Camillus John

How to be a Bicycle

Camillus John

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     I was serious. Deadly serious. I’d never worked before and wanted to more than anything else in the entire world, which is why I let her feel my testicles shortly after she closed the door behind me in her square interview room.

     Wendy Cheese was her name and she was interviewing me for a job in her doughnut factory. Well, Doctor Scream’s Donut Factory, to be more finger-on-the-pulse. Opening soon in a very slate grey but spangly named industrial estate at the top of the hill; The Cherry Orchard. Almost good enough to eat. Like their hole-less Boston Creams, filled with custard and layered with chocolate. They were looking for the best, the best low-paid workers in the city. You had to be the best she said, breathing heavily. I was up for anything, of course.

     I’d studied business recently at a well-fancied third-level institute in the city, and now I was applying for a badly paid job with no prospects. Grade inflation they call it nowadays, I think.

     ‘I’ve an abiding interest in hard work and sweat Ms Cheese. Please give me a job.’

     You had to say such things in interview and we were, actually, in interview now as she sat right-angled behind her desk, with her plank-straight spinal cord unwavering, ticking off Doctor Scream’s interview questions in her notepad with a squeaky pencil. 

     ‘May I?’ she said.

     ‘Go on then, Ms Cheese. Sure you’re grand.’

     I was young, what can I say? She placed her open hand on my testicle area, outside my trousers of course, for about ten seconds, and then walked briskly back behind her desk as if nothing had happened, after squeezing quite hard at the end.

     She then plunged straight into my C.V. and admired my excellent qualifications.

     ‘Why do you want this job?’ she said with mousey hair, perfectly in place, each strand hanging Rugby-player-straight just above the shoulder. Like her fringe that went from one eyebrow to the other like something from a technical drawing textbook. It could mesmerise if you looked at it for too long, like Bridget Riley Op Art from the sixties, so I tried not to and to concentrate on convincing her I was absolutely stunning and the perfect person for her doughnut job of a lifetime.

     Her face was slightly chubby and she more than adequately filled out her spotlessly fresh and ironed-to-life juniper skirt-suit pushing all its boundaries with flesh, in all the right ways and means, if a bit on the scary side it has to be said, seeing as though she did have the power to make a decision that could change my life, if she felt like it. Like she had so recently felt my testicles.

     Had to be careful though, because if I acted too confident, she could hate me so very easily. These people don’t like their minions to be too brash and bouncing, for if you’re Noel or Liam Gallagher in your swagger, then they’ll detest you forever at a stroke. Shoot you, if you’re Charles Dickens. Or so I’d read and seen on the internet. I had to kowtow in some way, be vulnerable, X-Factor-like, then I’d be hired, maybe. I didn’t know. I was unemployed. Anyway, it didn’t really make a toss of difference to me either way what I had to do to get it. At all. I actually craved and ached for the position she was offering – the job with the hole. I really did. No sarcasm.

     I walked around my day-to-day activities at the time, even going to the shops for a carton of milk, in pin-striped trousers and pin-striped shirts with highly polished black shoes on, no other colour would do it for the respectability. It’s all on YouTube if you need to take notes. You couldn’t deviate if you wanted to fit in. I presumed. I presumed everything. Not knowing. I didn’t want employed people passing me in the street, looking down their noses, they’d call me lazy, for they did so in all the newspapers and books at the time and on the telly and internet too. I had no job - because I wasn’t trying hard enough they said. Or I thought they said. But all I had to do was pin-stripe everything and hey presto, I supposed. Or hey nonny nonny, otherwise.

     I’d never worked before. As I said. I want this job Wendy Cheese because I need dignity. I haven’t been given any thus far. Ho ho. But don’t say ho ho. However, Ms Cheese, I don’t really know if I can physically or mentally do this job. But not out loud. I really said I could do anything. Out loud. But not too loud. She smiled and it seemed to be going well. I’d be working and earning in no time. I’d have the means to get out, to read more, and learn all the stuff I’m supposed to have learned in school while I was regurgitating other people’s ideas. She said that there were two different shifts. All twelve-hours. Perhaps more. Was I up to this type of long and arduous work? Was I? She pressed. Licking her lips.

