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(short story of 8116 words)

Dirty Work

Humour Literary

by Paul Lahert

When a bank forecloses on a company it's a case of numbers of a spreadsheet, but for those giving and receiving the news... things are more immediate. Bad news travels fast, so we had to travel faster. This, in essence, was the notion that guided us. You get it, you give it, you move on. Do it right and you’re away before things get messy, before the condemned have had time to let the reality of their new circumstances sink in, before that hollow look they get in their eyes has had a chance to take root in your memory. Do it that way and it’s smooth and efficient. Do it that way and it’s as close as something like this gets to being a job well done. And that’s generally how it went. Most of the time. This particular call came in late morning one Christmas Eve and swiftly killed off any hopes I’d had of any early finish. That disappointment was then exacerbated by the fact my car wouldn’t start, having been left parked up with the lights on for a few days. I’d been drinking most nights, medicating a malaise that often reared its head around that time of year. Happily, my thirst meshed well with the festive season. Our office’s underlying culture of functional alcoholism always received a shot in the arm that time of year. Yet, that morning as I sat in the car park turning the key in hope and then without, I wasn’t feeling all that functional. Jump leads and attempted push starts proved useless. The battery didn’t need so much a mechanic as a coroner. I was calling a taxi to take me to the train station when Russell Boyd sauntered over, all three-piece suit and Italian loafers. He sparked up ceremoniously and took a long pull before acknowledging me. It never did to be too cosy with the underlings. “Shouldn’t you be out bringing comfort and joy to the masses?” he asked. I explained the situation. Russell’s smoke curled in my direction. “Where to?” “Grantham, Lincolnshire.” “Sounds a shithole.” He paused a moment, as if sounding out a thought and finding that it pleased him, “I’ll drive you.” I laughed and waited for the punchline. It came in the form of the central locking system of his gleaming, bottle-green Jaguar yipping eagerly to attention..."

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