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by Guy Portman
Lunchtime finds me at Bella’s Restaurant and Cafe, sitting amongst the detritus of a once proud nation. Periodically the council organises these lunches as an opportunity for different departments to come together and get to know each other better. I already know them better than I would like, but these lunches are not optional. Today Burials and Cemeteries are joined by bins, the mail room and those social services staff members who were off sick during their own department’s luncheon the other week, which was about half of them.
‘All wight Dyson?’ shouts Darren from the other end of the table.
‘Wherz Asma?’ continues Darren. ‘Nah halal chickin caesar on da menu den?’
Darren laughs wildly at this. Stern faces stare back at him. Darren stops laughing.
‘All wight all wight - f-a-k-i-n h-e-l-l.’
Here comes a late arrival dressed in a ghastly floral ensemble. It is the mailroom manager, T-r-i-c-i-a. ‘Sorry so-r-r-y,’ she calls out as she hurries over to the table. There are two spare seats, one next to Darren, the other next to me. No not me, no, no, oh no.
‘Really nice hair Dyson, love-l-y.’
Though I really want to reciprocate with a compliment of my own, it is impossible under such circumstances. Instead I turn my attentions to the menu. Bella’s is Italian, well allegedly anyway. Chicken Kievs are not Italian and I am pretty sure neither are fish fingers.
Alice, sitting in the adjoining seat, regales the table with details of a Guns n Roses tribute band’s concert he went to last weekend. My end of the table listens semi-attentively. Alice, not his real name, works in the mailroom. I call him Alice because he looks just like the ageing rocker, Alice Cooper. Like the real Alice he sports a mane of black hair and wizened, heavily lined features, but for record sales read envelopes. Alice halts his reminisces and reaches for the table salt. Into the resulting vacuum comes Meagre Martin, Alice’s mailroom colleague. The long-haired Meagre Martin is devoid of a chin, the face receding abruptly below the lower lip. A shrew like countenance, identical to a primordial dwarf I once saw in the mall, though he is not that far removed from normal size. Meagre Martin mentions his biker fraternity. Moans are audible, faces turn away. Meagre Martin is a biker want-to-be, severely restricted by financial constraints. He comes to work on a pitiful moped type thing with heightened Harley Davidson style handlebars; his weekends spent making ever-smaller circuits of the A909, a result of continually increasing fuel prices. A waiter approaches.
‘I’ll go with the, the tagliatelle, and a, a coke, full fat.’
Opposite me bins’s own Irene begins to quip. It is the usual torrent of misguided media obsessed political correctness. Irene once got Darren and I in trouble for saying ‘nasty things’ about hamsters that made a vegan team member cry. To look upon Irene is to stare into a looking glass, into a world of cheap retail outlets, suburban cul-de-sacs, Sky television itineraries, frozen Iceland trifles and Co-operative Funeralcare plans. Irene is telling a story now, something about a trip to the supermarket. Those on my half of the table attempt to look interested, sitting up straight, nodding sporadically. I take this opportunity to analyse the information I have collated on Kiro so far. His similarity to Darko in size, stature and most pertinently the eyes, as well as the potential logic behind his alleged nationality and the fact he does not wear t-shirts. I consider whether there is any other information that might be available. There is one more avenue of investigation that I have been planning, but have had to put off as Emma has been away for several days. She returned today. The story has finished. People are laughing. I laugh too, ‘Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.’ Maybe that was too much. Yes it appears so. In a suspiciously short amount of time my lunch arrives.
Irene asks, ‘Is that a tagliatelle?’
‘Is a pur-port-edly a sort of sauce?’
Looking up at the ceiling I marvel at how I have survived these daily intellectual deprivations for so long. I do not proffer a response.
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About the Author
I currently reside in London, the city of my birth. Having finished my schooling I studied for a B.A. in Theology at Kings College London, a subject that I chose out of interest rather than any religious persuasion. I also have an M.A. in Sport and Leisure Management from London Metropolitan University.
My working life has included being employed in academic research and the sports industry, where I spent several years at a Premier League Football club. I have also traveled extensively, living and working in both Sydney and Tokyo.
Besides writing, editing and promoting my work I enjoy reading a wide variety of books. My other interests include sport, social media and the outdoors.