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clerical error

Due to a clerical error on my part, the current Prime Minister is now living in the box room at our house. The former Prime Minister was, of course, replaced at the last election by an almost formless howling mass resembling a fleshy cyst lump. This fleshy cyst lump now lives in a city centre flat share with some not quite young, almost professionals. It’s an awkward situation but we’re really trying to make the best of it. The highly confidential policy documents he leaves in our communal living space give me an illicit thrill but his nightly wailing is very distracting. I suppose overall the situation is slightly worse than when Helen decided to sublet her room to an actor but not as bad as Nina and Karen breaking up and continuing to live in the same room. They’ve divided the room down the middle with balled up socks and dirty knickers and secretly fuck on the dividing line two out of seven nights a week, leaving the undeniable tang of sex hanging in the space around their faux innocent faces. 


I’m going through quite a stressful time in the office right now. It’s mostly, if not entirely, due to the clerical error, the consequences of which I could never have predicted three or four months ago when certain machinations created the tragic circumstances which led me to commit such a heinous mistake. Therefore right now I could do without the Prime Minister’s howling and crying when I get home. Certainly life would be improved without his rending of garments and the haunting screams that disturb the air for hours after they have left his so called body. But I suppose as long as he pays the rent on time I can cope. I’ve left it to Nina to chase him up on that. She complains about the responsibility associated with this role but I know she secretly loves the task: every month flogging us until we pay up. It seems the weeping sores on my back heal just in time for the next message to hit our whatsapp group screaming WHERES ME FUKIN MONEY?! {dollar bill with wings emoji} {gun emoji} {kiss kiss kiss} {smiling poo emoji}.

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Of course the nature of my clerical error has resulted in new levels of ostracisation in the office. Hardly anyone will talk to me, which makes the report I’m trying to write about the motion sickness affecting eight out of ten employees of the company very difficult. The only person that deigns to speak to me is Wayne Hammond and only then to ask in hushed tones about the Prime Minister’s peccadilloes. I have resorted to inventing a series of saucy misdemeanours that I claim the Prime Minister indulges in just to maintain this tiny morsel of human contact.

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As hard as it is for me I appreciate the Prime Minister has it worse. The leader of the opposition has demanded an enquiry into how bubbling layers of uncommunicative skin could attain such a high level of power in our great nation. The ombudsman is investigating and, as we eagerly await their findings, the Prime Minister’s howling reaches extraordinary new levels. The pitch, timbre and volume baffle and enthral scientists and musicians alike.

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When on a particular day of the week Wayne Hammond announces his retirement I am struck with an overwhelming sense of panic and an above average amount of despair. Who will talk to me now? I realise the repercussions of my clerical error are so far reaching as to be socially and professionally catastrophic for me. The Senior Management Team have demanded the motion sickness report before the rapidly approaching end of next quarter. I suspect the sickness is being caused by the introduction of the new seating system but I have no real proof. And perhaps I’m just bitter because the harness and gag that are an essential part of the system are causing chafing in my inner thigh area and ulcers on my gums and tongue.

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The situation at home deteriorates and I long for the days when Helen assumed that the syncing of our menstrual cycles implied a deep and lasting friendship. I found her researching voluntary hysterectomies in a bid to sever this connection between us and overheard her telling Karen that the ability to bear children was worth sacrificing in order to further disassociate herself from me. Nina’s rage radiates from her body as a kind of uncomfortable heat that prevents me from being in the same room as her.

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Rumours of swingeing cuts abound in the office. Craig asks Wayne Hammond if he jumped or was he pushed and Wayne Hammond shakes his head meaninglessly. Craig says that tells him all he needs to know. Later, after seeing a memo about cost saving measures, Pam whispers to Craig ‘last one in, first one out’ whilst drawing her right index finger over her throat in a slick slicing motion and Craig cries under his desk for twenty minutes. Pam is very pleased at this turn of events and exchanges what can only be described as a CONSPIRATORIAL look with Cheryl. Who knows what will happen next?

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The Prime Minister leaves his washing in the machine for three full days, preventing me from washing my own festering bed sheets. He’s done it to spite me because, were it not for my clerical error, he would be enjoying the opulence and stability of the official residence ordinarily reserved for our great nation’s Prime Minister and now (due to the same clerical error) occupied by a popular television game show host and his mistress. I squirm in dirty sheets, exfoliating my skin on discarded toast crumbs and weeping over my own carelessness. Helen and Karen and Nina and the Prime Minister are talking about me behind my back, that much is obvious. I think the Prime Minister is lobbying to take over my room and stick me in the box room. I’m not sure they understand how easily a clerical error can be made. I’m quite certain that nothing enjoyable exists.