     Of course I was, I said, and opened the tip-top buttons on my suit jacket, that I wore only for interviews. I had an anorak for wearing over the whole ensemble. I couldn’t afford a decent overcoat. But if I got the job and saved, surely I would in the very near future. A re-contextualised Crombie perhaps. Vintage skinhead.

     ‘Let’s see how able you really are, Scoopy Boo,’ she said and opened two buttons on her blouse then pulled it out.

     ‘Would you mind sucking on my left one for a while?’

     I wasn’t going to refuse. I looked around the square office. All the blinds were pulled air-tight. I’d nothing to lose. No, I said, I don’t mind at all Ms Cheese, and she wheeled her chair around the desk and stopped in front of me so that I could move towards her in a smooth and efficient manner. Time and motion studies. Your man Taylor like - from those management textbooks I learned off by heart at college.

     She stopped me after about two minutes or so and wheeled back behind her desk. More questions and boxes ticked off. Surely I had the job in the bag by now? I’d no real work experience only having voluntary work for a charity to fall back on and make seem like I raised all the money myself and ran the place with one hand tied behind my back. But you’re supposed to say that, aren’t you?

     My life hadn’t begun properly yet, and she wanted me to throw all my days away in sleep to work the night shift - and most of my weekends too - I’d only get one off in four. A big sacrifice in your very early twenties. I could delay life. One off in four. I didn’t need to live, really. I always had the inside of my own head, my imagination, as William Blake said, you could live happily in there forever with the moon.

     Sure, I didn’t need to go out. One off in four. I’d be responsible. And I’d continue to be pin-stripe responsible even if it killed me. I didn’t need nights out on the town, sex, drugs or rock ‘n’ roll. Friends either. All overrated. I wanted to work plain and simple. Because I’d never worked before. In white Doctor Screaming Donut Factory overalls. I wasn’t a real person yet. And I deserved to be real, just for a while at least, so I could know what it feels like. So I could see my reflection in the mirror. Wipe away all the condensation.

     She explained that we, the workers, would get all the training we needed, for the factory wasn’t opening for another six weeks or so. But when it did, the four best workers from the interviews would supply a chain of doughnut shops strategically located around Dublin – and then possibly the whole damn country. We had to be consummate artists in the making and baking of doughnuts efficient with our every mix. Deadlines would be of paramount importance. Could I meet deadlines constantly? Was the question. And I convinced myself I could do anything. Yes, I said, I eat deadlines for breakfast. Yes, my heart has never faltered. Yes, I always hold my nerve right up to the finishing line, achieving each time what I set out to achieve in the first instance. More even, if I’m honest. More even than that. Honester still. I could work a forklift truck, I lied. Risk and gamble everything and hope to dear sweet Jesus I could follow through in real life later with knobs on, which of course I didn’t lose one wink of sleep over, I told her, Ms Wendy Cheese, but I did, I did lose sleep. Over everything. Winks and winks and wink-bags of it.

     I could tell she knew I was fabulous, because the suit showed off my best features quite effortlessly. My looks, young and wild. Me too, but only on the outside. Especially in that pokey interview room when she approached the subject of wages. I didn’t expect much - but when I heard - it was lucky oh so lucky, lucky, lucky that I was living at home for if I hoped for a place of my own I wouldn’t be able to pay for food as well as rent. So when I told her I still lived at home she beamed out loud and almost went off like a firework, winked at me like a priest. That’s good, you’ll probably be far, far better off. Then she tangented off this subject somehow and wheeled her chair around the desk again towards me not saying anything but indicating everything with erect nipples, quite visible beneath her blouse. Our swivel chairs were side by side and we faced each other.

     ‘You’ve been to college,’ she said. ‘And you’ve done well, but are you too qualified for this job? Will you leave me in the lurch after a month if something better comes along?’

