Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The Westwich Writers Club. 8

'Croissant and a coffee to take away?'

Sharon poured the coffee without waiting for a reply and bagged up the pastry. Stephen tried to look glum.

'Am I so predictable? One of these days I'll order something different just to confuse you.'

'Women like a bit of predictability in a man, it usually means they're dependable too. That can never be a bad thing.'

'I thought you girls like the excitement of unpredictability in men? The bad boys always seem to do better with women than the dependable types.'

Sharon thought for a moment.

'Hmm, you're right. Mind you, I don't think you'd be quite as predictable as you are in your breakfast habits. I reckon you'd be a bit of a challenge, Stephen. That's something else we women like.'

Sharon took the proffered banknote and handed back the change.

So, in essence, you want a strong, reliable character with a smattering of unpredictability, pride with a hint of sensitivity, stability with a reckless streak and a challenge thrown in for good measure?'

'You've nailed it. You seem to be that rarest of creatures, a man that actually understands women. When are you taking me out?'

'I'm as puzzled as the next man,' laughed Stephen. 'Anyway, you'll most likely have changed your mind about the requirements by tomorrow. That's why we men are always getting it wrong; you girls keep moving the goalposts.'

'Let's have a test run,' urged Sharon. 'I'll let you know what bits you're getting right as we go along.'

Stephen headed for the door chuckling to himself.

'Your husband would have a fit if he could hear you.'

'He wouldn't care if you and I had sex on our front room carpet, providing we didn't block his view of the football.'

'I'm sure he'd be furious if he found us together,' laughed Stephen. 'He'd probably want to teach us both a lesson. See you on Monday.'

Sharon watched as Stephen walked by the plate glass window.

'I'll risk it if you will,' she muttered.

Stephen pushed the key into the lock and pushed the door handle down with his elbow while his other arm cradled his briefcase and breakfast. Once inside he tapped the code into the burglar alarm, retrieved his key from the door and switched on the shop lights. At the back of the room he opened the door to the workshop, flicked the switch and set his briefcase down on the bench. He had just taken his first sip of coffee when the shop entry chime sounded.

'Morning,' he called.

Carole stuck her head round the door and feigned surprise.

'You're early, did you fall out of bed?'

'I was hardly in it last night,' he replied.

'Spare me the sordid details,' she laughed. 'I'm far too innocent for stuff like that.'

'Nothing sordid to report, Ma'am, I was working on my computer.'

'Don't you see enough of them in the day?'

'More than enough, my computer has needed an upgrade for months, I've got the bits at home but I can't seem to summon the will to fit them. They'll be out of date by the time I get round to it. I've got far more interesting things to do with my time.'

The door chime rang again.

'Morning boss,' called Paul and Mel together.

Stephen looked at his watch.

'This is some kind of record,' he said. 'Or it will be if Ben manages to get here before ten past.'

'He's not coming in,' said Mel. 'I saw him in the pub last night, he was hammered.'

'Taking his Granny's death badly, eh?'

'Not so you'd notice, he was with a crowd of lads from the estate, he was buying the beer too, she must have left him some money.'

'She must have, he's always saying I don't pay him enough to live on. He'd better be back in on Monday or I'll be paying him a visit to see what he's playing at.'

Carole made her way through to the shop and turned on her PC. She opened the day’s mail while she waited for the operating system to load.

'Bills, bills and more bills,' she called.

'We'd better get these new PCs built smartish then,' said Stephen.' Or we'll all be on the dole by the end of the month.'

'Five cheques in, and Smalley's Solicitors have finally paid their bill.'

'Hurrah, we're saved,' shouted Paul. 'You won't have to go onto the streets after all, Mel.'

'Bugger,' she said, 'I was looking forward to that.'

Stephen opened up the stock room and called Mel and Paul to join him.

'How do you want to go about this? There are fifteen workstations to build and test, plus the five new machines on individual orders. It doesn't look like we can count on Ben, so It's down to us.'

'Is now a good time to ask for a rise?' asked Mel.

'Ladies first then, Mel. We have twenty PCs to build and we have six repairs, one upgrade and two don't know until we get the lids off. Which do you fancy having a go at?'

'I really don't mind, boss, I'll take what I'm given.'

'Correct answer,' laughed Stephen. 'Can you do the upgrade today? If you do get time you can start on one of the repairs. I'll get onto the don't knows, then I'll hit the repair list. Paul, looks like the new ones are down to you.'

'I'm at Robbem and Scarpers this afternoon, they've got problems with backups and as they're a legal firm they think they should get priority.'

'Smalleys? ' Stephen laughed. 'Seeing as they've finally settled their bill I suppose we had better sort them out.'

Stephen walked through to the shop and leant on the counter.

'Can you conjure up Ben's number for me please, Carole? We are in need of his services.'

Carole looked up the record on her database and jotted down Ben's numbers.

'One mobile, one landline. I'd try the mobile; he never answers the other one.'

Stephen picked up the phone on Carole's desk, then on impulse decided to use his mobile instead. He had never used it to ring Ben before, so he wouldn't recognise his number on the screen when it rang.

'Ben? Good, it’s Stephen, yes that's right, Stephen, your boss? The man who gives you money for doing very little.'

‘You’re at Death's door are you? Well I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to walk through it, we have a lot of work on here and we're extremely short handed.'

Stephen drummed his fingers on the counter as he listened to Ben's reply.

'You got what? Swine Flu? Were they serving Tami-Flu cocktails at the Wagon and Horses last night?'

'No boss is right, they weren't. Look, Ben, I'm not going to mess around with you any more. I expect you back at work on Monday morning at 8 am sharp. We've got twenty new PCs to build and only ten days to build them in.'

Stephen hung up and slid his phone into his pocket. He turned to Carole with a shrug.

'Remind me why I ever employed him?'

'Because he's a wizard with computers?'

'Wizard he may be, but he's about to cast his final spell. He's on his last, last chance, Carole. If he doesn't turn up on Monday I'll be casting the you're fired, spell.'

Stephen returned to the workshop and placed a computer on the work bench. He flicked through the job sheet and took the lid off the machine.

'Can anyone work tomorrow?'

'Sorry boss,' said Paul. 'I'm playing football; we've in the semis.'

'I can keep you company,' said Mel, softly.

Stephen cursed under his breath; he really didn't want to be alone with Mel.

'I'll be here until twelve as usual,' called Carole. 'I can stay until two though if you need me.'

Stephen grinned.' Thanks, Carole; I knew I could rely on you.'

Five minutes later Carole called through.

‘I have a Mr Whitaker from the Westwich Herald on the line. He wants to have a chat about administering their network; the people who normally do it have gone to the wall. He also said that at least half a dozen of his machines are well past their use by date and will need replacing, ASAP. Blackstocks recommended us apparently.'

'The Herald? Blimey, if we can get in there we're made. They must have dozens of machines in that place, it's huge. I'll take it in the office, Carole.'

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1 comment:

  1. The plot complexifies. Static this one, Trevor, but still building the tale.

    Check your emails.