JUST TALKING - RICHARD GODWIN
‘We were talking about Walt,’ Keith said. ‘Still hasn’t called, you gonna fire him?’
Harry looked up from sifting through the papers on his desk.
‘Now, hold on, Keith, Walt’s been with this firm for years, been a good worker, too.’
‘Yeah, and knows a thing or two,’ Keith said, letting out a guffaw.
‘Now what’s that supposed to mean?’
Keith shrugged. ‘Just saying, that’s all.’
‘Don’t you that’s all me, Keith, come on, what was behind your remark?’
Keith couldn’t repress the little smile that was playing at the edge of his lip like a mischievous child.
‘You know, Keith, I’ve put up with you for years, since you’re my in-law. Mary’s a sap, she’d tolerate it if you fucked her best friend in front of her and asked her to wipe the stains up afterwards. And I done a lot for you for my sister, but you know you ain’t a good worker, you been sitting on your ass for years and counting the pay come in, the pay I pay you, and I’m sick of you. Harry’s Motors is the best goddam garage round here because I built it up through hard work and honest labour and you’re trying to get me to fire one of my best workers cause he’s late again!’
Keith stood up, hiding his surprise behind a defiant snarl.
‘You know I never asked for this job, I done it for Mary.’
‘You don’t want this job?’
‘Fine. Here,’ Harry said, pulling a large cheque book from a drawer and scribbling in it, ‘this is a month’s pay, get your things and go.’
‘You serious? You gonna fire me over this? Over nothing?’
‘Sure am. Walt’s a good worker. He’s having trouble with his wife who’s been screwing around and he’s late. Big deal!’
‘When I’m late, you start bitchin’ at me.’
‘That’s ’cause you’re always late, and you never do a day’s work for me.’
‘That ain’t true.’
‘It fucking is, Keith, now get out of my garage.’
A while later there was the screech of tyres outside, leaving two black lines down the forecourt.
Later that day Walt came in.
He told Harry how he had found out who his wife had been screwing and how sorry he was for being late again, but he’d make it up to him.
Harry clapped him on the shoulder and said:
‘Don’t worry, Walt, you sort this thing out, and your job’ll be here.’
He could see tears dancing in the corners of Walt’s eyes.
‘Thanks, Harry,’ he said. ‘Where’s Keith?’
‘Anything I can help you with?’
Walt shook his head.
‘I need to speak to him.’
‘Well, I fired him.’
‘I always figured he had it comin’. I’ll catch up with him on the outside,’ Walt said and shut the door.
Harry got on the phone to a customer.
On the outside?
‘Hello, ma’am, this is Harry’s Motors, your car’s ready.’
Walt sat at his desk all day staring out of the window with a glazed expression on his face.
Mary was lying in bed with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s when she heard the door slam.
She put the spoon, heavy with Chunky Monkey, on the night table.
Keith had gone straight to the nearest bar and got drunk and decided Mary was the best person to blame for this, what with telling Harry about his little action on the side.
A few moments later, the bedroom door flew open.
‘Keith, what you doin’ back home? I thought you was an intruder!’
‘I’ll intrude on you you fuckin’ bitch!’
‘What have I done?’
‘Your friggin’ brother just fired me, that’s all, ’cause you been whining at him about my little peccadillo.’
‘I thought we wasn’t goin’ to talk about that no more, Keith, you know how it hurt me.’
‘Hurt? You want me all to yourself?’
‘Keith! We’re married! I was just talkin’ to my brother. I’ll call him.’
She picked up the phone.
But, before she punched in his number, Keith grabbed the phone and slung it across the room.
‘Here I am, Mary, and I’m all yours!’
And he climbed on top of her, pulling the sheets off her as he did.
Mary kicked at him, but her bra and knickers didn’t put up much resistance and, before she knew it, Keith had raped her.
‘Just talking, hah?’ he said.
She lay there sobbing while the Ben and Jerry’s drooled off the end of the spoon, landing in gobbets on the carpet, as he walked out.
He went back to the bar, and Mary rang Harry.
He couldn’t get any sense out of her, until eventually he made out the word rape and realised what Keith had done.
He went into Walt’s office and said:
‘I’m going out, can you take over for the afternoon?’
‘Sure, what’s happened?’
‘It’s Mary. Keith’s done something - I’m gonna kill him.’
And he shut the door.
‘Not if I get to him first,’ Walt said.
He stared out of the window and saw one of the secretaries coming back from lunch.
She knocked and asked if he wanted a coffee.
‘You know who I just saw?’ she said.
‘Keith. Not in work, sitting at the bar, out of it. He sees me and comes out and tries to make a grab for me.’
