Derrick Foam was reading about Robin Gibbs’ death when Feather Hudson shot-put her monitor across the room. She’d heard the big news.
Derrick was modifying his email footer when another message appeared:
“Congrats. First task – fire Justine. Back next week. Sea’s the day. Clem.”
The attached photograph featured a groper lolling on the end of a harpoon.
Derrick brought up Justine’s Facebook profile and rubbed the mouse cursor over her syrupy eyes. She liked diving, dancing and – air steamed in his throat every time – the Bee Gees. “Fanny be tender with my love, cause it’s all that I’ve got,” he sung to himself. After years of polyester, viciously stupid clients and senseless overtime, his promotion now had a new price.
On the way to lunch, Derrick poked his head into accounts.
“Anyone seen Justine?”
“Did you hear the big news?”
They’d heard the big news.
He swished past the plastic plants and into IT. They’d also heard the big news.
“Is Justine around?”
By the elevator, a sprig of flossy hair jumped at him.
“I heard the news!”
Derrick’s waistline gored into his belt and every pustule on his face doubled in size.
“Death by bum cancer,” Justine moaned. “Awful.”
“So you’re my boss now?”
How would he tell her? “Lunch?”
“Only if you’re paying, sweetie” she said and tossed her rice cakes in the cigarette bin.
The cafe chirped of sporks and porcelain. Derrick checked his tuft of hair in the window before they sat.
“Carrot cake,” Justine said.
Derrick ordered his usual with just a nod.
Justine smiled and folded her legs and Derrick found that he had to too.
“So, Derrick – big promotion means big pay rise,” she said delivering his name like a slap.
“A day is just a brighter night.”
“Nothing.” He blushed and reminded himself to stop Bee Gee quoting.
Justine laughed and tied her blond strings into a bun. “Maybe enough to get a new suit, eh? You’d look much more handsome in something tailored.”
“Good idea.” The cursor in his retinas stroked Justine’s coarse freckles. He could not do it. Not now.
“Don’t worry. I don’t think you’re cheap.”
“Justine, I– ”
The waitress frisbeed their orders on the table. Derrick blinked at the two mounds of weeping dough in front of him, then at Justine, who was nibbling on her cake. Which was it to be? The girl or the sandwich?
“Going eat that, sweetie?”
Derrick paused. “I’m not hungry. I mean, it’s too big. I think there’s two sandwiches.”
Justine shrugged. “Take it back.”
The charade was set: he tumbled up to the counter. “I only ordered one sandwich,” he commanded in his new, managerial voice.
The waitress squeezed her eyes.
“I got two, see?”
“No it’s a big sandwich, cut in half – your usual.”
“It’s a big sandwich. Cut in half,” Derrick said when he was back at the table.
“It’s too big for me.”
Justine spilled back into her chair. “Look, Derrick, I know why we’re here. I know what the bastard is up to.”
“He’s making you fire me. At least he had the balls to can Feather Hudson himself.”
“This is really too big. Want some?”
“No, I don’t want your fucking sandwich, Foam! Admit it – you’re here to fire me.”
Derrick dipped his head.
“Typical. Always the jerks, Jussie. I only slept with him, but Feather – she was in love with that man poodle! Couldn’t see past the gifts and the weekends. But I realised straight away, after… we… you know. Sneaking emails, first nice, then nasty. Calling me into his office to take notes then to take my clothes off.”
“I didn’t know.”
“How could you? You’re just another of his pawns. Well, I’ve got some big news of my own – Clem can go suck on a harpoon. I’m going straight to the Anti-Harrassment Society or whatever the fuck it’s called. Email him that!” Justine jolted to her feet and stamped out.
Derrick stared at the knurling puddles of mayonnaise. Images came to him: of Justine thrashing in ecstasy; of Feather Hudson, frumpy and crying; and of himself, standing on the edge, yanking sluggishly at billowing trousers. He began eating, ripping and chewing the bread in beats, cursing himself with each swallow. When he’d fingered up the last of the juice, he pushed away the plate. “I finally died which started the whole world living,” he offered through a covert belch.