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Chapter Two

CHAPTER TWO

 

The final hour of the day.  A Tuesday; the most banal day of the week.  A day when the weekend before could no longer be celebrated, and the weekend to come was too far away to anticipate.  You didn’t need to take a pill to have a moody Tuesday.  Tuesday itself was cause enough. 

            The early starters upped and left at four o’clock on the dot and the daily wind-down commenced.  People walking by, looking relieved that the hard part of the day was over.  That was something to envy when you still had one hour to endure before you could feel the same, yet really, it was only the beginning of the countdown to Wednesday, and that wouldn’t be much better when you thought about it.

            Ryan Pendlebury hated this last hour more than most; especially as he didn’t have the flexi-time to do anything about it.  Most of his work was complete for the day, and he didn’t have the heart to start something new.  He had made a fair amount of effort for the day considering how lousy he felt.  He had clocked in at three minutes past nine and time had switched onto long-play immediately.  He had stayed in the pub two pints too long the night before and woken with a familiar dull ache that would inevitably render his day difficult.  Ryan had gone out with the intention of having a couple of relaxing beers with his friends to ease himself into the week nicely.  Time had worn on, dinner had been missed and last orders soon arrived.  That was the way it was some times.  And the way it was today involved dry-retching and a general listlessness that prevented him from achieving very much.  Every glance at a clock betrayed how long the day had really been.  Despite his shower that morning, Ryan had retained an unclean feeling about him, the residue of the night before refusing to depart, regardless of a thorough scrubbing.  Fighting his tiredness with coffee had given him a bitter halitosis, and all Ryan wanted in the world was to lie on his couch.

            That wasn’t to be, of course.  Not just yet.  He had the end of the day motions to go through.  He had to sit at his desk until five and at least try and look busy.  It was an arrangement that benefited neither him nor the organisation, but he had to be seen to be doing the hours.  Ryan was a firm believer that jobs should be measured by work completed as opposed to time, as it seemed ludicrous to keep him here against his will when he had no intention of doing any more work. 

            A personal e-mail from across the office filtered through, announcing itself with a little envelope icon set near the clock that Ryan could swear was going backwards.  It was no closer to five o’clock than when had last checked.  It was a colleague who was sat in a similar position two bays away.  “Pub after work?”

            Ryan typed back a succinct, “You have more chance of biting your own arse, I’m a wreck!” and sent his reply. He then glanced at the clock again.  16:13.  Painful.  He looked at the papers on his desk and shuffled them into a different order; paper-pushing taken all too literally.  He stood up and walked to check the fax machine.  Nothing had come through. Even if it had Ryan probably would have procrastinated over it until at least tomorrow. 

            “I really wish I was at home,” he said aloud, surprising himself.  He was sure that he had only planned to think that. 

            “Tell me about it,” Maggie, a colleague, concurred.  She was in her mid-thirties, married with two young children and a dog, who she liked to talk about a lot.  Over time, Ryan had discovered that he had absolutely nothing in common with her and generally tried to avoid engaging her in any sort of conversation.  What saddened him more was that he probably spent more time with her than any one else in the world.  “I just want to get the tea on and put my feet up tonight.  I was going to do the ironing, but I don’t think I can be arsed.”

            Ryan smiled at her, lost for words.  Dumb-founded, really.  He looked around the office, hoping to see someone that he could talk to for a few minutes.  Most of the younger element seemed to be on leave that week, and thus the potential to have a bit of fun was limited.  In all fairness, Ryan didn’t really have the energy for fun either.  At times like this there was nothing else to do but breach the organisation’s internet policy.  Employees were only expected to use the internet in emergencies, such as terrorist attacks, natural disasters and when Take That tickets went on sale.  Ryan told himself that this was an emergency.  He was due to go clinically insane with the boredom if he didn’t do something to occupy his time.  This wasn’t how he had seen life panning out for him. 

