Why Nothing Works
It doesn’t matter that my wife doesn’t listen to me. As I tell her some mornings when she’s rushing off to her two-days-a-week vanity job in town, trying to find her handbag or phone, checking the time all the time, packing toast into her mouth as she rushes to make that train, nobody tells me what to do. I tell her that as I’m sitting at our big new breakfast table, in our big new house, tucking into the mountain of hot scrambled eggs the housekeeper just made me. Even though she’s not listening I remind my wife that after a long hot shower I can read every article that interests me in that day’s newspaper, if I feel like it, before I leave the house. I can read the funnies, though they never make me laugh. I can read them at my leisure, coffee going cold in my palm, morning hard-on making a tent in my dressing gown, because I know that when I arrive at work, whatever time that is, the only words out of my 23-year-old secretary’s tight little mouth will be: Hello Charles. Usual tea and biscuit? And my reply will be: Damn right Cheryl. And fast. I want to see smoke coming off those high heels of yours. Then she’ll force herself to laugh, as she always does. Then I’ll walk in my office, shut that door, lay back in my leather chair, close my eyes, picture those high heels digging hard into my cheek, picture the foot the shoes are strapped tight to and the bare leg they lead to, and I’ll undo my belt, very slowly, letting my stomach spill out. I’ve earned it. I love my country. And you don’t get a country working – a big slow heaving colossus the size of a whole nation – by being polite to Cheryls. Most citizens of this not-so-great nation are stupid, and most really hate themselves for that. They want to be kicked around. They don’t know they want it, but they do.
As I drank the tea and crunched the biscuit Cheryl brought me I watched my workers through the slats in my office window, typing and talking to each other. What did they have to worry about? They didn’t know how it felt to sign a cheque knowing it was going to bounce, like I did in the early days here. Or what it was like to beg the bank manager for a bridging loan. To ask for just for one more month please. Just one tiny month. Most of the guys in this place don’t appreciate their freedom. They don’t even know they’re free. They just get up, come into work, leave, maybe have a couple of beers at the pub, roll home and, if they have the energy, try to get their husbands, wives, girlfriends or boyfriends to agree to one more sleepy fuck. The way most of the people here walk around all miserable on Friday afternoons, it’s like they don’t even want a weekend. As I said to Cheryl in the meeting: You love it here. You love me. Admit it! She smiled. She had to. We both knew it. I could have thrown her on the conference table, pulled up her skirt and smacked her arse with a tablespoon and she still would have had to take it. This morning could have gone better though.
Not everyone is easy to deal with. It’s harder with the ones near the top, the ones that want your job. You’ve got to make them grateful, or at least resentful. So when they presented the new Winter Catalogue to me I said: I hate it. The faces around the boardroom table reddened. Then someone stood up and said: Charles, this is exactly what you asked for. And you’ve already changed your mind three times. That young man is tough, like I used to be. I felt like him promoting him on the spot. But instead I avoided looking at him, taking in all the young strong people around me – the sharper suits than mine, the more determined looks, the smaller bellies and broader shoulders. Then, without speaking, I left the meeting. As I stormed out of the room, down the corridor, out of the front door and over to my car, I wondered if I was finished. If I should sell up before I blew all my money. The thought passed as I put the car smoothly into gear. It was so beautiful, so comfortable and it still smelt brand new. As I told my wife when I got home, I’d worked hard to get it. She doesn’t listen to me, but it doesn’t matter.
If I was in charge then this heavy train home would ease off the tracks and get sucked into the sky. These thick clouds would be thin and wispy and they’d peel away to reveal a house next to the sun, the one we talked about building when we were young. As my empty carriage slowed to a stop I’d see two chairs on the porch and you sitting in one, waving, your face lit up by the orange glow around you, warm but not too hot on your skin. Finally, you’d say, standing up to greet me. Brother! You’re here! As I walked towards you I’d notice you’d become old, and how much that suited you. Sit, sit, you’d tell me, taking great pleasure in ordering me around, speaking in a language at once both yours and mine too. You’d say, It’s time for me to beat you, laying out the game pieces with care. And you would beat me. Easily.