“Hello. Is that you Patrick?”
The distinctive tones of my mother’s voice make me cringe. She will want me to meet her for lunch or something. Nothing vital, I’m sure. Sometimes I rue the day I gave her my mobile number. She never used to ring me at work on the landline unless it was some emergency, but I cannot get her to understand that I still work the same hours and I am at my desk even if she rings my mobile.
“Yes, Mother.” I sigh, resigned to the interruption.
“No need to sound so enthusiastic, dear,” she responds. “Where are you?”
“I’m at work. Where else do you think I would be at this time of day?”
“I thought you would be at home since you answered and not the switchboard.”
“That’s because you rang my mobile.” I decide there is no point in trying to explain to someone as naturally obtuse as Mother that she would have got me had she used the direct dial number I gave her for me at work. That also comes straight through to my desk.
“Anyway, I’m going into town and I thought you could join me during your lunch hour,” she states.
Lunch hour? That’s a joke these days. Usually a sandwich and a cup of coffee grabbed at my desk. I grunt something to show that I am thinking about it. If I go, it will be at least two hours. First. I have to get into town myself. And then back out again afterwards. Then Mother will be late whatever time we agree to meet.
“Well, dear?” She sounds as though she feels I am ignoring her.
I am about to invent some fictitious report that I have to work on when I remember that IT are doing an upgrade or something and want to have access to my workstation for a couple of hours — ‘at my convenience’. I cannot work while they are doing it so that can be my excuse for going out for half the afternoon.
“All right, Mother,” I say before asking, “where do you want to meet and when?”
“Coles’, of course.”
That’s helpful. Does she mean Cole Brothers’ current department store or what is known by people over a certain age as ‘Coles’ Corner’ — where the old store used to be before it was bombed in the Second World War? Mother is over that certain age: born towards the end of the war and has learnt the folk memory.
“In the store? How about in the café?” I ask, hoping she will agree so that I don’t have to stand outside in the cold waiting for her.
“Oh no, dear,” she says. “You know I could never find you in there. By the front entrance, as usual.”
Well, I tried. As for ‘front entrance, as usual’, more than once I have found her by the side door. Guess who got the blame for being late.
“What time?” If I get her to name a time there will be some element of commitment on her part. If I suggest a time, she’ll take it as just that: a suggestion.
“Half past twelve.” Her tone implies there is no other sensible time for lunch.
I repeat back to her the agreed time and place, including the street name and before she can start another topic of conversation, I tell her that anything else can wait until we meet. I get the distinct feeling she thinks I have been rude cutting her call short. Too bad. Some of us have work to do.
Looking at the clock I decide there is no way that Mother will be able to get the bus in time to reach town for twelve thirty. Her bus runs every half hour. I should be all right if I aim for one o’clock. I expect I will still have to wait for her.
Mike, our IT contractor, is in one of his cryptic moods when I ring, but then as far as I am concerned anything to do with IT is cryptic. Of course he moans he could have done with more notice but he says he will send over his new assistant and who is fresh out of college.
The Managing Director does not consider the company is big enough to employ a full time IT person so we use Mike and whoever he has working for him. Although they do work for other businesses, they operate from offices in our building. The MD lets them have the space rent free on the grounds that Mike would only charge the rent back to us in his fee, adding a mark-up in the process. Of course it also means Mike is already on site if any problems arise.
“He is doing all right so far,” Mike says when I ask how the newbie is shaping up. “Better than some I have had before.” He pauses before he continues, “I want him back when he has finished.”
Why wouldn’t he go back to Mike when he has finished my job?
No doubt I will find out when the kid arrives.
Mike is always trying to wind me up by dropping hints that I am gay. I am not officially ‘out’ so he cannot say anything direct, but it doesn’t take a genius to guess. I live alone, a confirmed bachelor with no girlfriend, and I’m old enough to have started wondering if I will get any extension on my three score years and ten.
