Tom Wood


Bryans was a stickler. He had studied economics at A Level and knew the importance of efficiency.

"You see," he explained to his fiance, "it's all a question of scarcity. Unlimited wants versus limited resources. That's where the economist comes in."

"I wish the economist would bugger off to the bar and get me another drink." Self-satisfied little smile he has almost permanent. Thinks so much of himself. Such a fart. Is it in the nature of things for farts to think too much of themselves? Is that fartishness itself?

"Gin and tonic," she held aloft like an extinguished torch her empty glass.

"Can't you do with a lager ? Gin and tonic's expensive in here."

"Well, you're the economist. You know how to make money don't you?"

"Not like you know how to spend it. We're supposed to be saving up to get married."

"Mmmn. Make it a double."

When he turned to her and she smiled,  his self-satisfied expression gave way to a passing look of puzzlement. She raised her brows.

"Go on then. Run along."

How much weight he's put on recently. All those puddings of his mother's. Rice pudding. Treacle pudding. Queen of puddings. Apple tart. Raspberry tart. Pavlova. Cheesecake. Baba au rum. Sticky toffee pudding. Pear belle Helene. Gooseberry crumble. Blackcurrant crumble. Rhubarb crumble. Black Forest gateau. Eve's pudding. Adam's pudding. God's pudding. The Devil's pudding. The Archbishop of bloody Canterbury's pudding. Suet pudding. Soot pudding. Shit pudding. Snot pudding. Kitten's head and bloody custard. Ugh! And his fat bum and hanging belly, his jowls look fatter in a collar and tie. Can't he take it off, unloosen it like some of those men I see after work, haggard look, office-sickness and ready for it, hard in seconds and nice and wet for a man who wanted it, yes, work over thank god get your knickers off and give me a good time. Deputy Depot Manager at N.S.U. (No Stone Unturned) Ltd so full of it and his mother with her get on in the world crap all well and good a man who can make money but get on me that's what I want that bloody depot's his passion oh, and not yet thirty so full of it. Last hour I get that job's his mirror preens himself is that what we're made for work bloody work not what I'm made for get a man between my legs who loves me more's the thing.

"Two pounds ten for a G and T!"

"Is that above the national average?"

"Eh ?" and as he sank his heaviness into studded leather she shifted imperceptibly away.

The swig of beer that he took, filling his mouth, making his gullet twitch as it descended left over the upper lip of his small, prim mouth a line of white, bubbly froth.

"Guess what?"

"What?" The yawn she tried to suppress prised open her jaw and brought water to her green eyes.

"The boss complemented me on the monthly statistical returns today!"

"Did you get an erection ?" She sipped.

"What?" The look of puzzlement again.

Another gulp that took the level of the yellow liquid in his pint pot to below halfway.

"Know what he said to me?" he asked, slobbering.

"That your bum's too fat."

"Are you taking the piss?"

"Me?" over her glass she made coy, suggestive, desperate, mocking eyes.

He leaned towards her confidentially, a simulacrum of intimacy.

"He said, "We get good value out of you." What about that?" She put down her glass in dismay.

"You liked that did you ?"

"You know what it means? He likes me."

"Do you think he wants to get you in bed ?"

"What's the matter with you tonight ?"

That snappiness that is his mother's walking on eggshells talking to that woman.

"I don't know, I must be pining for something".

"Promotion ." He leaned close as if it was her of whom he was thinking.

"No, something more exciting than that,"

"Are you all right?"

"Are you really flattered that someone talks to you as though you're a machine?"

"What d'you mean ?" he asked, truly bewildered.

"We get good value out of you? If someone said that to me I'd kick them in the balls."

"But It means that the company thinks highly of me!"

"How can a company think?"

"It's a manner of speaking. But that's how the economy works, you see. Now, the beauty of the free market..."


Stopping he looked at the eyes into which had stolen a look of harsh seriousness.

"What?" he said with a faint stirring of foreboding.

"Tomorrow you're going to finish work at five, pick me up at seven, take me out for a meal, buy me champagne, take me home and cover me in whipped cream, eat it slowly, make love to me at least three times and spend the night in my bed, get up and make me breakfast and be late for work for the only time in your life, or the engagement's off."

"I can't do that !" he declared, drawing back from her.

"Which bit in particular?"

"We're stock taking in ladies underwear tomorrow!"

"And what are you having for pudding?"


Where's she gone and me with my pint to finish and half a g and t that's a pound and five pence always leaves some in the bottom of the glass same with a meal late for work does she want me sacked engagement's off choice to make what can I do finish at five I'll never get on got to keep those clerk's working idle little bitches is she coming back shit that's two pounds bloody ten.

