The Man in the Middle
by Simon Evans
Mr Hourihane waited nervously in the waiting room. Sweaty hands.
The phone rings. The secretary picks up and nods while the other person speaks.
She replaces the handset and looks at Mr Hourihane.
“Mr Boco will see you now Mr Hourihane.”
Mr Hourihane nods, stands and mutters some thanks. Dry mouth.
He pauses at the door.
“Do I knock or just go in?” he asks the secretary.
“Just get in here Hourihane!” booms a voice from behind the door.
With a sweaty hand Mr Hourihane opens the door. Heart racing.
In the office Mr Boco is stood with his back to the door, he is peering out of the window, using a pen to create a gap in the venetian blinds.
“Sit down Hourihane” he says.
Mr Hourihane shuts the door and sits down on a cheap office chair placed in front of Mr Boco’s massive desk. The massive desk is empty apart from a sign which says ‘Raymond Boco – Manager’, a corporate swinging silver ball toy and a framed photograph of a baby monkey wearing a bonnet and holding a beach ball.
Mr Boco turns from the window and the raised venetian blind slat snaps back into place.
“What the fuck Hourihane? What the fuck?” says Mr Boco – Manager.
“’Sorry Sir’” repeats Mr Boco – Manager in a high pitched voice.
“Why do you think you’re here Hourihane?” he continued.
“Because of what I did?”
“Yes! Hail the genius! Allelujah! Give the man a cigar! Yes because of what you did you stupid cock.” Boomed Mr Boco – Manager.
“I’m sorry Sir”
“Well that’s OK then. You’re sorry. But I’m sorry too. I’m sorry because I’m a little confused here Hourihane. What I want to know is why. Why! Well come on man – why?!”
“I don’t know Sir – it was a mistake.”
Mr Boco, who had been pacing, now sat in his huge swivel chair and put his hands into a pyramid shape and then rested his angry head on the pointy bit of the pyramid shape.
He breathed a deep breath and exhaled it out of his nose before continuing in a calmer, perhaps more conciliatory tone.
“When we send you out to work for us we do so with a certain amount of faith and trust that you will carry out your duties in a safe and responsible manner. Jesus Hourihane, you’re one of the best men I have out in the field. You’re good. You’re damned good but what you did last week was plain crazy. You put your own life and the lives of others in jeopardy. This is a life and death business Hourihane and your crazy antics really give me the running shits.”
Mr Boco – Manager sat back, still with this head balanced beautifully on his hands. He looked at the ceiling and blew out his nose, like a whale does out of its back. He then leaned forward and set the swinging silver corporate ball toy in motion before stroking the picture of the baby monkey. The fingers went back together and the head nestled back on the finger tips.
“You’ve given me a dilemma Hourihane. A real dilemma. How can I trust a man who puts lives in danger by going out into action without the correct equipment? Do you understand that that kind of behaviour is unacceptable?”
“Do you understand that it’s a risk?”
“Do you understand that it’s an unacceptable risk?”
“I do sir.”
“Children Hourihane. Women and children. Your gung ho approach put the lives of women and children in clear and present danger. Not to mention the reputation of our organisation.”
Mr Boco – Manager paused and fixed poor Mr Hourihane with one of his stares. He dismantled his hand triangle and swept some imaginary crumbs from the smooth expanse of massive desk.
“Why should I continue employing you Hourihane? Why should I keep sending you out there when you let me down in this way? Do you still want this job? Can you still perform?”
“Please give me another chance Mr Boco. I know that what I did was wrong but it was an uncharacteristic lapse of concentration. I’ve had time to reflect on what happened and I can assure you that it won’t happen again. I would never willingly put another life in danger and I can’t tell you how much I regret what happened. If you let me have my equipment back I will go out there and prove that I’m one of the best operatives you have.”
“Big words Hourihane. Big words. But do you know what speaks louder than big words?”
“Yes Hourihane. God damn it you’re good. Actions. Actions speak louder than words. So I will let you back out there but you have to prove to me that you deserve to wear the jacket and the hat. Because with the jacket and the hat comes a responsibility. But the jacket and the hat are nothing if you don’t carry the sign. So repeat after me. I will not…”
“I will not.”
“Forget to carry.”
“Forget to carry.”
“Right. Stand up Hourihane.”
Mr Hourihane stands up and Mr Boco – Manager walks around the desk and hugs him.
“Go out there and be the best god damn lollypop man you can be.”
Mr Hourihane nods with tear stained cheeks.