On the other hand, I don’t bother with going to the gay pub any more, and I have never been one for the clubs and their strange goings-on. I suppose I might be described as lacking libido as I am not desperate for a romp between the sheets with anyone. I have had my moments though.
Mike knows not to push things too far. I might not be the Finance Director, but I’m the one that knows the accounting system inside out and Mike needs my co-operation as I am effectively his client. The ‘I’ bit of IT I can do, it’s the ‘T’— the network, the server, the drives, the firewalls, the automatic backups, the implementation of upgrades and all that stuff — that gets me.
So it has become a bit of a game, this Mike trying to wind me up. In fact, I don’t have to try too hard to best him. If I turn whatever he says back onto him, he gets all flustered and goes off in a huff.
At exactly the time I have agreed with Mike, there is a knock on my open door. I look up. Before me stands a young man who looks about eighteen. He has a long oval face with finely chiselled features, all in proportion. His crowning glory is the most luxurious head of russet coloured hair, cut to just the right length and whose natural sheen gives it a coppery tinge. Handsome: yes; pretty: no.
“Come in,” I say, trying hard not to sound like the spider talking to the fly.
“Please, sir. Are you Patrick?” he asks. Not just handsome, polite too.
“Oh, good. I am in the right place then. Mike has sent me over. I’m Colin, the new boy.”
I smile at the hint of self-deprecation in his remark and put my hand out in greeting. As we shake, his own smile completes a very attractive picture, and I realise that Mike was again trying to wind me up with his comment. He is right though: I am not sure I like the idea of him being hidden away in Mike’s den. If he can do the work, I will be asking for him to come over whenever anything to do with IT goes wrong in my department. Not only will I get to enjoy seeing Colin, but it will niggle Mike that I have asked for him and not Mike himself.
With my deadline to meet Mother, Colin and I do not have time to be anything other than business-like. I hand over my workstation to him. Not only will he be doing the system upgrades but he will also do various in-depth virus and malware scans, disc clean-off redundant files and other bits and pieces to make sure everything is clean and tidy. His explanations of what he is going to do are clear enough that I think I actually understand what he is intending to do.
“Two things, please,” I say to him. “First, don’t go moving files and stuff around so that I can’t find anything, and, second, don’t forget to check all the peripherals, especially printers, still work when you have finished and not just from the desktop either, from inside all the various programmes as well.”
There is nothing Mike can do that winds me up more than have him or his current minion do some work on our old system and upset all the mappings from inside some of our ancient programmes to the printers. If I have to, I can usually sort out a work-around until I can get Mike back, but I shouldn’t have to.
Colin tells me how long he expects to be on my machine and I head out to meet Mother.
On my way, and not for the first time, I wonder about Mike. Is he in the closet? He keeps having a dig about me being gay, but he gets all defensive if I jokingly suggest he might be as well. However, he is the one that has taken on the pretty boy assistants. And pretty useless, pretty boys they have all turned out to be. At least the current recruit, Colin, gave me the impression of knowing what he was talking about, and he is different from Mike’s usual type.
To me, there is a certain animal attraction with Mike. I quite like him as well, but I would like him more if he would only let up on his gay taunts. Maybe they are a defence mechanism, part of how he keeps his closet door closed.
I shall have to think of some way to prize the closet door open a crack. Just enough for me to see if Mike is inside but not so far that anyone else can look in over my shoulder.
I just make it to Coles’ front entrance by one. Needless to say, Mother is nowhere to be seen. It is going to be a long cold wait. It might be the Thursday before Easter, but the weather certainly isn’t spring-like. Even though Easter is early this year, it should still be warmer than this. I look around.
There is some guy in a rabbit costume next to a small stand decorated with yellow trim and the shop’s logo. Nobody is stopping to talk to him, or buy if he is selling something. To take my mind off the cold, I wander over to see what he is doing.
