Saturday, 2 October 2010

A Short, Short Story

Day to View

If you stood with your back to the door of what Shelley called her office but which actually had many uses, the first person sitting on your left would be a dentist. He had the first appointment of the day. It was always best to get him in really early because otherwise, he would inevitably find other people to squeeze in beforehand and then everyone would be running even more late for the rest of the day. She didn't dare to admit to herself, let alone anyone else, that she was nervous about this first appointment.

The waiting room was really Shelley's living room with her mismatched dining chairs lining the edges. However, if her day went smoothly (she was a stickler for planning) then there should only be two or three in there, looking nervous, avoiding each other's gazes and generally twiddling their thumbs, at any one time. She'd even put 'Please switch off all mobile phones' notices on two of the walls. Next to the door, in the spot on the wall not taken up by the bay window, the door from the hallway or the one with the fireplace, was a big noticeboard. The text on the pieces of paper, which flapped around in the stiflingly hot air as the office or hallway doors were passed through, was headed enticingly with bold print but followed by letters sufficiently small that they would have to squint to read on. No one liked to be reminded of their deteriorating eyesight, she knew that. Sometimes, they might get up on the pretext of stretching their legs, just to decode the juiciest bit of the notice only to find that they could be observed by others to be closely reading an invitation to a self-help group for people with sexual diseases. Or an invitation to learn to salsa.

Next in line was a young man clutching a clipboard. He'd brought someone with him, an older man who looked resigned to his fate at being there and uncomfortable in his suit. It was too tight. Borrowed maybe? No, Shelley thought. She reckoned it was his only one, probably from twenty years ago judging by its cut. Fallen on hard times, children to feed, wife wanting him out of the house. Shelley looked away quickly, reminding herself that she wasn't here to judge. But surely no one wants to sell energy supply for a living?

The man sitting on the other side of the waiting room, on the singular chair, he was a doctor. He'd been the hardest one to get to come. She'd more or less had to plead. He kept jumping up, trying to explain how he had other people to see. He really thought that he was important. More important than the poor chap opposite with the hungry kids and nagging wife? He would have to wait just like everyone else. Sure, they all had the same appointment time but wasn't that how it worked? He needn't worry, he'd get his seven and a half minutes. Eventually.

Meanwhile, Shelley looked down her day to view appointment diary. It would be a full day. The mortgage advisor, the customer service assistant from the refunds desk at the supermarket, the pharmacist, the post office clerk, the airline check-in agent ….. the list went on. An exhausting day it would be, indeed. She strolled out through the waiting room to make herself a cup of coffee. No one said anything although the air of anticipation was so tangible that it was almost clawing at her skirt and dragging her down. But she was made of stronger stuff. She was the one with the diary. They would have to wait.