…of a person who looks down on you from beneath an arched eyebrow and from a substantial height if, that is, they notice you at all    

The reclining figure and the red face of the editor appeared between a pile of files and papers and the back of an old and dusty computer monitor. His eyes casually flitted between the papers on his desk, whatever appeared on his computer screen and the well-bitten fingernails of his left hand. He didn’t seem to notice Oscar, though he must be aware of his presence, a presence which was going on for five or six minutes now, which consisted of his sitting in silence after his first and only attempt at civility – a brief smile, the announcement of his name and a very brief reminder of why he was there.

The editor’s eyes never met those of Oscar, who desperately sought them out, angling his head and arching his neck in order to do so, and thinking for a moment that perhaps this man was blind, and perhaps deaf, and perhaps also dumb, but this latter thought was dispelled by the editor exclaiming the word “Fiction!” And just as the word dropped out of the editor’s mouth, weighed down with derision and incredulity, he quickly stopped it up with a cherry he plucked from somewhere behind the pile of files and papers.

Oscar thought this to be an opportunity for him to speak, to put forward his case, and he was about to utter the first word in arguing his case, the case for publishing fiction in a daily newspaper, when he was thrown off balance by the hollow sound of a cherry pip being expelled from the mouth of the editor and the high pitched clink of it against the metal of the waste paper basket several feet to Oscar’s left.

“Bull’s eye,” Oscar offered, hoping perhaps to get onto the wavelength of this spitter-of-cherry-pips and reclining, smug Buda.

But Oscar’s comment, observation or whatever it might consider itself to be, was wholly ignored by the editor, who had managed to stuff two more cherries into his mouth before Oscar had even the chance to be offended.

“Fiction in newspapers,” the editor muttered as though to himself, “whatever next?”

The phone ringing forestalled any immediate action by Oscar, who felt rather off balance by the manner which the editor had adopted up to that point.

“Yes,” the editor drawled into the phone once, twice, three times. He placed the phone beneath his copious jowls, and reclined still further, by sliding down his seat, and muttered such phrases as “nothing that important,” “more of the same,” and “how dreadfully awful”, before breaking out into what appeared to be a grin whilst uttering the words “you don’t say.”

Any hope this meeting once held for Oscar drained quickly away from his conscious mind, to be replaced by a vacuum so strong that it seemed to rip from the air around him every hint of animosity, arrogance and disdain and balling it up into one coherent ball of spite and anger, revolved it around, balancing it precariously, waiting for the target to present an aspect which would be most open to attack and most prone to serious injury.

Not that he was in the least vindictive. At least, he wouldn’t accept that he was. Though he did hold a grudge, and grudges he found to be easily formed, and even more easily acted upon, even if it cost him a great deal. So if Oscar dwelt on the matter for any length of time, and in the clear light of day, from outside of his frame of reference, outside looking in, as it were, or at one remove – well then, Oscar might have the equanimity, if all that was possible, to admit that, yes, he was indeed vindictive, that the quality of being vindictive was a rather essential part of him, a part of his soul even, and that if it was taken away, this vindictiveness, he would be a lesser (though not implying for the worse or the better) person as a result.

Returning the phone to its receptacle hidden somewhere on his desk, or perhaps discarding it amongst a pile of cherries, and further arching his eyebrows as though to offer one last comment on the very interesting information which was just imparted to him, information which someone like Oscar would never have been party to, the editor’s upper body turned a graceful one hundred and eighty degrees about in his chair, a chair which all of a sudden revealed itself to be of the swivelling variety, and his head revealing itself to be of the variety which was only partly covered with mousy coloured hair, the mousy coloured hair which the front of his head displayed in profusion.

It was the sheer arrogance which most shocked as well as impressed Oscar. One had to admire the majestic haughtiness of such a character, and Oscar would most likely have admired it if he wasn’t the person suffering from it directly.

The problem, as Oscar now saw it was that there was no possible response open to him. He could not adopt an air of scornful indifference towards this bald patch which now confronted him, that option was denied him – one cannot counter indifference with indifference and certainly not with greater indifference. To rant about the injury to his pride was of course another way of going nowhere. The steal the man’s cherries was an option, but smacked of pettiness, to kick at the desk in front of him, of desperation.

But Oscar was remarkably clear minded at this point, despite his own arrogance being pulled from beneath him. Standing up from the seat where he had placed himself some ten minutes beforehand, facing this corruption of a human being, he thought carefully before uttering his first word, but followed that word up very quickly with its following word and that word in turn with the next and so on, not allowing any gaps to form into which this bastard could interject some kind of bastard comment.

“So when do you want my first piece?” Oscar asked, successfully feigning a blasé attitude. “I’ll not take a penny below five pence a word.”

“Fiction,” a guffaw emanated from somewhere in the region of the editor’s head.

“That’s right,” Oscar quickly replied. “Three pieces a week, a thousand words a piece, at five pence a word. You’re a damn good businessman, I’ll give you that. Damn good!”

And Oscar quickly retreated out of the range of cherry pips and disregard.


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