The costume is one that allows you to see the wearers face. As I get closer, the guy notices me approaching and turns to face me. I can see it is a young man who I guess is about sixteen or seventeen. As part of his costume he has long whiskers stuck to his cheeks. The cold weather means he has a red nose — a rather cute red nose if truth be told.
“How do?” I say, adopting the local vernacular. “Warm enough for you?”
“Actually, in this get up, yes,” he replies. “Except my nose is ruddy freezing and the glue holding the whiskers itches like hell.”
I am surprised that he sounds quite well spoken but then, assuming he is working for the store, Coles’ are known for maintaining a certain standard.
I resist the urge to make a quip about Rudolph, the Red Nosed Rabbit and ask him what he is doing.
“I am trying to sell these novelty Easter eggs.” He points to the stand that has trays of eggs on top. The eggs are about six centimetres tall and four in diameter, each wrapped in plain coloured foil. They look much like any other Easter egg of similar size.
“What is the novelty about them?” I ask.
“They are hollow chocolate, as you might expect,” he says, “but inside each one are some of those small sugar coated solid chocolate eggs and a slip of paper with a motto. They’re the sort of thing you get in a Christmas cracker.”
“I was always told they recycle left over eggs into chocolate reindeer for Christmas then back into eggs,” I chuckle. “But recycling the cracker jokes — good grief.”
He smiles the most delightful smile at my weak joke.
“Have you sold many?” As I ask, I bet with myself that the answer will be ‘not many’ or less.
“None,” comes the reply. “Everyone is in a hurry to get out of the cold. They’re not interested. I’m surprised you’ve stopped as long as you have.”
“Like you, I have to stop out here. I’m meeting someone. You know, the old ‘meet me outside Coles’ thing. I hope you don’t mind me talking to you while I am waiting.”
“Heavens, no,” he says. “It’s nice to talk to someone. I’ve hardly spoken to anyone all week.”
“Trade that bad then?” Interesting, was that a blush I saw or just a reddening of his cheeks in the wind. I change the subject. “How did you cop for this job then?”
“I was trying to set up a pitch selling ‘The Big Issue’ and this guy with a grey beard and dressed in the store’s uniform but with a bright red waistcoat comes out and offers me this job. Mr. Wen he is called, Silas Wen, or is it Wen Silas. I forget. I got the impression he would sooner pay me to do this than have me lowering the tone of the place selling ‘Big Issue’ outside the store.”
Trying to sell ‘Big Issue’ says to me the kid has been made homeless and may have spent time sleeping rough, but he is making an effort to get his life together. I refrain from asking about his living arrangements. If he wants me to know it may come out in the conversation.
“How long does the job last?” I ask.
“Just today and Saturday. The store is closed tomorrow as it is the Good Friday bank holiday and then it is Easter. There isn’t much call for Easter eggs after Easter.”
I smile at his remark. He has still kept his sense of humour in spite of any difficulties he might have.
“Has Mr. Wen said if they might be able to find you something else after Easter?”
“No such luck. He said there is nothing after Easter.” I see a sad look cross his face as he continues; “Pity really, as I have enjoyed working here in spite of being outside in the cold all day. I have been allowed to use the staff facilities. I have been able to get hot showers and they’ve let me put my washing through the on-site laundry. Much better than having to wait for my turn at the hostel.”
“I suppose the hostel is at least a roof over your head.”
“That’s true,” he says.” But it’s only to the end of the month. Then it’s closing. Something about their ‘Service Level Agreement’ not being renewed so there will be no money coming in.”
“Social Services will re-house you, won’t they?” I ask.
“I’ve not heard anything yet, but I hope so. Otherwise I can see myself back on the streets, sleeping rough.”
I shiver at the thought.
“I hope for your sake it doesn’t come to that.”
“Thanks,” he says. “I might find out something more tonight when I go back to the hostel.”
My thoughts on how to reply to that are interrupted.
“Patrick! There you are!” It is Mother. I suppose I will be in trouble for not looking out for her.
“Come along, dear! It’s half past one. You know you have to get back to the office. You haven’t time to spend all day gossiping to that rabbit.”
