turpitude

…a lack of moral fibre, moral backbone, moral direction, moral centre, moral anything     

It wasn’t that Oscar was evil. An evil person is someone who derives pleasure from the pain of others. Oscar derived no pleasure from the pain of Simon Devlin. Nor did he derive the least satisfaction from the mental collapse of Susan Wilmot. The firing of Esther and Miriam was not something Oscar would look back on with a smile on his face. And that he was solely responsible for the demotion of Jimmy the Nod, was not something about which he was happy, overjoyed, slightly satisfied, inwardly smiling or in any way smug.

Though Jimmy the Nod had it coming, of that there could be no doubt.

When Oscar began at the newspaper, replacing the inoffensive young man in the filing department, he was determined to climb up the ladder. He was determined to be ambitious. He was determined to get far. In short he was determined to be determined. And to be determined you had to be ruthless. And to be ruthless you had to take what you wanted. And to take what you wanted you had to want something. And so Oscar wanted something. He wanted Jimmy the Nod’s job. He wanted it. He wanted it more than anything else. He wanted it like he wanted nothing else before. He wanted it with every fibre of his being. And he would not let up wanting it until he got it.

When he got Jimmy the Nod’s job, Oscar couldn’t have said why he had even wanted it. But he got it. And now he wanted for something else to want.

It was far more than determination which got him Jimmy the Nod’s job less than a week after Oscar himself had started at the newspaper. It was more to do with the fact that nobody liked Jimmy the Nod. He was the kind of person it was easy to dislike. And no one really knew Oscar, so he was seen as a better candidate for the job, once he had exposed Jimmy the Nod’s seeming lack of professionalism.

Was it a lack of professionalism, Oscar had asked one of the sub-editors on the news desk, to stockpile rare and expensive items of stationary in a secret hiding place? Yes, he was told, it certainly was. And was it, Oscar asked, a lack of professionalism, to rent out the executive director’s parking space for the half of the year he wasn’t in the office? Yes, replied the sub-editor – that would be a gross case, an utter lack of professionalism. Oscar was also told that restricting news feed in the interests of certain persons, reading the whole of the lifestyle section of the newspaper in the executive toilets every day after a pub lunch, running off hundreds of pages of colour printing for a private enterprise, and letting the air out of a colleague’s car tyres were all cases which exemplified the very opposite of professionalism to which this newspaper aspired.

Jimmy the Nod was told to clear out his desk. Given the option of changing his ways and working as the filing clerk, or leaving the newspaper without a reference, Jimmy chose the former. He had, he was told, his many years of loyal service and his in-depth knowledge of the newspaper’s clients to thank for such a generous reprieve. However, should he be found to have stepped out of line once more, if he was even found to be hoarding more than one packet of post-it notes, he would be out that door faster than he ever imagined possible.

Jimmy the Nod had seen the error of his ways. He locked himself away in the filing room for the next week to hide his shame as well as to begin the colossal task of filing every file in the right place, a task Oscar had barely got to grips with during his first week, despite his resolve to get to grips with things.

And so, Oscar was temporarily promoted to the position of Junior at the news desk. He assured the news sub-editor that he was the man for the job. But he was told that that remained to be seen. On thinking of this for some time, Oscar decided that was just how it would be seen. Oscar was now determined to be seen to be the man for the job.

Whenever he could, given the chance, half a chance, the least opportunity, Oscar revealed himself to be the man for the job. There was nothing else to Oscar at this point in life. His whole thought process was dominated by this seeming, seeming was everything, seeming and seeming, seeming to be the best man for the job. He had stopped writing, no longer noting down brief observations on the nature of reality or the lack of significance in the words and actions of those surrounding him. Though he had not stopped seeming to be a writer – he seemed to be a writer. He could only seem, but seeming to be the right man for the job took up the majority of his seeming. He couldn’t seem to be much else. Seeming had permeated his every layer. He seemed with his heart and soul. He seemed. He seemed and seemed. He seemed until he could hardly seem anymore.

He affirmed and affirmed and reaffirmed his seeming determination to climb up the ladder, wherever it might lead. And this climbing of the ladder, must take priority over all other concerns. Only when he was securely at the top of the ladder, or at least quite a few rungs above his shadow staining the garishly patterned carpet, would he slow down, because slowing down, as he knew from his past, was detrimental to speeding up, and speeding up was half of your momentum, and momentum was all he had, apart from direction, which was up, which was the other half of momentum, and aspirations, which couldn’t be disentangled from his momentum, but when thought about for any length of time, his aspirations that is, they seemed to evaporate as though they were made of nothing more than a puddle full of cheap gin.

But momentum has a way of looking after itself.

And it was more to do with this momentum he had acquired rather than any evil that might have been lodged in his soul, that he pointed out the failings of his fellow juniors at the news desk, the fresh faced Esther and the corpulent Miriam – who met every afternoon on the deserted top floor of the building to engage in ungodly acts between empty filing cabinets and up-turned chairs. And it wasn’t an evil streak which made Oscar point out the moral failings of Simon Devlin, who occupied himself in watching the unfolding of their torrid love affair from behind a precariously leaning sheet of frosted glass, with his face reddened from the effort of watching. When Simon Devlin appeared late one afternoon with his face covered in tiny glass cuts, to the sound of the high pitched screams of a certain older colleague called Susan Wilmot, one red face quickly bleeding into white embarrassment, the other suddenly devoid of any colour or life, there was little option but for Oscar to nod knowingly in the direction of the sub-editor, who had no choice but to dismiss each party of the sordid affair and recommend poor old Susan Wilmot for early retirement. It wasn’t that Oscar was evil – he was simply determined to be determined.

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