Preview:  The Smell of Lies

Chapter 1

“I think you could go now, Gordon.”

Do you mean permanently?  Maybe not such a bad thing.

“It is gone five o’clock, after all, and I think you have done enough for today.  Well done.  See you tomorrow.”

Gordon shuffled the papers on his desk into a neat pile, placed the pens into his drawer, made sure all open documents on his computer were saved and then shut it down.  Standing and stretching to ease the fixed posture from hours sitting at his desk, he reached for his coat, bid farewell to his boss and left the office.  Once in the open air, he stopped on the pavement outside the office building, leant his back against the wall and lit up a cigarette.  As always, and this was now a routine at the end of each working day, the first inhalation and exhalation were the deepest.  Several quick drags later, he stubbed the cigarette end on the edge of the road with his heel, stared for a few minutes towards the buildings on the other side of the street, took a deep breath and headed off home.

Gordon had been an accounting clerk for nearly ten years.  He still did not remember exactly how he got into that line of work except that it followed a conversation in a pub with one of his friends which led to an informal interview at on office block in town, in fact the office block in which he now worked and had done since his first day in the job.  And not only the same office but the same desk.  At the time, it seemed a career advance and certainly better than working at the small gent’s outfitters in town which could be void of customers for hours at a time.  Why he had been appointed had never been clear to him although he had been responsible for the bookkeeping at the shop and maybe that was enough.  Or maybe there was nobody else.  He believed that he grasped the work quickly and was a reliable worker but his boss never encouraged him to progress up the accounting ladder.  Gordon was secretly glad about that because he had no desire to take examinations or to end up with the sort of stress and responsibility that his mentor had.  But the downside of that position was that, by four years into the job, Gordon was excruciatingly bored and had remained so for the next six.  Despite an inherent lack of ambition for a career, he had always felt that he was worth more intellectually and materially than had been realised.  But beyond complaining to his wife, which he did frequently, he never felt compelled to do much about it.  And at least his salary was good enough to pay the mortgage on his semi-detached house in Stroud, settle life’s necessities and allow for a bit of simple pleasure as well.  So he continued day after day in the same office, with the same boss, at the same desk and doing the same work.  But feeling the same dissatisfaction.

He stubbed out a second cigarette on the pavement with his heel, kicked the stub into the road and ambled down to the car park.  As usual, he tried to resist the temptation to have a third cigarette during the fifteen-minute drive home but, again as usual, decided it was better to have it then than to light up as soon as he got into the house and face the inevitable frowns from his wife.  As he crashed the gears on starting off, his recurrent wish that he could afford a new car with automatic transmission entered his head and, within five minutes, he was once again wondering why Cheltenham seemed to have more traffic lights than any other city and why they were so phased that they were always on red.  But his mind also told him that Cheltenham was where the posh people lived.  If only they could afford to move to Cheltenham, he mused.  And they would not need a car.

Should he stop at the Coop on the Bath Road and pick up some beers or would he have time before dinner for a few drinks at the snooker club?  That decision might depend on what his ever-tolerant wife, Katie, expected on his arrival home and whether she had prepared “something special”, the timing of cooking, serving and eating being critical.  The safe thing would be to buy the beer so he could pursue either option, depending how things were at home but, if he did, he would lose valuable minutes, arrive home a bit later and going out might then become impossible.  Ah, he thought; I have a couple of cans left at home; no need to delay - unless I stop for a very quick one at the Eagle Arms.

He sighed, drove past the pub and joined the queue down the A46 into Painswick.  Every evening I do this, he thought, and every morning I do it in reverse and nothing changes: the same queues, the same people driving up my boot even though they should be able to see a mile-long line of cars in front of me, the same people turning without signalling and, by the time winter comes, the same potholes in the road.  As the lights changed five or six cars in front of him, he prepared to set off, confident of getting through on green, when the siren and flashing lights of the ambulance approaching at speed behind him filled his rear-view mirror.  Dutifully, like all the others, he pulled onto the pavement on the left side.  By the time the ambulance had passed at speed, the lights had turned red.  Damn!  He re-engaged neutral, lifted the handbrake and wished once again that he could live in Cheltenham, avoid this dire journey each day or perhaps overcome the daily drudge by finding something interesting to do with his life.  But, in his heart, he knew that was not going to happen.

“Evening, young lady,” he said as he closed the front door behind him, threw his briefcase by the side of the staircase out of the hall and hung his coat on the banister rail.

“Welcome back,” said Katie, smiling and turning her head away from the cooker towards the kitchen door into the hall.  “Good day?”

“Same as ever.  Boring, tedious or however else you may choose to describe my role in life.”

“Guess, as usual, it was a mistake to ask!”

“Well, thank you for doing so but sadly the answer always seems to be the same.”

    C    © Harvey Sagar 2013