I am not going to get into an argument by asking why she is an hour late. It really isn’t worth the effort and will only waste even more of my lunch break. She is the one who will have been gossiping — no doubt to one of her cronies — and missed her bus.
Her mentioning the office gives me an idea. One that will kill three birds with one stone. I will buy some of the novelty eggs and hand them round in the office. They, the girls especially, like that sort of gesture, and it is always a good idea to keep in with the girls in the main office. The second bird is that I shall be giving the lad a sale and that should make his day. Thirdly, I shall be making Mother wait while I make the purchase. How sad that I need take pleasure in such petty victories.
“I am not gossiping,” I say to Mother, “I am conducting a trade; buying his eggs.”
I place a little emphasis on the words ‘trade’ and ‘eggs’ and watch the rabbit’s cheeks once again match his nose. He has picked up on my double entendre, confirming that his earlier blush was not the result of the wind and reinforcing my suspicion he may have had to sell himself in order to survive on the streets.
“I will take a whole tray, please.”
The lad’s face lights up. That smile is worth whatever the tray costs. He tells me the price and I pay.
However, instead of taking one off the top of the stand, the lad brings out a tray, still sealed in cellophane, from a shelf below. He hands it to me.
“Mr. Wen said I should give these to anyone that asks for a whole tray.”
Through the cellophane I can see that instead of being wrapped in plain foil these have multi-coloured stripes. I look up at the lad. He is still smiling.
“Rainbow eggs?” I say as I raise an eyebrow.
His smile turns into an amused grin and he nods his head. I can only roll my eyes in reply.
As Mother and I turn to leave, I hear him call ‘sithee’ as farewell. Somehow I get the feeling we will, indeed, see each other again.
Mother and I find a table in the café. As we wait for the waitress to come and take our order I wonder which bone Mother will want to pick with me today. The house? My appearance? My marital status? Probably all three. Her opening gambit is not the one I expect: the one claiming I had been rude to her on the phone. Instead, I score the rarest one of all, probably because I kept her waiting outside in the cold while I bought the eggs.
“I don’t know why we don’t meet in here,” she says, being as obtuse as usual and totally ignoring that I had already suggested it this morning. “We could sit in here in the warm instead of standing around outside in the cold.”
“That’s a good idea, Mother.” I say. “Next time we will meet in here.”
Next time I do my filial duty and agree to meet for lunch I shall remind her, but I know it will make no difference; I shall be waiting outside again.
The waitress comes for our order. True to her usual form, Mother asks for cucumber sandwiches to be followed by a choice of cakes. I decide to reward myself for doing my duty and order the smoked salmon salad. We share a pot of Earl Grey.
“I’m pleased to see you having a salad, dear,” Mother says. “You could do with losing some weight.”
I would never admit it to her, but she is right. I am starting to develop a bit of middle-age spread, and I could do with losing a couple of kilos. On the other hand, I think I am in better shape than most of my peers.
I look across at her and I can see she is inspecting me and contemplating what to say.
“You’re going grey, dear.”
“Yes, I know. I do look in the mirror in the morning and see my reflection.” I am tempted to say something about her not having a reflection but she is always too well turned out to not be able to see herself. She never looks untidy or scruffy.
“You could have a tint, you know.” Mother pauses for another look at my hair. “You are getting thin on top too. I hope you won’t be one of those men with a ridiculous comb-over. You should get a piece like James, your father, used to wear. I think I’ve still got it. You can have it if you want”
It is a good thing I have finished swallowing my mouthful of salad before she says that last sentence; otherwise, I would have been redecorating the café with bits of smoked salmon. Good grief, I had forgotten she still has that thing.
“Thank you, Mother, but I don’t think so. I prefer to accept things as they are and age gracefully.”
I can only remember Dad wearing it once. I was sixteen and he and I were going to some do at my school. We were getting ready to leave and he appeared wearing this hair piece. I am afraid I took one look and started with the giggles. Of course he asked me what was so funny.
