Copyright © 2011 Peter Beckett
Keith flicked the switch and sparked the buffer into life
as the final few suits left the building, ignoring each other. As the
doors revolved for the last time, the setting sun glinted off the marble
floor. The drone of the buffer echoed endlessly
off hard pillars and walls. He knew
there was more to life than the concentric semi-circles he made on the ground;
more money to be had and more power to hold, but at least he wasn’t like
them. He stopped to pick up a
well-thumbed newspaper that had escaped the corner bin. The pink sheets fluttered in the breeze from
the air-conditioning overhead. At least
he wasn’t like them. He smiled at the
thud and swinging bin lid. The newspaper
now sat surrounded by stained coffee cups.
sat at his desk watching the flicking monitor with a casual negligence. There had never been a break in. As Keith approached him, Geoff flicked his
fingers into a brief wave of acknowledgement.
That’s what sets us apart, he thought, the personal touch. It had taken forty minutes to clean the
lobby floor. By now thousands of suits
would be sat watching TV, eating dinners on lap-trays. Their ties hanging limp, a half noose on the
the wife?” Geoff called, cutting through
the fading echoes of the dormant buffer.
“Good, good. And
yours?” Keith replied in the customary
way. It had been too many years to
ascertain her name now, although ‘Julie’ always seemed fitting.
“Can’t complain, can’t complain, yet she always finds a
“Good, good, well must crack on.” There had never been more to it than
this. No new quip, no further enquiry,
just these same few words, night after night.
They both knew that in two hours they would share their closing
piece. A touch of the hat and an “all
the best” would leave a smile their faces right to the close of the security
finished his routine and surveyed the final floor space. A black mark by the lift doors plagued him,
as it had for a week. It sat brazen
against the rich white and grey like a dead moth on a windscreen. He had buffered it and polished it. He had spent ten minutes a day on his knees
pleading at it with a cloth and strong smelling cleaner. It
still stayed rooted to its spot. He
turned his back on it and wrapped the cable around the buffer. He wouldn’t look back as he walked to the
packed away his bottles and cloths in uniform places on the shelves and removed
his gloves. He hung them side by side,
thumbs almost touching, on the centre of the shelf at the back. Wiping his hands down his trousers he caught
his fingernail on a loose thread. He
would cut it later with the kitchen scissors, when he made his dinner, he thought,
grasping the door handle with his ring-less fingers.
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