The remainder of his beer he dispatched in one and taking to the bar the g and t asked would it be possible to put it on one side just in case. Outside there was neither hide nor hair and the thought that he should ring her or call at her flat was displaced by the enticement of his senses arising from his imagining the table in his mother's dining-room, set and laden and she attentive bringing from the kitchen what would delight his palate and fill his ample gut. Cottage pie, carrots, French beans, sprouts, bread and butter, captain's pudding, chocolate cake, biscuits and tea.

"She didn't even finish her drink ," he remonstrated spooning into his eager mouth the sweet, sticky, steamed, custard-covered dessert.

"That girl. Encouraging you to be late for work. She's got no standards."

"And she wants me to leave the office at five!" I'll never get promoted if I do that!"

"She doesn't appreciate you, that's the trouble. Like your father, he didn't appreciate me. She's trying to make you chose between her and your career, and you know what that means, don't you ?"

"I do."

"Chasing after women won't help you get on in life. Look at your father. Want some more pudding?'

"Yes please, mum," and into the dish which he handed to her she heaped with satisfaction the steaming, sickly sponge to be anointed with the thick liquid poured from a pyrex jug and placed in front of him as reverently as the priest might place the very flesh of Jesus on the tongue of a communicant.

In the early hours waking with indigestion his mind was flooded with thoughts of work and the petty problems which must be solved day by day in a warehousing and retailing operation with branches in every county and parent companies across the globe in which a young man or woman of dedication and ambition can make a career both lucrative and of status and the question of the efficiency of the stock-taking kept him awake for two hours during which, at the table where he had once completed his homework, he filled ten A4 sheets with ideas, scribbled in the quick hand of a man whose brain is working faster than his ability to write, finishing as the dawn began to break and showering himself with indulgence, the lather from his shampoo running caressingly over the bulge of his well-stoked midriff and dripping from the flaccid penis whose presence did not stir any thought of the rupture of the previous evening, going down at length dressed to where his mother, always up at five, dismissive of the idleness of those who lounge till eight, had his breakfast waiting.

"Do you want two sausages or three?"

"Three please!"

"Glad to see you're up early," and in her eternal gesture she set the full English before him.

"I've had a great idea for the stock-taking ." He held aloft his masterpiece.

"That's good. That's the way you'll get somewhere in the world."

What would she think Carol laugh I suppose or make some snide comment funny attitude can't grasp it future ahead of me any girl would be proud Depot Manager Regional Manager what's that fifty grand Chief Executive who knows she could be sitting pretty nice house big car holidays abroad turn her beck on that what can you say?

When he arrived at the depot he went straight up to the general office where the Office Manager, the Assistant Office Manager and the Clerk were drinking tea and talking.

"I had to climb out the bedroom window and shin down the drainpipe," he heard Ben, the Clerk, say before they realised and quickly pretended to be busy.

"I've had a great idea, lads" he began, sitting down amongst them. "Improvements to the stock-taking."

They looked at one another. No-one spoke.

"Three in the morning it came to me."

"Came to me about that time too," said Ben.

For a tedious hour he explained to them in his voice of modulating enthusiasms the details of his new and brilliant method before, his mood shifting a little, he told them the story of Carol.

"What could I do lads ?' he pleaded.

"You should've bought five litres of cream," suggested Ben.

The excellence of his new scheme was apparent to Mr Edwards, Depot Manager, not so much in its convincing detail but in the fact that it had been produced during the hours normally committed to sleep, a dedication to the company which induced in the superior at once a sense of his control over the more junior man and a fear of his eventual supersession. The day, for Bryans, was one of manic ebullience manifesting itself in an attitude to his staff by turns indulgent and imperious. At ten p.m. in a mood of confidence so absolute it could be founded only on the most far-reaching benightedness and profound weakness of character, he left the depot and drove directly to Carol's flat.

The man who answered the door, naked from the waist upwards, was not at first sight obviously foreign.

"Is Carol in please ?" as matter-of-factly as he would have ordered a pint in his local.

"Sorry. In bed."

Inexpert in language Bryan was unable to decide whether his younger, slimmer interlocutor was French, Spanish, Greek, Russian.

"Is she ill?"

As if summoned by his counterfeit concern Carol appeared, wrapped in a green and white bath towel which covered her from the start of her cleavage to barely below her bottom.

"Never felt better. Come on Jeamp, pudding's ready."

The stranger closed the door with a click of cataclysmic finality.

"And she was making pudding for him. She never made pudding for me!"

"Let her go. Little slut. She'd make puddings for all the riffraff."

She put in front of him a large shallow dish of golden plum and banana pie sprinkled, as her pies invariably were, with caster sugar.


"Oh, yes please mum. Plenty!"