“You look ridiculous in that thing. You really can’t go out looking like that. You’ll be the laughing stock of the town.”
The thing was hideous. It didn’t match his greying hair, the texture was all wrong and it only fit where it touched. Every time I looked at it my paroxysms got worse, I could hardly stand. I managed to gasp out some more.
“I’ll be so embarrassed to be with you, but I’ll live it down; you never will.” I had to sit down. “Go take a long look at yourself in a mirror.”
He didn’t. He just glared at me then grabbed my arm. I calmed down then because I thought he was going to clout me — something he had never done before — but he marched me out to the car and pushed me into the passenger seat. As he got in the other side he threw it in my lap. Only then did he look in a mirror, the driving mirror, to straighten his hair, chuckling as he did so.
“I knew it looked ridiculous, but if your mother says anything, you told me to take it off,” he said.
“With pleasure,” I replied, although I expect she heard me laughing about it.
“You’re old enough and mature enough now to understand. I’ll tell you about it on the way home. If I tell you now you won’t stop laughing all the time we are at the school.”
Quite a tale it was too. Mother had found it in amongst his things and suggested he wear it. He had to go along with it or he would have had to explain where it had come from and what it really was: a wig, yes, but not one to cover male pattern baldness. He trusted me with a lot about himself that night and I reciprocated. It was the night I told him I liked other men. He wasn’t in the least bit bothered, he just told me not to waste my time telling Mother as she would ignore it as if she hadn’t heard it. That was the night he became Dad instead of Father.
“I don’t think men can do anything gracefully, dear,” Mother says.
She stops to take a drink of tea. It is the cue for her to change the subject.
“I don’t like living in the flat; the block is full of old people,” she says as if she isn’t one of them. “I don’t know why James had us move there.”
“You know perfectly well, mother.”
Between us, Dad and I must have told her hundreds of times; she just won’t accept it.
“He moved you there because you wouldn’t have been able to cope in the house on your own as his Parkinson’s progressed. You have care assistants on call at the flat. You couldn’t have managed without them. You still can’t: they had to help you last week when you fell.”
“I didn’t fall; I lost my balance and couldn’t get up.”
I am surprised she is prepared to admit the incident happened. Before I can point out that she still had to have assistance, she opens a new line of argument.
“We could have managed with you there to help when you moved in after your father gifted the house to you, but he said we couldn’t stay there after that. I don’t see why not. Instead, you are rattling around in that house all alone.”
“Mother, you know why,” I say trying not to let exasperation sound on my voice. “When he was diagnosed, they told him he would have eight to ten years. He wanted to get the house outside the scope of inheritance tax, so he gifted it to me. For the arrangement to work you had to move out; you couldn’t continue to have the benefit of the property.”
Dad also had to survive seven years, something he managed to do by only a matter of weeks, almost as if he was hanging on to make sure the taxman didn’t get more than necessary. Although he did maintain his sardonic wit to the end, I think he was ready to go. One on the last things he said to me shortly before he died was the old one about ‘Why do men die before their wives? Answer: because they want to.’ It was only part meant as a joke. He loved Mother very much but it was sad that she should have worn his resistance down to that extent.
“Inheritance tax?” asks Mother. She has been told before.
“Death Duties, to you,” I say.
“Then why didn’t you say that?” She is not expecting an answer and moves on.
“Anyway, dear, I think I should come and live with you.”
Thankfully, I have several rehearsed answers to this. I choose one.
“No, Mother. I don’t think that is a good idea. You will be on your own all day. None of your friends from the other flats will be there to talk to.”
I wonder if I should rub it in and mention again that she fell last week and the on-site carers had to sort her out.
“You will be there, won’t you, dear.” It is a statement, not a question.
“No, Mother. I will be at work during the day. As usual.” I will live to regret it, but I decide to tell a little white lie to reinforce my argument. “And I am often out in the evenings, so you will be on your own then as well.”
