your time,” and her fingers resumed their aerobic workout. “—I’ll get back to you. But in the meantime, I’ll just tell you what Nippo said to Nigela this morning. I couldn’t believe it. I know we’re always fighting, me and Nigela, but she’s my best friend. Do you hear that, Nigela, my best friend. Well, Nippo only went and whispered to her about the size of her ears. Said one was bigger than the other,” tap, tap, tap. “Well, we can all see that, but there’s no need to point it out. And the way Nippo whispers about it, seems to make it worse. If she’d just come out and say it, it wouldn’t be so bad. The woman needs a damn good— good— masculine intervention,” wink, wink; “that’s what she needs. Come to think of it, that’s just what I need. How about you, Daniel? Whoops, I didn’t mean you and me having a damn good masculine intervention, though I’m not saying it would be unpleasant. I might even enjoy it,” tap, tap, tap. “Yes, you never know, and you wouldn’t have to speak much, so you needn’t worry about your speech problem—except to tell me how lovely I am, something like, ‘Oh, Gail, you’re beautiful, oh, oh, how have I lived without you all this time?’ Or perhaps that might be going too far; yes, perhaps just something like: ‘Oh, Gail; oh, Gail,’ Yes, that’s all you’d have to say and I’m sure you could manage that, when the moment came. What do you think, Daniel. Whoops. Did I just say all this out loud; I didn’t realize I was speaking. Ha! God, that’s funny; my mouth volume was switched on and I didn’t even know it. Nigela!—what’s the shortcut for ‘normal’ format again?”
Peter glared at him and said, “Scum!”
The man said, “There’s no need to be like that. Just answer the questions.” He looked at his form and said, “Are you bossy?”
Peter’s face trembled again.
The man saw this and said, “Don’t think you can get out of this by insulting me again—‘scum’, indeed!” He looked at his form, nodded, said, “Attitude problem!” and ticked a box.
Peter wrestled with his desire to cleanse the man’s face with spit.
The man said, “You’re just the sort of person who causes all the problems. You never think of anyone but yourself. Look at you, standing there, looking at me like that. You could at least be polite. Now, are you judgemental?” and he looked at Peter while nodding his head suggestively.
Peter pushed passed him and walked on.
The man shouted after him, “Ignorant git!”
While Peter sat in his driveway, reliving this encounter, his grip tightened on the steering wheel and his left eyelid twitched like the leg of a restless grasshopper.
He recalled the look on the man’s face as he said, “You’re just the sort of person who causes all the problems.” Peter saw this sort of person as being possessed by invisible monsters. He could clearly imagine the two. There was this normal person (the face of the man), but along with this he could sense the presence of the invisible monster that possessed the man and made him behave in this inhuman way. And Peter encountered so many of these possessed people that it seemed the planet had been invaded by these invisible monsters who somehow got inside people’s heads and transformed them.
As he sat there, he felt the monsters swarming around him, concealed in their hosts. And they were trying to attack him by possessing more and more people who would then converge on him and swamp him.
He recalled the man saying, “I’ve got to put something on my form.” And it seemed the man was saying that because he felt he wanted to put something on his form, then this somehow meant that everybody else in the world was obliged to jump to his tune and answer his questions. Peter shouted at the windscreen, “What does your form have to do with me?—git!”
He recalled him saying, “Answer the question; you’re bossy; you’ve got an attitude problem.” Peter shouted, “It’s you who’s got the problem.”
He recalled him saying, “You could at least be polite,” and Peter prodded the windscreen and told it where to get off.