This is a short story J had published in The Melbourne Times Issue 23, Wednesday, June 18, 2003. He wrote it under the name Travis Parton – he explains why he used this pseudonym here.
It’s a done deal
By TRAVIS PARTON
I click “no” and close the solitaire program.
I cast my eye around the office in despair. My application for leave has been knocked back because of how “frantic” we are at the moment. I look over at Kate in the beige corral next to me. She appears to be sniffing the anti-static spray that stops her nylon skirt clinging to her nylon stockings.
“In a time of national crisis, you have to ask yourself, Kate: ‘Am I doing everything I can for my country?'”
Kate turns her attention away from solvent abuse and regards me with suspicion. She folds her arms. I think about my hangover, and wonder if my level of drinking will dip below a life-threatening level before I bump 50. Claire sucks a pen noisily in the next cubicle.
I think a thought: I have to get out of here.
I look into my reflection in the mirror. I scan the bottom gaps on the stall doors. No one about. Leaning forward, pitching myself towards the mirror and getting a nasty close-up of my skin under the strip fluorescents (everyone looks like a corpse in office toilets), I draw a deep breath and say: “I love you and I am excited to be on this journey with you.”
It doesn’t feel convincing. But I am willing to try anything, dammit. This office is chock full of happy clappy motivational types, festooning the place with posters of whales and kittens hanging off trees. There must be something in it. It might be a bitter pill now, but taste can be acquired. (Not perhaps a good taste. Russell, king of the guru goons, still wore his T-shirts tucked into jeans worn so high they were a choking hazard.)
“I love you and I am excited to be on this journey with you.” Forcefully, this time.
“I love you and I am excited to be on this journey with you.” Yep, starting to feel it now. “I love you and I am excited to be on this journey with you. I love you and I am excited to be on this journey with you.”
I stop. Abruptly. This is the bit in the movie where someone comes in and springs you, I think, looking over my shoulder. Or it turns out that someone was in one of the bloody stalls all along.
I crouched down and peer further under the stall doors. Nope, no feet. But what if someone was standing on the toilet? Holding in their laughter, fit to burst? I think of asking, “Anyone there?” but if they are there, do I want them ‘to know that I know they know? If I can spot them without being noticed, I can waltz out and pretend not to be embarrassed in front of them next time. But then again, if they don’t know that I know that they know, they might be less likely to tell others. I am still crouching down peering under the stall doors when Chris walks in.
“Don’t tell me,” he deadpans. “You’ve lost a contact lens?” I titter nervously, smile thinly, leave quickly.
Deal again? If only.