Written by Rob
It was only a silly prank. No-one had any evil intent or wanted to cause any upset. I can’t even remember who instigated the idea: probably Derek – everything about what transpired had a “Derek feel” to it. Although he holds down a responsible job, he has the devil in him. One does not expect a senior business analyst to be stirring up trouble or encouraging practical jokes in the office. And, truth be told, Derek rarely actually did anything. He would usually set an idea adrift and allow someone else to run with it. Throw the pebble in the pond, stand well back, and watch the ripples.
Ken is “Mister Reliable” to most, though “Mister Boring Bastard” to some. He does not get involved in practical jokes, office shenanigans, or banter. He’s a pleasant enough bloke to talk to but he lacks imagination and likes to do things “by the book”.
We were lounging about in the canteen after lunch. Jenny was talking about Valentine’s Day and about the cards she’d received in previous years. I’ve never received a Valentine’s card anonymously, so I was surprised at the tales she was able to tell: jokey ones, rude ones, passionate ones. I guess she’s young, single, and good-looking, so that’s understandable. Margaret said what fun it was to watch someone receive an anonymous card; see them look around and guess at who had sent it. I remember laughing at that.
Various people chipped in with their own anecdotes. Jack said he always denied sending his long-term girlfriend a card so as to test her honesty and faithfulness to him. Most of the women thought that was sick. I can’t remember how we got from that point, to the plan to send Ken a card. I say, in my defence, that I thought the plan was to leave it on his desk: otherwise, what’s the point? If you can’t watch his reaction, there’s no fun to be had.
Ken wasn’t at work Monday morning. That should have set alarm bells ringing since you can set your watch by him, normally. No-one seemed to think much of it, though Margaret – who looks after the holiday and sickness records for all of us – was moaning that he hadn’t phoned in. Tuesday: still no Ken. I thought it odd but I had other fish to fry, so I soon forgot about him.
Wednesday: I thought I was the first to arrive, since I couldn’t see any lights as I walked down the corridor. Oh, how I wish I’d stayed at home! Turning on the lights revealed Ken, sitting, with his forehead resting on his desk, sobbing. His shoulders were shaking, and he was issuing a gurgling sound. There was even a small puddle on the desk beside his head.
Well, I did my best. I tried to calm him down, got him a drink, put my arm around him. Eventually, his sobs subsided enough for him to tell me, “Ann’s left me. She thinks I’m having an affair. We’ve been married twenty-two years. I’ve never looked at another woman! Someone sent me a card saying how much she liked fucking me. Why would anyone do a thing like that?”
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
This is another of Rob’s short fiction pieces written on behalf of the HHC’s January theme ‘Inkwell’. Words can be harsh and cruel as well as loving and forgiving, so with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, Rob was inspired to write something a little unorthodox, showing the consequences of words even when they are written in plain jest. If you like Rob’s writing, make sure you check out his other works, including ‘Angela’s Touch‘ and ‘Smile‘.