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At Wayne Hammond’s official retirement dinner salsa class we eat Alice the Goon style hamburgers and I am ignored by everyone except Big Boss. Big Boss wants to know when the report will be ready. I decide then and there to fake every detail of the damn thing. I know this is the sort of behaviour that caused me to commit such a terrible clerical error in the first place but I suppose I am a very bad person and do not have the ability to learn from my mistakes. Whilst choking down the meat patty enclosed in cardboard I compile a list of supposedly pertinent information that will form the basis of the motion sickness report. This causes me to smile to myself, which in turn causes Julie Humble to throw her scalding coffee in my face for being what she calls a smug bitch. She swings back to the buffet dribbling some coffee on to her harness. The blisters covering up to 80 per cent of my face may take some time to heal.

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To be quite honest I appreciate the touch of a living thing when the cockroach Helen keeps as a pet crawls across my bare foot as I use the toilet. Two days later the cockroach lies crushed in the kitchen, its insides the same colour blue as the coats and trousers and gloves and balaclavas all the men are wearing nowadays in what you might call a fashion. I’m sure the Prime Minister is responsible for this fresh tragedy. His ungainly frame and somewhat fluid posture make co-ordination difficult and I feel certain he could crush a thousand insects without noticing, leaving their brittle lacquered bodies as broken shards and shining crumbs in his wake. Helen silently blames me and I’m certain she is seeking comfort in the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister obliges with nary a hint of guilt. A frisson of romance upsets the atmosphere and my foot aches with something akin to longing where the roach touched me. Please assume that I am lonely and this is the reason for my carelessness.

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In a bold and unexpected move the Prime Minister declares that our great nation’s great national animal is no longer the fearless toothed and clawed coarse furred one that is native to another continent, a continent with an entirely different climate and culture to our own and one that fills natives of our great nation with unwarranted fear and revulsion. No, this beloved animal, this king of beasts, so treasured in the hearts of all who reside in our great nation has been erased from all emblems, shields and uniforms and replaced with the humble earthworm. The Prime Minister screams, in the best way he possibly can given his lack of vocal cords, GO WORMS when our great nation’s national sports team, resplendent in their brand new uniforms of earthworm pink leotards, plays their sport against a lesser nation’s national sports teams. Despite the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm our great nation’s national sports team suffers an unheard of humiliating defeat, following which the Prime Minister rashly declares war on the lesser nation. Dressed in earthworm pink suede jackets and chaps our great nation’s army marches forth toward the lesser nation, missiles booming overhead.

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The Chancellor of the Exchequer defends the Prime Minister’s decision but the Home Secretary seems to have his doubts, evident by the low desperate humming he involuntarily emits during interviews. So no one is more surprised than me when the Chancellor performs a perfectly exquisite coup during PMQs. The Chancellor addresses a press conference wearing the suit his father bequeathed him in an otherwise disappointing will. Complete with oversized shoes and a lapel flower that releases a jet of water he tells the crowd he had little choice in his actions as a formless fleshy cyst lump confuses and frightens the voting public. The voting public seem less forthright on this issue. ‘And besides’ he says, ‘worms, yuck.’ The voting public cheer.

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The former Chancellor, concluding that a war is good for our great nation’s morale, continues the fighting. He places a bulk order of bespoke burlap sacks made of artisanal hessian for the army’s new uniform. This action effortlessly depletes the nation’s coffers within twenty minutes of his seizing power. The pink suede chaps and tasselled jackets are destroyed in a huge bonfire near the nation’s seat of power. Four subordinates are taken to hospital for smoke inhalation, one later dying from a virus contracted on an over clean ward.

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Taxes rise to 95 per cent in order to cover the cost of the war but surprisingly polls suggest the former Chancellor is now considered the greatest Prime Minister of all time. His popularity is even greater than that of the revered senile racist who held the nation’s fate in his hands so long ago. The former Chancellor appears on television accepting an award for Most Popular War of the Year, his wife’s eyes filling with tears of pride as he squawks out a speech.

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Humiliated and rejected the now former Prime Minister of our great nation is left wailing and masturbating mere feet from my head. I listen through the thin bricks to damp flesh slapping against damp flesh and tap out the words ‘I tire easily’ in Morse code on the wall, hoping he can understand. There’s no response and I fall to sleep to the sound of his onanistic lullaby, something I very quickly become accustomed to.
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On a certain day in December I enter the office to the sound of cheers and bangs, audible even above the gunfire churning up the streets outside. They’ve thrown a party, of course. The report was a huge success, all has been forgiven and the banner above the photocopier reads CLERICAL ERROR. Balloons litter the air, first as hard overfilled balls and then, a short while later, as screaming flaccid birds bashing and crashing until they lie spent and baggy on the floor. Merry Christmas I whisper under my breath. No one hears me.



ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR


is a writer from County Durham She has had work published by tNY Press, Swarm Literary and Squawkback, among others.