SHORT STORY: Surprise start to the week

Saturday December 2 2017

Pam and the cheery cleaner.

“Morning Miss! What are you doing here?” a cheery cleaner called. Pam exhaled, rolling her eyes. Everyone seemed to be acting weird today. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH | NMG 

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She woke up to a golden shaft of sunlight dancing on the wall, almost like a part of a dream she didn’t want to wake up from. There were little specks of shimmery dust caught up in the mesmerising movement of the light, and Pam stared at the sight until with a start she realised that she would be late for work.

Rolling over, she quickly checked what time it was on her phone, “Great, just perfect.”

Pam moved fast even though she liked slow, measured interactions with the world. Anything too hectic, too loud, too much of an intrusion would set her at edge.

Some people called her brusque, short… others would say she was odd… but they just didn’t understand her.

Rushing down the stairs putting on her blazer and mentally calculating how long a bowl of cereal would take to make and eat, she suddenly remembered that she has a presentation at work today. She stopped short at the bottom of the steps, a tall statuesque figure, beautiful if it wasn’t for the permanent scowl on her face.

She ate her cereal standing, tapping her foot impatiently as she quickly chewed the crunchy, whole-grain mixture.

Grabbing her flask of coffee, keys, bag and… oh yes, the presentation, Pam stepped into the bright warm morning sun. Sliding into her car, she absentmindedly made her way to the office.

She squinted in the piercing rays and pulled down her sun visor. Turning left, she did not see how close she came to running over a man who dived to avoid coming into contact with her bumper.

Coming to a stop, Pam noticed the bougainvillea trees in full bloom lining both sides of the road. The colours lifted her mood slightly, taking her back to car rides when she was young…

“Newspaper, miss?” a vendor in the light traffic broke through Pam’s thoughts. “Such a good day!” he added, his face crinkling into a mass of folds as he smiled.

“Yes, that one,” she nodded to indicate her choice as she deftly reached into her bag for her coin purse. “It’s not a good day. It’ll be way too hot by midday and you’re out here in the open. The rate of sun-stroke increases with age, and you…”

Pam stopped mid-sentence as she saw the man’s face fall. Oh dear, she was over-sharing her thoughts again. She left him her change out of guilt, shrugged and drove on. She glanced at the paper’s headline, smirked as she wondered why no-one ever looked good on the front page, then flipped to the business pages.

She smiled, her face transforming and showing a glimpse of the kind, gentle person that lurked somewhere underneath her many layers of scowls.

Cool promise

She reached for her phone and dialled.

“Hello Pam, what can I do for you today?” Jim was always happy to hear from his star client. She understood the market, even better than he and most of his colleagues.

“Uhh,” Pam replied, he was her stockbroker why else would she call him? “Sell my shares in…” she began, and rattled off for a minute before ending with a curt, “okay, bye.”

A large cloud drifted over, blocking the sun, casting the earth into shadow and turning everything muted, like looking through grey tinted glasses. There was a calm, cool promise in the air; it was still warm, but you could tell it was going to cool down in a moment. Pam watched the intricate patterns of the cloud as it changed shape.

“Hey you! Move it!” a deep voice rudely interrupted her thoughts.

Pam frowned at the intrusion, looked in the direction of the beefy cop waving her on, had a sudden childish urge to express herself and so she stuck her tongue out and scrunched up her face at him, stepped on the accelerator and drove off.

Turning into the driveway of the sleek building whose design was more aesthetic than practical, she drove into the basement, ignoring the confused look of the guards as they slowly lifted the barrier.

“Could you be any slower?” she murmured, as she reached for her phone to tell her secretary she’d be up in a moment.

Acting weird

Her secretary could show her colleagues into the boardroom so that they would already be seated when she walked in.

“Ah!” an exasperated Pam exhaled as she pulled into her usual parking spot, nearest to the elevators. Her phone battery was dead. She grabbed her flask and chugged her coffee; she needed to concentrate, no wisecracks or going off on tangents. Slinging her bag onto her shoulder, her large folder in her hands, she made her way to the lifts.

Inside, Pam studied her reflection, cocking her head to one side as if studying an interesting piece of art.

“Should’ve worn the grey suit,” she said to herself, jumping a little as her voice sounded magnified in the enclosed space.

She stepped out when the doors opened.

“Morning Miss! What are you doing here?” a cheery cleaner called.

Pam exhaled, rolling her eyes. Everyone seemed to be acting weird today.

Unperturbed, he went on, “So early, and on a Sunday!”

Pam’s mouth went dry.

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