poetry | prints | cine | home

Journal of Distraction - by Michael Kelly

Week 2 - Thursday

Exploring the disused rubbish chute to see how many bodies I could fit in, I fell in and slid down and crashed through some sort of trapdoor then found myself plummeting from a ceiling and landed on my back on an oak table in a dusty room in a remote and neglected part of the building hitherto unsuspected even by me.

A pair of Victorian clerks were working at the table. They were white-haired and wore half-moon glasses and fingerless mittens and were covered in cobwebs. They were somewhat put out by my arrival, not so much by the fact that I'd crashed through the ceiling or the possibility I might have broken my arse in the fall as by the fact that I'd upset their inkpots and stained the ledgers they were working on.

'Oh dear oh dear oh dear,' they said. 'Mr. Fezzigig will be displeased.'

'He is sure to yell at us.'

I helped them put things to rights as best we could. A stout self-satisfied-looking party in a tall hat and a coat with brass buttons and a spectacular set of muttonchop whiskers emerged from an inner door.

'Is this the new boy?' he demanded in a big booming voice.

'I believe so, Mr. Fezzigig,' replied one of the clerks.

He hooked his thumbs into the armholes of his waistcoat and looked me up and down with a scowl. 'Boys are a very bad lot as a rule.'

I touched my forelock. 'I will endeavour to give satisfaction, sir.'

'Hmm. What are your bonny fides, boy? Do you know your letters?'

'I before E except after C, sir. I also have a working knowledge of Powerpoint and Microsoft Excel.'

'Put him on emptying the pisspots, Jorkins, and filling the inkpots. The pay will be one halfpenny a week and a slice of bread-and-dripping. He may sleep under the desk.'

'If you please, sir, Mr. Tiddlewinker's mother sleeps under the desk, sir.'

'Then stop a farthing a week from the boy's wages, for the use of her warmth.'

He disappeared back through the door.

Jorkins and Tiddlewinker set me to work. Through another door was a long dim-lit room filled with more wretched-looking clerks than themselves scribbling furiously. As well as replenishing their inkwells I had to distribute bits of lemon-peel for them to chew on as they worked.

I nudged Jorkins and leered knowingly. 'What's the rob?'

He looked around furtively and lowered his voice. 'If any lemon peel falls to the floor, you may keep it for yourself.'


'A clever boy could eventually build himself an entire lemon skin thereby; they say that is how Mr. Fezzigig gained his start in business.'

I stayed there for the best part of the day, enjoying myself thoroughly. Eventually while rooting round in a cupboard looking for some new pen nibs a hidden door clicked open and I found myself back in my own part of the building, in the disused toilets on the second floor. Mr. Pryor saw me coming out but I don't think he caught me gloating over my lemon peel.

< < | > >