I’m stuck for what to write about, and my brain is like ninety percent snot at the moment anyway, so I’m going to pull the short-story-of-questionably-quality-that-I-wrote-like-four-years-ago trick.
One Interesting Client
The phone rings. A large part of me wants to leave it there, let it ring, ignore the person on the other end. It’s probably some chap trying to sell us paperclips or something anyway. But if I don’t take calls I’ll probably end up losing my job. And although being a receptionist for a childcare centre might make doing the dishes seem wildly exciting, it pays well. And who doesn’t like having some spare cash to waste on books and rollercoaster rides? So I reluctantly pick up the persistently buzzing well out of date hand set and speak into the mouthpiece.
‘Hello, this is Tana Michaels from Harley Hill’s Happy Human Hamlet. How may I help you?’ I will personally hunt down whoever named this place. They owe me a lot of dignity. Happy Human Hamlet? Honestly?
‘Hi Tana. I’m Holly Peterson. Nice alliteration by the way.’
‘Thanks,’ I say, my voice dripping with sarcasm.
‘Listen, I was wondering if you might be able to fit me in for this afternoon.’
‘Yeah, sure. What was it you needed help with?’
‘My child Henry,’ says the static voice on the other end of the line, ‘he’s been repetitively bullying my husband and I. At first it wasn’t so bad. He was a bit snappy, but apart from that was okay. But lately he’s been very antisocial with his friends. He won’t share his toys at all. And he growls a lot, especially at bath time.’ If I wasn’t on the job I would point out that “repetitive bullying” is a tautology. But the boss doesn’t especially appreciate that kind of thing so I am content to let it slide and raid my colleague’s chocolate stash instead. ‘So we were looking for some professional assistance,’ she continues. I unwrap a chocolate before answering.
‘Mmm. Yeah okay. I think we can squeeze you in.’ The truth is this place has been relatively quiet all morning and according to my digital schedule will continue to be for the remainder of the day. But apparently making us seem busy by saying something along the lines of “squeeze you in” makes the company appear more professional. Although that’s according to the same people who agreed to call it Harley Hill’s Happy Human Hamlet. So don’t quote me on that one.
‘Thankyou, I’ll see you then.’
‘Bye,’ I say and promptly put down the receiver. I then proceed to put my feet up on the desk and continue reading my thrilling novel, because that’s the kind of person I am. Also because I’ve got the run of the place until Holly comes in which shouldn’t be for the next couple of hours. I grin. Holly and Henry at Harley Hill’s Happy Human Hamlet. That would make one good headline.
# # #
‘Tana?’ At the sound of my name I look up from my book and hastily close it with a snap.
‘Holly Peterson I presume?’
‘That’s me.’ She eyes my pigsty of a desk. I shove the mess to one side and put on my I – totally – know – what – I’m – doing hat.
‘So, where’s this troublesome Henry of which you speak so highly?’ I say.
‘Here he is.’ She points down. I stand and lean over the desk. There is a pram. Bullied by a two year old. Classic. I peer further over. And I don’t see what I expect. Because instead of some little kid there is a fluffy white miniature poodle strapped into the pram. Henry stares up at me with what I swear is an evil grin. I almost laugh out loud. All my friends tell me about people who treat their dogs like their second children. Although I myself have not encountered one. Well, not before today.
‘Right,’ I say, still not entirely certain how to handle the strange situation. ‘We’ll see if we can teach Henry some discipline.’ I stifle a grin and begin to reconsider something. The name of this centre suddenly doesn’t seem entirely ridiculous. Specifically the Human part. Henry will certainly make one interesting client.
Wow, I’m running out of short stories. Abandoned novels are more my speed – hatred of both word limits and commitment does that to a person.
Good luck with your publisher stalking.