I am not a man particularly interested in identifying the shortest possible distance between two points, but even I recognised that the route Mr. Twender had insisted I take to his factory was not conventional. Like all drones however, I knew my place and decided it would be impolite to rock the boat at this juncture. It could be a test, though the fact that my future employer had conducted the previous day’s job interview with his flies open made me think he was not one for tests. I followed Twender’s crudely rendered map as closely as his scrawl would allow. The route began quite naturally, following the road from my squalid but adequate dwellings towards my destination. It then steered me pointlessly through an expanse of green I’d previously failed to notice. It sat at the end of a forgotten street, silent and remote.
Due its importance in this tale, I feel it would be relevant to describe this park in more detail. It was ringed by houses and a fence on all sides, producing quite a claustrophobic and suspicious feel. There was a large flat area of turf at its heart, which seemed to serve no purpose besides the collection and retention of mud. There were no people present, all life seemed to have ended. No children, no vagrants, none of those you’d expect in a park. In one corner sat a set of playground apparatus that, in its condition, looked more like a collection of ineffective contemporary art, dried blood on the concrete beneath. On the monkey bars sat the crows. Many of them. They appeared as a mass of black, wet tar, a shifting, dangerous shadow in the corner of the park. And they had noticed me, turning as one to watch, passing the occasional cackle to one another. They seemed particularly interested, almost amused, by the map I was following. I thought I heard one of them laugh.
I passed them by, tried not to, but couldn’t help foolishly looking back. They were still watching and positively identifying my fear. Though they failed to move or present any threat, I quickened my pace. There was a short, shielded path and then the factory, my new place of employment, loomed over the privet. It was silent as usual. In the office Mr Twender waited in the same spot. His jaw was half-hinged, as if he were still completing the final word from the day before.
“You’ve arrived,” he said with a mixture of excitement and awe.
“Yes,” I offered.
“Oh,” he seemed a little thrown by this. “Yes.”
He turned his body to the desk and began to violently rifle through a stack of documents, most of which were plainly menus from the same Somali restaurant.
“Well today I have a series of important functions to perform,” he announced. “They occur in various other rooms and their purpose would be exhausting to explain. So I’ll have to leave you to fend for yourself somewhat.”
“Unfortunately, the telephone you require has not been delivered. This is an error formed by a company I no longer speak with. So spend the day acquainting yourself with the office. The drawers of course and…the window.”
He pointed to the window.
“Miss Home is on hand to proffer any direction you need.”
He moved his tugboat bulk to one side and revealed a bird-like woman sitting at a child’s desk. My first impression was that she was bald, but on reflection I realised her head was swaddled in a number of headscarves. Her desk was piled high with paper and her gaze followed a fly on its journey around the light fitting.
“She’s a quiet sort,” Mr Twender felt an explanation was needed. “Think she’s from The Balkans. Somewhere with a climate. You know the kind of place I mean.”
I wondered if she’d been there on my previous visit, completely blocked by my employer’s mass.
“Then I shall leave you to commence,” he said, grandly, considering, I think, a little bow before thinking better of it.
“Yes,” I said, looking at my functionless desk and considering how exactly I could commence.
“Oh,” he theatrically interrupted his step to the door, “did you come by the recommended route?”
“Yes,” I replied. He licked his lips.
“Anything unusual occur?” He tried to appear casual, but sweat suddenly appeared on various parts of his body and his hands began to wring the neck of the baguette he was holding.
“No,” I said.
“In the park?” He sounded like a cheap game show host, coaxing the answer from a particularly dim contestant and desperate for someone to win that bloody speedboat.
“Not really,” I allowed. “Some crows.”
“Crows,” he shouted. Miss Home blinked. “Did they see you?”
I considered this. It was an odd question in an odd environment and I felt my answer might be judged. Twender released a little squeak, possibly down to anticipation, covered by a cough.
“They looked at me,” I finally fixed upon.
He put his hand to his chin and his eyes to the ceiling. He began to make an unpleasant clucking sound. Then returned.
“But no movement?” He asked. “No…flying?”
“Interesting…” he drifted away in thought.
“Is this significant to the role?” I asked.
Twender looked terrified and then prised a fake smile between his lips.
“No, no,” he giggled. “Just passing time. Conversation.”
He half fell, half ran towards the door, adding on departure,
“Please follow the same route this evening and keep me abreast of any developments. I am reachable by shouting.”
Any further questions were abated as he fled from the room. I looked at Miss Home. She still followed the fly’s circuit. I sat at my desk and considered its contents. Some of it appeared to be a child’s homework from several decades ago. It was quite dusty. I began to pile the papers neatly. This appeared to rouse Miss Home who started to scream in some language I didn’t understand and then threw something towards me. It appeared to be an atlas. It missed me by a considerable distance, but to be on the safe side I moved away from the desk and looked out of the window. In the far distance I could just identify a chef who left a large white building and sat down on some steps, commencing to smoke a cigarette. He immediately burst into tears.
To be continued…