“Are you courting then; going out in the evenings? That’s nice dear.”
I knew I would regret it. I should have seen that coming.
“No, Mother. I am not courting.” I can hear exasperation in my voice.
“Well, you should be.” Mother’s tone is sharp. “Before you get much older and partners your own age are no longer fertile. You don’t earn enough to attract and keep a dolly-bird.”
“I have no intention of getting married,” I say. I have no inclination for procreating either.
“I never mentioned marriage. All I want is some grandchildren to spoil before it is too late. I don’t care how you get them.”
I am stunned. For the first time in our conversation, she has said something that is not on the outline script. She follows up.
“Adopt some if you have to.”
The waitress earns my undying gratitude and a big tip for choosing just this moment to arrive with our bill. Mother insists on paying. Who am I to argue? I do take care of the tip.
“You are coming over on Sunday, aren’t you, dear?” asks Mother as we leave the store.
“Yes. As normal.” I usually cook lunch for her as the little restaurant in her complex is shut on Sundays.
“Oh, good. I might invite one or two of the neighbours. They shouldn’t be alone for Easter. You don’t mind, do you, dear?”
“No, of course not, Mother.”
In fact, I am quite pleased. It will mean I am not the sole object of her attention. She hasn’t said how many she will invite so I shall cook plenty and any surplus can go in the freezer or turned into pies or something that will do for one of us during the week.
“You could also bring someone who will otherwise be alone if you want.”
If I can think of someone who can survive the encounter I might just take them along. But why does the term ‘fresh blood’ come into my mind.
Of course, out on the street, I have to give Mother a peck on the cheek before we part company. As I do, a rabbit smiles and winks at me. I roll my eyes in reply.
When I get back to work, I call into the main office with the intention of handing round the eggs. The room seems strangely quiet. There is normally a buzz about the place even when everyone is busy and have their heads down getting on with work. I look around. I feel like the psychologist watching the audience at a porn film. The girls are all looking misty-eyed at Colin. Edith, the office manager, is clucking round him like a mother hen. He seems oblivious to the attention he is getting and is concentrating on something on Edith’s screen.
He finishes what he is doing and looks at Edith.
“There,” he says. “That should do it. You need to do what I have just shown you on a regular basis in order to keep things running smoothly.”
“Thank you, Colin,” Edith replies. “Now you’ve met us, don’t go hiding away in IT with Mike. You can come and see us anytime.”
If this lot have set their sights on him, he would be wise to hide away in IT. ‘Fresh blood’ comes to mind for the second time in less than an hour. Time for me to interrupt.
“I’ve brought you all some Easter eggs,” I say as I hand the sealed packet to Edith. “They are supposed to have some little eggs and a motto inside.”
Will chocolate take precedence over drooling over Colin?
Edith peels off the cellophane, chooses an egg then passes the box on. There are three left after all the office have chosen an egg. I shall let Colin choose two, one for him and one for Mike. I will keep the other in reserve.
Chocolate wins the contest as there is the sound of eggs being broken against desktops and foil being unwrapped. Edith has hers open first. She picks up and reads her motto. She glares at me. The others pick up on it and insist she read it out.
“Question,” she reads. “Why does the mother hen only lay in winter? Answer: because she is no spring chicken.”
Of course the others all fall about laughing. It is so appropriate. Even Colin sees it and risks a smile. Edith is looking daggers at me.
“Don’t blame me,” I say. “I didn’t make the eggs or write the mottos and you opened the packet and chose your own egg.” There are a few ‘that’s trues’ and nodded heads agreeing to my logic — thankfully.
You can see Edith thinking about that for a bit, then her face changes to a smile as she decides to accept it as a silly joke and a silly coincidence.
In fact it turns out that the mottos are surprisingly apposite. For example: ‘You’re even pretty without make-up’ for the girl who always looks as though she puts it on with a kid’s printing set.
