Teamwork, by Fiona O’Rourke
I write to Ben: Lucky is the man who cannot hear.
Ben writes back: True. After tea break, ok?
He hands me back my notebook. My stomach begins to starburst.
Ben wrote one time that he can feel moods through his ears even though he can’t hear.
The typing pool staff calls Ben the Dummy.
Where’s the Dummy till we get more pens? they ask, holding up dead Biros. They demand typewriter ribbons like they’re going out of fashion.
Civil Service? Nothing civil about it.
Later, I’m on café duty, gathering orders for scones. Pocketing cash from the other typists.
“You should send the Dummy,” says the supervisor, not looking up from her newspaper, “then you could get back to your typing.”
“He’s on a break,” I say. “Anyway, I’m on a mission now.”
“Collect the post as well, but scones first,” she orders, as usual.
I collect a parcel, the weight of a small child. I hold it away from me like a child that might boke.
“Careful,” says the post room fella, “take it straight to Ben.”
My heart goes extra fast. Looking in the mirror in the lift, the parcel is the same paleness as my face.
The phone call comes after tea break so at least we’ve had our scones. We are swiftly corralled into a far-off evacuation area where the ground suddenly rumbles like thunder without lightning.
The storm of glass and brick can’t reach our sanctuary, but I’ll watch it later on the TV. Some workers start to cry about our shattered offices but others are intent on calling into the travel agents for a last-minute deal.
“Look at the Dummy covering his ears,” says one of the typists. “Thought he was supposed to be deaf as well?”
I go and tug Ben’s sleeve, hand him my notebook.
He underlines my earlier message, Lucky is the man, and nods towards Lucky, the post room guy. So now we are a team.
I take out my cigarettes and matches. I will burn the page as usual.
Fiona O’Rourke writes fiction and memoir. Her stories have been broadcast and published in journals: about.me/fionamkorourke