It was my turn to choose a title and, unashamedly, I’ve stolen one from a once popular and still excellent novel/film by Kingsley Amis. I haven’t read it for a while and it’s probably badly dated but it seemed to fit the central character of our story. If you don’t like it, blame me.
It’s also piublished on Eden’s site here .
Today’s prompt: I was dressed in a completely inappropriate shade of pink.
Parts 1 and 3 BK
Parts 2 and 4 EB
Jim Bickford always seemed to be asking for trouble. Basically, he was just a harmless joker with no pause button – no instinct to check whether what he was about to say might be rude or offensive. Most of us at work had known him for a while and were used to it. He was good to have around, never let anything get too serious. Whenever some newcomer arrived, one of us would somehow prepare them for what to expect and they’d soon get used to him and, mostly, enjoy the jokes. It changed when Frank Dawson, a new deputy manager was appointed for the engineering section. He’d come from head office and was pretty obviously there to increase productivity or something. He also saw himself as a tough, hard-nosed, no-nonsense, macho individual who wouldn’t take any crap. Jim, as usual, was unfazed by any of this and, one morning, when he arrived half an hour late and Dawson stopped him at the gate, the excuse he offered was:
“Yeah, sorry Boss. Schedule’s all to cock. Party last night. When I got there, though, I realised I was dressed in a completely inappropriate shade of pink. Had to go home and change.”
The story goes that Dawson had had enough of Jim long before that little incident. The two had butted heads before, but that exchange must’ve broken the proverbial camel’s back. Gossip and rumours only muddied the truth.
A security guard said he’d heard harsh words between them, that Dawson had threatened to kill Jim. Another worker in the building said he saw Jim crying in the parking lot that night. Someone else said he wasn’t just crying but bleeding as well. It was all hearsay as we never saw Jim again after that.
His desk must’ve been cleared sometime after hours because the next day, it was completely bare. His computer, the picture frames with his wife and kids in them, the line-up of bobble heads he collected for some strange reason—all gone.
A curious co-worker pulled open his desk drawers to check for file folders that might’ve been left behind. Nothing, not one piece of paper, not even a paper clip. All surfaces appeared to have been wiped clean. The only thing that lingered as we walked by Jim’s old cubicle was a faint smell of bleach.
It was as if Jim Bickford had mysteriously disappeared.
The whole thing happened when the company was going through a bit of a crisis so people’s attention was distracted. Jim’s closest friends worried about him but the pressure on everyone to find new markets, increase productivity and profits prevented anyone from looking more deeply into it. Besides, knowing Jim, it could easily be another of his tricks. He’d made it pretty clear that he had no time for Dawson (not to mention a few others on the Board) but Stewart Fraser had even said that Jim had broken down one night in the pub, been very close to tears and said the answer might be an overdose. But then he’d quickly laughed and said he was talking about an overdose of beer and it was Stewart’s round.
It was only when things began to stabilise and the sales charts started rising that Jim’s absence became a regular tea-room topic again. The suicide angle was dismissed pretty quickly and it was hard to imagine him being outsmarted by anybody, whatever their status. Most of Jim’s mates were convinced that he’d dreamed up some anti-Dawson scheme and were just waiting for the final touch that would surely lead to him getting the sack.
“Here you go,” Jim said. He handed a Mojito to his companion. “I asked for extra mint, just the way you like it.”
From under a wide-brimmed hat came a breathy voice, “Thanks, sweetheart.”
Jim took a seat on the adjacent lounger and they both stared out to sea, sipping their cocktails in comfortable silence. He couldn’t believe they’d pulled it off. The last couple of years had been the most joyous and the most difficult of his life. He never intended to hurt anyone, nor leave his wife and kids, but he couldn’t keep up the pretence of a happy man anymore—not after he’d found his true love.
The idea for him to vanish seemed ludicrous at first, but the more they talked about it, the more they realized it was the only solution. At work, they kept up the charade, openly showing disdain for one another. Secretly, however, they planned their escape. After Jim disappeared, the workplace gossip persisted for months, but it did eventually stop.
The company’s Philippines division created a senior executive role, and Frank took the job. The position was perfect for him. He was single, mobile, and most importantly—Jim was there.
I didn’t realize the title was from Kingsley Amis.
Now it makes sense when you say you fashioned the character loosely after yourself.
Hmmm – that’s a bit enigmatic, Eden, but I’ll take any reflected glory that’s going. Thank you. (Anyway, the book was published in 1954, when I was on my way to being a grown-up.)