I decide it is time to make my excuses and leave. I pick up the remaining eggs and nod to Colin that we should go to my office so that he can tell me what he has been up to.
“Sorry about that,” he says when I ask him how he came to be in the main office. “But Edith came in here looking for you with some tale about not being able to open a file on her machine, saying that you usually could fix it. I cleared out her temporary files and archived some stuff for her and that got her going again. I had finished all I could do on your machine until you got back.”
“Nothing to be sorry about,” I say. “You’ve saved me a job. I wish she would remember to do it herself.”
“I could write something that would take care of it on a scheduled basis if you want?”
“As long as it is elegant and doesn’t waste processor capacity,” I smile at him so that he can see I am joking — well, half-joking. “Mike will tell you I think all programmers should be made to work with 256k DOS for six months to learn to be economic in their programmes. Call me old fashioned, but I hate unnecessary bells and whistles.”
We discuss what he has done on my machine and he gets me to log in to the various programmes I use to check all the printers and other bits and pieces are working properly. I tell him about what each programme does, how it fits into what we do, how long we have been using it, and what I would like to see if we were to replace it. I can tell he is taking it all on board. He is much more engaged with the world outside IT than any of his predecessors — that probably includes Mike.
When we have finished, I tell him to choose an egg. He can’t resist cracking it open.
“Did you notice that you were the centre of attention when you were in the main office?” I say as he peels the foil from his shattered egg. “All the girls were looking at you. Drooling.”
“I can’t say that I did. To be honest I’m not interested in girls.”
“The girls in the office, or girls in general?” I know I shouldn’t really ask but his tone of voice has already told me the answer. I just want to hear it expressed in words.
“Girls in general. I’m gay. You don’t have a problem with that do you?” he says, suddenly looking a bit scared.
“No,” I say, trying to muster as much sympathy as I can into my voice. “That was brave of you to tell me on our first meeting.”
“I thought I could from something Mike said.”
“What was that?”
“That I should keep my back to the wall in your office. I presumed by that he meant you were gay, too.”
I can feel my face go red from mixed embarrassment and anger at Mike. I sputter some incoherent noises before regaining some measure of composure. I try to smile at Colin.
“Let’s say I help them out when they are busy,” I reply then ask, “Does Mike know?”
“No. I’ve not said anything to him.”
“Let’s keep it that way for now. Keep our, sorry, your cards close to your chest.” I need to work out how to get Mike back for his ‘back to the wall’ comment.
We chat some more and I find out that he is not eighteen but a young looking twenty-one, living in digs, no boyfriend as yet, in fact only out to himself and now me. I scribble on a piece of paper.
“Don’t think I am coming on to you,” I say, handing him the paper. “But this is my address and phone number. Give me a call or come round if you need someone to talk to. I can remember how lonely it feels at first.” I don’t say it still does at times.
“Thanks,” he says. “I’d better be getting back to Mike.”
As I tell him to take an egg for Mike, I have an idea.
“You could do me a favour and have a bit of fun at Mike’s expense,” I say.
“How?” Colin asks.
“When you get back, don’t say anything but walk around the office for a while, pointedly keeping your back to the wall.”
Colin laughs and leaves.
After he had gone I ring Mike to tell him Colin is on the way back. I also mention he impressed me and that I think he should be allowed to spend some time with each department to get a feel for how the company operates. He could be a valuable asset when it is time to replace our ageing systems.
After I finish talking to Mike, I notice Colin has left the motto from his egg on my desk. I pick it up and read it.
It is not a motto but a silly joke:
‘A policeman in the big city stops a man in a car with a huge rabbit in the front seat.
“What are you doing with that rabbit?" he asks.
"I’m taking it to the zoo,” the man says.
The following week, the same policeman sees the same man with the rabbit again in the front seat, with both of them wearing sunglasses. The policeman pulls him over.
"I thought you were going to take that rabbit to the zoo!"
The man replied, "I did. We had such a good time we are going to the beach this weekend!"