Derek reclined slightly and unconsciously stroked each set of ribs twice. He sucked on the tip of his thumbnail and glanced sideways. Without preamble he slid in his chair until he was chin-over-shoulder next to Ivan.

“’Why lap dancing clubs should be regulated’” He read on Ivan’s monitor. “Blimey”.

Ivan pointedly clicked and closed the window and resumed writing an email. To deter an actual dialogue with his neighbour it was vital to keep all utterances at nothing more elaborate than blunt grunts of either agreement or comprehension. A vow of silence, unfortunately, never kept the wolf at bay. Ivan was never all ears, but Derek was certainly all ‘I’s’.

The latter leaped to action like a spider with a stimulated web. The headline on the Guardian newspaper’s website was enough to release the ball into a proverbial roulette wheel of possible monologues.

The ball skipped across ‘strident political views’, bounced over ‘disapproval of personal internet use’ and flew over ‘embarrassment’; Derek finally landed on the ‘memories’ square.

“I remember when I once almost went inside a strip club.” His ballooned and slippery lps slid across his overlapping teeth and his face contorted into a broad smile. He heaved a prolonged sigh and continued: “It weren’t deliberate (of course) it was back in the days when I was drinking caffeinated coffee and commuting between Kent and Newham…”

Penelope halted her manic flow of typing and popped up from behind the monitor on the desk opposite Ivan’s.

“I should probably go check the training room has something I need for tomorrow”. She announced before blindly collecting an assortment of objects and tottering out of the room.

Eyvind eyed his mug and forensically surveyed all other options. In a collection of unfortunate circumstances, he had only moments before visited the bathroom, enjoyed a cigarette and replenished his mug.

“…I fought there was a hen party ‘appenin’ an’ fought to meself: ‘I definitely don’ wanna be involved in this’ and, ooh, you definitely won’ guess what ‘appened next” Derek continued, pronouncing each vowel sound as if producing a rubber ball from his mouth.

Ivan shifted on an axis in his sheet and began rubbing his eyebrow as if it were agitated by a nettle sting. He didn’t get a chance to judge the feasibility of the everyday event described in Derek’s anecdote. A swarm of expletives pelted through the air from the other side of the room.

‘Sorry, sorry, sorry everyone….PixelPlex have deleted all the existing style sheets. Sorry to interrupt, mate, but would you come and have a look at this?’

Derek dutifully locked his computer screen and obediently walked over and stood behind his manager. Ivan unclenched his jaw, clicked his neck, blew the fallen eyebrow hairs from his desk, and continued reading the article.


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