     ‘Of course not. My word is my bond.’

     ‘Prove it.’


     She raised her skirt. I could see she was wearing nothing underneath. She pointed her fingers between her legs and said, ‘If you wouldn’t mind?’

     I knew what I had to do, so I removed my nice suit jacket and hugged it around the back of the chair so that it would maintain its shape while I mentally prepared. Rolled up my shirt sleeves.

     I knelt down before her and she rested her feet calmly, and as wide as possible, on the desk behind me as I went to work as efficiently as I could with my tongue. Frederick Taylor again, time and motion studies. The principles of Scientific Management. Textbook stuff.

     Would they hire somebody with my qualifications to work in a mere doughnut factory? It was as if by spending an extra three years in college I’d written off my chances of employment by actually trying to improve them with hard work. Welcome to post-modern human resources, Scoopy Boo, she said, welcome indeed.

     She gave me a Kleenex for my face and a mint for my mouth when I finished, and I was really hopeful when we shook hands at the end of our allotted window in the space-time-job continuum. 

     Apparently, she’d be in touch in due course. She’d written novellas into her notebook about me while I sucked my mint to a finish. Who wouldn’t? Many overflowing sentences but the taste in my mouth now started to grate. My mate Nanny Goat was doing twelve-hour shifts and said he loved them, adored them and wouldn’t consider anything else now, because they gave him days off in the early week when no one else was off, to get things done. And he really got things done. Yes sir, I get things done. Lots of things. But I could see his pale demeanour and corpulent body said otherwise. He had to say that. You have to say that.

     When I signed out of the building in the reception area, after getting rubbed up and down by the security guards with their prod, a hand on my shoulder made me turn.

     ‘You’re in,’ Wendy said, then licked my ear-hole and winked before heading back to her box office down the hall. I found her underwear in my jacket pocket and wiped my ear. There was a complimentary bag of Donut Holes tucked in my pocket as well. ‘Raspberry’ filled. I should have been elated.  Instead, I felt like shouting her in the face. For Nanny Goat’s older brother, Barney, had been working the same warehouse he’d got Nanny Goat himself into, for fifteen years now, yes, you’ve heard me right, fifteen years, it being only a stop-gap when he started. I’m just passing through. Passing through mate, he said, until something better comes along. Fifteen years. He was obese and he never read. Just like present-tense Nanny Goat. In his meagre spare time. Watched X-Factor. Hollywood films. Just passing through mate. Fifteen years.

     I head-butted into the fresh air and continued out the gate ducking and diving from the murmurating crows that intermittently swooped down and pecked me. I put my anorak of an ersatz overcoat – not yet a Crombie - on against the Swanee-whistling wind and the ride-cymbal rain. Hat on. I stood still and chin-stroked silently for twenty seconds or so amid the cacophony unmolested by crows.

     My mind was made up. I skied my collar. All I had to do was wait for the letter. And her email. She would send both. Obviously. There was definitely something about her alright. Yeah. I smiled. Yeah. Felt the rough bristle of my sideburns with both my index fingers. I was looking for a job, then I found a job, and heaven knows, I’m absolutely fabulous now. But I knew that already, and always had, I thought out loud to the crows, straining my larynx, just to annoy her. For I knew it would. Am I Liam Gallagher now? And why not Charles Dickens?

Camillus John

Camillus John was bored and braised in Dublin, Ireland. He has had work published in The Stinging Fly, RTE Ten,, The Lonely Crowd, Thoughtful Dog, Honest Ulsterman, The Cantabrigian, The Bogman’s Cannon, The Queen’s Head, Litro, Fictive Dream, Silver Streams and other such organs of literature. Recently he killed the Prime Minister of Ireland in fiction in the Welsh literary magazine, The Lonely Crowd, with a piece entitled, The Assassination of Enda Kenny (After Hilary Mantel). He would also like to mention that Pat’s won the FAI cup in 2014 for the first time in 53 miserable years of not winning it.  Website: Janey Macken Street.

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