            Ryan believed that the world had been lying to him from an early age.  Throughout his life he had been told the importance of having a good education, and he never questioned the fact.  University was always going to feature in his young adulthood.  His parents expected it from him, and Ryan had always wanted to do it.  But his degree in English Literature had set him up for nothing but a life-time of debt.  He had an extra line on his CV that left many presuming that he had ideas above his station, and he certainly wasn’t earning the money that would allow him to even touch his accumulated debt.  Much of it had been money that had been pissed up the wall, granted, but Ryan had expected to be in a position to make up for that once he grew up.  Where was the fast-tracking that he had been promised, instead of low-level admin on a barely liveable wage?  And yet Ryan was grateful to have this job.  Some of his fellow alumni were languishing in call-centres, selling themselves for a meagre commission, living in fear of losing their livelihoods if they didn’t perform. 

            The path after University had hardly been sparkling.  Ryan was working in a job that he could have undertaken competently as a school-leaver.  If he had opted out of education at an early age, he would have more money and be more useful to a company.  Granted, his time at uni had been life-changing, and he would never wish to take that back; but right now he regretted it a little.  He had made his closest friends over those years, and become that person that he was today.  But it hadn’t made him employable, and Ryan thought that was the point. 

            When he graduated, Ryan had planned to take on the world in some way.  It was something that both he and his best friend Shaun were going to make time for.  Life would present an opportunity for them and they would take it on.  It had been an easy prophecy to make when they were students, when they were granted almost limitless time to do things in between some frugal studying efforts.  But jobs took more time, and you couldn’t put off a job.  There were no more students loans to subsidise their lifestyles, and there seemed to be more bills to pay than ever.  As the months wore on, Ryan feared that his time may never come, but he certainly hoped that life would get better than this.  Back at uni, a Monday night piss-up had been inconsequential.  A missed lecture was not a cause for concern.  Work wasn’t quite so easy-going.  Had it been anything but a mediocre admin-monkey existence it might have been bearable.  But on a day to day basis, he shared his environs with settled ambitionless people who were vaguely comfortable in their lives, or at least too lazy or uninspired to aspire to be anything else.  That was the way of the civil servant, it would seem.  The success of others was met with cynicism, and on his weaker days Ryan found himself getting embroiled in the culture. 

            That morning he had snapped at a colleague from another department, when she had pointed out one of his errors to him.  He hadn’t been in the mood for someone gloating over a mistake and he had been quite rude to her.  For the remainder of the day, he found people looking in his direction whilst liaising with her, holding spiteful expressions.  It had been a flash in the pan incident, but a lot of people felt that they needed to have a stance on the matter.  It was apparently a darn sight more interesting than Magistrate’s Court administration.

            Ryan really wanted to have an argument now.  It would consume a bit of time and break up the final minutes for him.  He wished he had been inclined to stir it up earlier and escalate matters to the point where managerial conflict resolution would be necessary.  That would have taken up even more time, and then five o’clock would have arrived without him barely noticing. 

            It wasn’t this bad every day, but Ryan could hardly say it was a lot better.  His job was a rigmarole that he endured and tried to make the most of.  In the office, he was tamed; a diluted version of the person he wanted to be.  And he spent a third of his waking hours being this person, which made it a part of him.  The plan was to make the rest of his hours count so that one day he wouldn’t have to be that third of himself any more.  He just lacked direction.

            Nothing had been quite the same after University.  He had made the financial decision to live with his parents and his days of house-sharing came to a premature end.  Ryan missed that time consistently.  Evenings at home were no longer a laugh with his friends, but ‘quality time’ with his parents.  When he had been house-sharing, every night felt like a night out, because it was so social having your closest friends living under the same roof as you.  To go back to your parents and have the added hassle of a job seemed so harsh in comparison.  But day to day, week to week, this was Ryan’s life.  In many ways it was a huge step back for him.  Having your tea cooked for you was always a bonus, but not at the expense of the freedom a twenty-two year old should have.