Dirty Boy

Peter carefully removed his jacket and placed it neatly on its coat hanger. He plucked the pen and matching pencil from the inside pocket and placed them next to the notepad on his desk, the barrels parallel to the edge of the paper.

“Morning, Peter,” said Jo. She smiled to the point of laughter.

“Good morning,” he replied, a slight question in his voice.

“Morning, Peter,” said Mark, grinning but avoiding Peter’s eye.

“Good morning.” Peter was definitely suspicious now. He pulled his chair out, glancing at the seat in case someone had planted a wad of chewing gum or played some otherwise hilarious prank on him. He hitched his trousers at the knees and carefully sat at his desk. He ran a wary eye over his desktop, but everything appeared in place. His coaster lay to the right of his screen, ready for his mid-morning mug of Earl Grey, but not so close to the edge that it risked being knocked off. To the left stood the photo frame. His sister and her husband looked back at him, un-defaced. He shook his head and switched the PC on. It must be one of their silly private jokes that he wouldn’t understand even if they bothered to explain it.

“Did you have a good weekend?” said Jo.

“It was quiet,” said Peter. “Thank you for asking. And you?”

“Noisy,” said Jo. “I don’t do quiet weekends. What’s the point of having weekends if you can’t let your hair down?”

Peter smiled but didn’t enquire further. Jo lacked a certain decorum and did not understand that her private life should be precisely that: private. If he showed any interest he had no doubt she’d share details that he’d rather she didn’t.

The login screen appeared on his terminal and he moved his hands to the keyboard. He paused, staring at the keyboard, then brought his hands back to rest on his chair’s armrests. Someone had rearranged the keys on his keyboard. The top row read ‘QWANKERIOP’.

“What’s the matter, Peter?” said Jo, barely suppressing her laughter.

“My keys. Someone has moved them round.”

“What?” said Mark. “You mean it’s not a QWERTY keyboard? What sort of keyboard is it now?”

Peter looked at the obscenity screaming at him and felt the blush rise. He flashed a smile devoid of any joy. “Very funny,” he said.

Mark walked around to Peter and leant over him, his hand resting on his desktop.

“You’re right, it’s not a QWERTY keyboard. It’s a wanker keyboard. Oh, that’s not nice.”

Jo turned her back and snorted loudly through her nose, hands clamped over her mouth.

“I can’t log in,” said Peter quietly.

“Sorry?” said Mark.

“The keyboard. I can’t use it, not like that.”

“But you can remember what keys are meant to be where, can’t you? I’ve seen you type. You don’t even look at the keyboard.”

“The keys. I can’t use them, not like that. They’re wrong.”

“You sure? Seems somehow right to me.”

Jo gave up any pretence of hiding her laughter now. Mark looked up at her and grinned.

“You sure you can’t use a wanker’s keyboard?”

“NO!” Peter slammed his palm onto his desk, causing Mark to give a startled jump. “Put it back, put it back.”

“Okay, okay, no need to get your knickers in a twist, it was only a joke.” Mark patted the air between them, trying to placate his colleague. Peter stared at the desktop. A sweaty silhouette of Mark’s palm stared back at him. “You don’t see Jo getting her knickers in a twist. Mind you, she don’t often wear them.”

“Oi!” said Jo. “You cheeky beggar.” But she was grinning, so it didn’t really count.

Peter opened his drawer and removed a paper tissue from its pack. Gripping it carefully so his fingers didn’t come in contact with the surface that touched the desk, he polished at the handprint Mark had left.

“Just put it back,” he said, his voice hardly more than a whisper.

“Don’t worry. The keys just spring out again, You can put it back no worries.”

Peter looked at the obscene insult. He couldn’t even bear to touch the word.

“Put it back,” he repeated. “Please.”

“Okay. Jeez, it was just a joke. Look, we can just pry them back out.” Mark reached for Peter’s pen. Peter slammed his hand onto the pen.

“No, not my pen.”

“What?”

“Not my pen. A pen is for writing with.”

“But I was just going to flick up the key with it, that’s all.”

“No.” Peter gathered up the pen and the pencil, hugging them close. “Not my pen. You’ll scratch them.”

“Jeez, it’s just – no, fine, whatever.” He reached into his pockets. “It was only a joke, for Christ’s sake.” He pulled out his hands, examining their contents. A used handkerchief fought for dominance with loose change, and won. Several coins cascaded onto Peter’s desk. Peter shuddered as Mark thumped his hand down to capture the errant money, the creased handkerchief still grasped in his hand. Mark stuffed all but one coin back. He used that one to lever at the misplaced ‘A’ key. Peter leant back, all too aware of the proximity of Mark’s armpit. The key finally gave up its purchase on the keyboard and flew through the air. It landed in Peter’s mug, the one sporting the legend, ‘You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps’. The key rattled around in its new prison, the key that had been in contact with the coin, that had wrapped itself in Mark’s soiled handkerchief, now bouncing off the drinking surfaces of his mug .

Mark laughed. “Gawd, what a shot. I couldn’t do that again if I tried.”

Peter closed his eyes.

“You dirty boy!”

Peter was eight, cowering in his room, naked from the waist down. His father stood over him, Peter’s soiled underpants held between finger and thumb, arm stretched as far as it could reach. He threw the disgusting garment at the boy, then reached for his belt buckle.

“You dirty, dirty, boy!” he shouted.

“Dirty!” shouted Peter, hiding behind his father’s eyes, feeling the weight of his father’s arm as it descended.

“Dirty!”

Jo screamed, and he opened his eyes. Mark lay on the floor, staring unseeing at the ceiling. A perfectly straight, red line ran across his forehead. Peter noted with mild irritation that it was angled, higher over the left eye than the right. He looked down at his hand, clenched in a painful fist. Little clumps of hair, greasy and black, just like Mark’s, peeked between his fingers. He dropped them into the waste basket by his desk, ensuring each hair fell into the bin. He noticed the red smear along the sharp edge of the desk. As Jo screamed again, he opened the drawer and pulled out another tissue.

“Dirty,” he whispered, rubbing at the stain. “Dirty.”

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

One Response to Dirty Boy

  1. snodlander says:

    No, I’m fine. I just get these headaches sometimes

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