The next in line of the 800-word stories from me in Scotland and Eden Baylee in Canada.
Prompt: He was skating on thin ice – that’s all I can say.
Parts 1 and 3 BK
Parts 2 and 4 EB
Barry and Angela
Barry’s attitude to more or less everything was to refuse to take it seriously. Mostly it worked for him because he could recognise when a bit of gravity or respect or something similar was appropriate, in which case he’d tone down the levity and, basically, say very little. The rest of the time, his cheeriness usually lifted the mood and so it was good to be around him. Angela, his wife, did say now and then that his relentless good cheer could get wearing, especially when she was trying to talk about renewing insurance policies and the like, but he was good with the kids and when they entertained friends for dinner everyone always had a good time.
It was easy to see why he got his job at the video company. He could detoxify potentially hazardous products with ease, his upbeat way with scripting copy for clients and the lightness of touch he brought to on screen presentations worked magic even with serious health and safety topics. In fact, the only minor glitch in his otherwise seamless rise through the company’s hierarchy came about because one day when he was away, Angela took a client’s incoming call.
“Sir, please stop shouting!”
Angela immediately regretted picking up the call.
“I can’t help you. I can—not help you—if you don’t calm down …”
Her words came out staccato, escalating in volume to match the person on the other end. She pulled the phone away from her ear and pressed a button on the keypad. It cut out the voice for a second before transferring it to speaker phone.
He was screaming about something Barry had written. She heard the word lawsuit and his repetitive threats to sue her husband. He had an accent, maybe Welsh, maybe French. It was difficult to tell through the staticky reception. After unsuccessfully yelling at the phone to calm him down, she did the only thing she could. She pressed the Off button and hung up on him.
She waited, counted down from ten. At three, the phone rang again.
The same caller, she hesitated and picked up.
“Have you calmed down, sir?”
“All right. I’m going to grab pen and paper and write down your concern. Can you please hold the line?”
Angela rustled some papers on her husband’s desk. Of all days for her to agree to play secretary.
As soon as Barry came in that evening, she was brandishing the piece of paper at him.
“Rude bastard!” she yelled. “The names he called me. He was skating on thin ice – that’s all I can say. If he’d said any more of his sexist crap, I’d’ve…”
She stopped. There was that perennial trace of a smile on Barry’s face as he took the note, glanced briefly at it, nodded and said “Ah yes. Gerald. He can be a bit mouthy. I’ll phone him later.”
“A bit mouthy! He was bloody vile!”
“He always is,” said Barry.” In fact, last time he phoned the office he called Brenda an Irish cow… and she’s from Kirkintilloch.”
Angela shook her head, finished piling food onto the plate she was holding, dumped it on the table and went into the sitting room to turn on the TV. She was changing channels when Barry, holding the note about Gerald, came in and sat beside her.
“Sorry, love,” he said. “He’s round the bend. That YouTube video he wrote for us. He’s being sued.”
“Why?” said Angela.
“Says the Lord Mayor’s a pole dancer.”
Barry just looked at her then shook his head.
Angela gave him side-eye. “Wait … Gerald works for the company? I thought he was a client.”
“Kind of, he’s contracted to us part-time.”
“So why’s he upset with you?”
“Who knows? He blames everyone for his troubles. I told Joe not to hire him, but…”
“Rumour has it Gerald’s his wife’s second cousin. Turns out his temperament doesn’t suit a nine to five job.”
“That’s an understatement.” Angela turned off the TV. “He needs to calm down or he’ll have a heart attack. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lord Mayor took up pole dancing.”
“Of course, it’s become really trendy, even celebrities are doing it to keep fit.” Angela stood up but her husband pulled her back on the couch.
“You’ve given me an idea on how to fix this.”
“Yes, we’ll just have to convince the Lord Mayor that calling him a pole dancer was meant as flattery, not an insult.”
“Can you do it?”
“It’ll be challenging,” he said in a weary tone.“Damn Gerald … trying to disguise the truth in witty copy.”
Angela frowned at him. “How so?”
“The Lord Mayor’s actually having sex with a Polish stripper.”