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Journal of Distraction - by Michael Kelly

Week 4 - Monday

I should ask R. back to my place to see my bread-making machine. Chick-magnet.

By the way, Jeremiah wrote:

>>> if we dont get a mellerware ad, you should write to them

I wrote:

>>> I can't find a webpage. Obviously it's just one family of humble artisans, in a garret in Florence or somewhere, hand-crafting them on ancient lathes, handing the secret down from father to son generation after generation. They would regard advertising as vulgar.

Jeremiah wrote:

>>> quite so. i feel ashamed at the thought i had

I should think so too.

I saw R. for a bit today but we didn't talk much. She smiled. I smiled. I gave her a chocolate. This is all I know how to do for women, offer them sweets. I wish I could be a child molester, life would be so much easier.

At least I didn't see her talking to the loathsome ---- from head office. In fact, I heard her talking about him behind his back, with _____ my boss, muttering darkly. But then everyone is. Something is afoot. I'm too unimportant to be told much but it seems I was right to fear him. He is a harbinger of change and doom, I hear talk of sweeping reorganisations... He seems to have been nagging _____ about annoying irrelevances, e.g. told her her sodding 'mission statement' wasn't any good - she has little time for nonsense like that - and suggested she hire a firm of consultants to write one for her projecting the required image... How hilarious is that, people earning a living writing mission statements... the priesthood of talking shite... It's bloody unfair, she's the most capable boss I've worked for. I shuddered when I heard and brought her a cup of tea to express solidarity. It was ace actually, at one point we all gathered rebelliously in the kitchen exchanging cakes and chocolates and making each other tea and bitching about ----. Mrs. Prendergast emerged as a proper Fletcher Christian, saying he has no manners and his eyes are too close together.

Worse though, some sort of health and safety inspector is expected... I heard people talking about 'the cost of bringing this place up to scratch.'

I need hear no more; this beautiful building is doomed.

To console myself I went down the chute to see Mr. Fezzigig. To my horror, he'd installed partitions on the tables in the main clerks' room, turning them into cubicles. In the smaller office, Tiddlewinker and his mother have been laid off but Mr. Jorkins has been given a computer, which is fun for him; when Fezzigig isn't looking he spends a lot of time surfing for porn (ankle fetishism, mostly) and trolling newsgroups - I have to say he's a badass flamer. He has a Myspace page which lists his hobbies as botany and cockfighting and has audio files of his group - which is him playing music hall songs on an upright piano while the crippled messenger boy plays the spoons. Unfortunately Fezzigig is onto him and is installing netblocking, so soon all he'll be able to log onto will be a site of pictures of Queen Victoria and a page Fezzigig made called Pious Thoughts For Diligent Clerks.

Fezzigig also gave him a pager - well, he calls it a pager, but he hasn't actually been able to obtain one, so he's improvised ingeniously - what it is in fact is a leash around Jorkins' neck, attached to a powerful spring-loaded reel on Fezzigig's desk, so when he wants him he can just press a button and Jorkins gets yanked off his stool and dragged right to Fezzigig's office - he tends to bang his head against the door, saving him the trouble of having to knock.

Surprisingly, Fezzigig has also installed a receptionist - our receptionist, the cute one, whom he has kidnapped, although she doesn't seem to mind much, answering telegrams and messenger pigeons with the same giaconda-like placidity and sleepy languour with which she once answered our phones.

'I have installed a fallen woman in the outer room,' he explained to me, staring intently at her legs. 'It seems to be the thing to do in your era. She may take the galoshes of our visitors and serve them lattes while they wait.' He caught me following the direction of his gaze and cuffed me on the ear. 'Vile child! Avert thy impudent gaze! She is not for such as you. Trollop though she be, yet she is an angel...' Two spots of colour had appeared in his bewhiskered cheeks. 'I wonder... how might a humble merchant such as I go about... How might I convey my respectful admiration to such a divine vision?'

'Give her a toffee,' I suggested, 'that's what I do.' I felt a pang of fellow-feeling for him and decided that as a romantic much could be forgiven him.

He roared at that. 'Why, you merry rapscallion! Give her a toffee! No lady is safe with you, Master Kelly!' Genially he beat me comatose.

When I came to he'd gone. I said hello to ____ the cute receptionist, who was playing with the pigeons, and opened the front door. The entrance was blocked off by brickwork. Curiouser and curiouser. Is it a time bubble? Are they ghosts? Can Fezzigig actually leave? On the whole I hope not; if he infects the Victorian era with, say, the idea of mission statements he could destroy the British Empire before it really peaks... We pledge ourselves to a target of painting a quarter of the globe red by 1890... In the clerks' room there is a grimy barred window looking out onto the street, and through it I can see soot and grime and darkness and fog and huge brick chimneys belching smoke, and dismal ragged figures scurrying and lurking, a lame beggar on a crutch, a Peeler on his rounds, a Salvation Army woman, Lowry men playing games with stones in alleyways, and ladies daintily raising crinolined skirts to avoid puddles, and big plump men in weskits, and mangy dogs dying in the gutter, and little dirty urchins in aprons playing hopscotch, and wrought iron railings and gas-lamps haloed in the mist, and hansom cabs and horses... I press my nose against the greasy and sooty glass... could I get out that way? Could I stay there? I'd last two minutes. Why would I possibly want to?... To escape from mission statements and suchlike dreck? To go into publishing before everything's sewn up? To express contempt and boredom of what I left behind?... that might be it... Plenty of more pleasant destinations, given the choice, but few better calculated to stick two fingers up at Them... The only thing better, perhaps, would be for some modernist, some apologist for the status quo, some pollyanna, some pangloss, some smug latter-day heresy hunter, to watch me walk willingly and with eyes open through a door leading to some dirt-poor, plague-ridden, monk-infested, shit-stinking village of the dark ages; although of course he would sneer that I was reactionary and politically suspect, and then I would have to come back and stab him... No, I'm not sure what I'm talking about, either... I am very tired... I'm sure I don't really mean that... 'hate' on the knuckles of one hand, 'ambivalence' on the back of the other, that sounds about right... do excuse me, very little sleep...

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