Friday. Thank God it’s… and all that blue-collar worker jazz.
The miniature boardroom on the ninth floor is dark, sweaty-smelling beyond the aroma of stale cigarette and cigar smoke. Evening it may well be without, yet in here there’s a solitary lamp in the corner with a shade turned emphysematous-brown from years of proximity to chuffers.
Malory Thomas, a.k.a. Tommy, adds fresh scent by lighting up a Salem on the other side of the table from ‘Berry’ Béroul. His grey felt, Stacy Adams brand fedora has been placed (somewhat carelessly) on the shelf next to a rather loud clock.
Tommy didn’t give a rat’s arse about the hat.
The thing belonged to his dad, respected Cornwall family enforcer Johnny ‘Justice of the Peace’ Thomas. He wore it after the old man died not so much as a sign of respect but an attempt to clutch onto the J.P.’s coattails of success.
Obviously this old-fashioned bonnet possessed none of that fortune. Tommy remained on a bottom rung at age thirty, an errand boy forced to kiss butt. Now, however, things are going to change—for the first time in his favour. Berry has a notion. A notion that will win them both a higher standing.
Yet still Tommy has doubts.
He glances at the twin-bell clock. It’s an archaic wind-up appliance with a greasy glass face that lacked the finesse of modern brethren—those digital clocks now on the market. Sure, they made noise too, but not second-by-second clatter. Instead, the blighters emitted a whirring sound once a minute when the numbers clicked over.
“Well, you know what, B?” he murmurs as he fans the cigarette in his mouth, giving it a moment for the cherry to flourish. Breathes in a little, clears his throat, and exhales a plume in the direction of the dark ceiling. “I dunno if Marcey will be in on this.”
Berry, the elder and larger of the two men, says nothing. Embalmed in a cheap black suit and ill-fitting coat, he’s consumed by gloom the other side of this rickety green formica and chrome table between them, fiddling with a matchstick like it might in fact be a fag. On the table proper is a huge steel pot of sand that has turned grey with all the ash joining each grain by the hip.
Shrugging to himself and his dead father, Tommy leans back. “She isn’t gonna dig it.”
Still no verbal response from his erstwhile partner, the man that suggested this meeting out of earshot of their bosses.
“Dead serious,” says Tommy, eyes half-closed to ward off smoke.
Berry grunts. At least Tommy thinks the man grunted. B didn’t have a fine way with words at the best of times, and with the night-time traffic outside in the city running interference, Tommy hasn’t a clue.
“Still,” he rattles goes on, “be blown if we don’t give it a shot. Right?”
The lack of aural response, aside from the timepiece, annoys him. “Don’t get all excited or anything,” he complains.
Tommy doesn’t have time to glance at the clock, but he gets to utter something short and meaningless—“Eh?”—when the timer goes off and the entire ninth floor explodes to the tune of four–and-twenty sticks of dynamite.
The hat that belonged to Tommy’s father, however, survives the experience—unlike its second owner.
A little frayed and scorched it sails a hundred metres into the sky after passing through a ceiling suddenly rendered Swiss cheese.
Not that a gentle descent to terra firma marks a switch from careless hoodlums to a more deserving man’s crown.
Third time lucky?
No, this particular headwear is destined to collect dust in a police evidence room locker, and later still to be properly incinerated with other unloved trash.
Andrez Bergen is an Australian expat who now lives in Japan. He is the author of four novels, a short story collection, a series of comic books, and a graphic novel that is based upon his first novel. He has worked as a journalist and a DJ and he is also a musician who goes by the moniker Little Nobody.
You can find Andrez’s work for sale on Amazon right here.