Frank Miller leaned forward in his office chair and picked up the folder that his wife’s lawyer, a sleazy man wearing a sleazy brown suit, dropped on his desk five minutes before lunch at five minutes to twelve. The wheels on Frank’s chair squeaked when he sat back, and the soft leather backrest let out a sigh, emphasising concern on his forehead.
Frank wasn’t hungry anymore. He looked up at the clock over one of his daughter’s oil paintings.
It was ten past twelve.
His eyes darted across the walls. There were seven paintings in all, each one more pathetic than the next. Frank pulled a face. He couldn’t stand it when Marcia, the blonde bombshell of a secretary with a slight speech impediment (and the woman directly responsible for the divorce papers in the mustard yellow folder in his lap) said how talented his daughter was for a three year old. What got to him, and Frank reached for his beer gut where he felt his ulcer throbbing inside, was the way Marcia said ‘cute’, drawing out and over-accentuating the word as if he’d never heard it before: Keeeeeeewt.
What really pissed Frank off was how his wife had insisted he put the pictures up in the first place, and that he actually believed her when she said that a family has ‘an invisible bond’.
His wedding ring was starting to irritate him in the same way one would become aware of an itch that’s not really there—a psychological itch; one that might arise from something like watching a documentary on red ants or head lice.
He placed the folder in the OUT basket on his desk and tried to pull off his white gold wedding band. It didn’t some off. He shifted his weight a little to the right and farted.
That bachelors’ diet is taking its toll, Frank thought, and I have a suspicion that, judging by the pain in my guts, that I’m rotting from the inside.
It was twelve past twelve.
The mahogany desk drawer rolled open and Frank took out a can of lighter fluid. He was what his wife referred to (often in the company of powerful men and women) as ‘a biter of nails’. She would pull such a sour face when she said it that sheiks’ and Texan oil tycoons’ moustaches would droop, and they’d hide their hands behind their backs, either because they were ‘biters of nails’ themselves, or they were afraid that Frank was about to latch onto a random middle finger and start nibbling away.
Frank had a feeling it was the latter. The nail on his right middle finger was bleeding now, but he finally managed to lift out the tip of the Zippo fluid top. Why it was still in the desk drawer, he hadn’t a clue; his Zippo lighter, a wedding present from his father-in-law, was stolen years ago, and ‘smoking in the workplace’ had been banned for more than a decade.
Frank had never smoked.
He was a ‘biter of nails’.
It was quarter past twelve.