‘The one round the corner. I slapped his face. Harry’s too good to him.’
‘No, he ain’t, he fired him.’
‘Well, that’s the first I heard. About time.’
She brought him the coffee and Walt sat staring at it.
Keith got drunker all afternoon and managed to get his face slapped again by a businesswoman he called ‘blow job’.
Walt stared at his desk, waiting for the end of the day.
Told Harry I’d stay an’ I will.
Meanwhile, Harry held Mary’s hand while she sobbed her heart out to him.
He kept saying he was calling the police, but she wouldn’t have it.
He thought about calling them anyway, but somehow couldn’t bring himself to do it.
By the late afternoon, Mary’s eyes look like a panda’s and her voice had gone all croaky.
The Ben and Jerry’s had turned into soup and Harry was thinking of his shotgun back home in the cupboard.
I knew Keith was scum.
As he left that night, he asked Mary if he could do anything.
‘Get me some vanilla from the freezer, Harry.’
‘You and Ben and Jerry’s,’ he said, walking downstairs, thinking of blowing Keith’s head apart.
At exactly six o’clock, Walt shut up.
He drove round the corner to the bar and sat waiting for a while, thinking it through.
Don’t need no gun.
Keith was sitting on the same stool he’d occupied since one o’clock, and the barman was looking tired of the sight of him.
‘Gimme another,’ he said, sliding his glass across the counter.
‘I think you’ve had enough, sir.’
‘One for the road, one for the fuckin’ road.’
‘This is the last one,’ he said, pouring it out.
Keith sat there nursing it, thinking about Harry.
The bar was filling up with workers and getting a little noisier. Some women sat in a group by the door and he thought about trying to pick one of them up, but when he stood his legs went hollow and he staggered and had to hold onto the bar to prop himself up.
A couple of businessmen saw him and laughed.
He navigated his way to the loos.
When Walt walked into the bar the stool he’d seen Keith sitting on earlier was empty.
Guessing right, he went straight to the back and found him standing with his back to him as he shut the door.
He waited for him to turn round.
‘Hey, Walt, you buyin’?’ Keith said, zipping up his pants.
‘No, I ain’t buyin Keith. I’m here on business.’
‘No shit, I could do with a job, that bastard Harry’s gone an’ fired me.’
‘Oh? An’ why was that, Keith?’
‘’Cause I told him he was bein’ too tough on you, he’s always bitchin’ you’re late an all. Standin’ up for you ol’ buddy, that’s what I was doin’ and he fired me.’
‘That’s good of you, Keith.’
‘Yup, standin’ up for my ol’ buddy Walt, good’s my middle name.’
‘How’s Tina, by the way?’
Walt just looked at him. ‘How’s Tina?’
‘Fuck you.’ He slammed his fist right into Keith’s mouth.
It was a square punch that connected well and when he pulled it away, he had a couple of Keith’s teeth embedded in his knuckles. By the second punch, most of Keith’s teeth were rattling round on the floor, and Walt’s big wedding ring didn’t help much either, smashing his face up so that when the police found him, he was unrecognisable.
Walt hit him until his anger was spent, Keith too slow and shocked to throw a single punch.
He hit him until he could no longer see Tina being fucked by him, and then he left by the back door and drove home.
It was Harry who found him, walking in right after Walt had left, and he walked straight out and went back to his car, hiding the shotgun in the trunk, and called the police.
The Sheriff came with a couple of his men.
‘Keith always had this coming to him. Any idea who did this Harry?’
Harry shrugged. ‘Not a clue. I fired him earlier today and all I can think’s he came in here an’ got real larey and someone took offence.’
‘Well, don’t surprise me.’
‘I know your missus don’t like him.’
‘What woman does? Good of you to call us, Harry.’
‘My garage is always available to the police, you know that.’
As Harry drove round to Walt’s, they carted Keith away in a body bag.
What he said to Walt as he stood at the door was very straightforward.
‘Walt, you was working with me til eight tonight, right?’
‘Police don’t care.’
‘You found him?’
‘Yup. Say hello to Tina, Walt.’
Breaking the news to Mary was going to be harder, and he drove round there slowly, thinking what a good employee Walt was.
BIO: Richard Godwin lives and writes in London, where his dark satire ‘The Cure-All’, about a group of confidence tricksters, has been produced on the stage. He has just finished writing a crime novel. His writing appears regularly at Disenthralled and Gloom Cupboard, among many other magazines. He has a Twitter account and can be found there under the User Name Stanzazone. He is in the process of setting up a blog. For right now, you can check out his portfolio here.
The Graduation Present on Better Things
1 hour ago