Wednesday, 22 July 2009

A Life Thwarted

Oliver Mansell sat at his desk. It had become his desk over the years. Whenever he went to work he always sat in this spot, the furthest to the left, from the customer’s point of view. Not that he really cared. It would be a change to sit in one of the other two places. He didn’t ever get upset if a new staff member sat in ‘his’ seat, although someone would generally whisper quietly in their ear, and they would flush red, apologise and move aside to let him sit down. He didn’t really mind though.
It was a Wednesday, busier now that that phone company were doing the two-for-one deal on tickets. Relentlessly he checked codes on mobile phone screens, punched in the numbers on the computer, watched the little blue stubs pop up like toast from the slot in the counter, and handed them over to the customers. He watched them walk away, laughing, smiling, over to the food counter to buy over-priced sweets and watered-down soft drinks.
He repeated his task, almost establishing a rhythm in the jumping of the tickets, anticipating what film the customer desired to see. After working there for goodness knows how long he had acquired a certain amount of skill in guessing what the customer was there to watch. He would hover the mouse-pointer over the option he considered most likely, awaiting their answer. Some nights, when he was particularly bored, he would keep score for himself. 
As he watched the tickets arrive through the slot in the counter, Oliver remembered all those years back, how there had been something magical about the tickets appearing through the surface of the desk, as if mystically summoned or produced by tiny creatures in a miniscule factory. But now he’d had to check and change the ticket paper so many times, all the magic had gone, leaving him with the mundane reality that it was just a piece of machinery.
There were two other employees on the desk with him tonight, as it was busier than usual. Oliver had nicknames for everyone who he worked with, not that he ever used them to people’s faces. Furthest to the left from him was “Claudia Shuffle”, a stunning young blonde who scuffed her feet across the floor whenever she walked. In the middle, between himself and Miss Shuffle was “Jean Claude Van Dumb”, a muscle-bounded gym freak, who definitely had more brawn than brains, in Oliver’s opinion. They probably had nicknames for him, he thought. ‘Baldy-locks’ or ‘four-eyes’, something really original. He didn’t really care though.
“Oi, I sed two fuh James Bond.” Disturbed from his daydream, Oliver looked up to see a young lad and what must be his girlfriend, both clad from head to toe in neon sportswear, the boy wearing a baseball cap that slanted ridiculously off to the side. Oliver looked down at the “15” certificate for the film and back at the slouching teenagers.
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to see some ID or I won’t be able to let you into the movie.” Dripping with smugness, the couple both produced citizenship cards proving their ages, smirks daubed across their zit-filled faces as they took their tickets, muttering insults under their breath as they slunk away.  As there was no one else to serve at that point, Oliver turned back to peruse the computer screen.


Something struck him on the head. Shocked and confused, he looked down and saw that the projectile had been an unusually large chocolate-covered raisin. Looking over the pick-n-mix he saw the teenage couple, shuddering with repressed laughter, pretending they had been looking the other way the whole time. Red with embarrassment, Oliver looked around to see if anyone else had witnessed the incident. To his increased shame, his two colleagues on the desk were also trying not to chuckle.
“Are you alright?” managed Van Dumb, stifling a giggle. Oliver muttered something. Why didn’t he just get up, march over there, and order them off the premises? Why did he take this kind of abuse? He was so ashamed of himself, a thirty-seven year-old man, made an object of fun by puss-filled louts! But he didn’t get up, he stayed sat in his seat and let the rage subside and sink down inside him. The truth was, he didn’t really care.

The End

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