Clarissa had been working on the report for the better part of seven years. Now her work was almost concluded. The next few weeks would show if all the hard work had been worth it.
The document was about a million words. It had lots of pictures, diagrams, and schematics – all of which were high resolution and extremely detailed. She didn’t want to think about how long even just the proof read was going to take – fortunately that was at least a job she could fob off onto someone else – not because she was in charge, at least not just because she was in charge, but also because of the near impossibility of spotting one’s own mistakes. When she told her
son of the herculean task of editing the document he had told her about Gaiman’s law – it stated that if an author opened a book they’d written to a random page it was inevitable that they would find a typo.
There was a knock at the office door. “Pizza is here; time to stop working, and eat.”
“Sounds good to me.” Clarissa checked four times that she had saved her work, set it to transfer to an external hard drive, and locked the screen.
The latter was an unnecessary precaution –
Nigel had full clearance – and the building had at least three checkpoints between the entrance and her office.
Clarissa slumped down on the sofa on the far side of the office. They each opened their
pizza boxes as they had their laptops so many times before. The contrast of their pizzas was rather remarkable. Nigel’s was packed with: tandoori chicken, ground beef, salami, pepperoni, ham, sausage, pepper, sweetcorn and onion. While Clarissa’s had pepper, sweetcorn, mushroom, onion, pineapple, and extra cheese. And it wasn’t even really cheese; due to her recent conversion to veganism. It wasn’t quite the same. She found herself looking over at Nigel’s pizza with envy.
“That’s it,” Nigel did a passable Palpatine. “Soon your journey to the dark side will be
“Very funny,” Clarissa said – the way the real cheese stretched was quite impressive.
“Maybe that should be my next project.”
“What?” Nigel said.
“Making vegan cheese a little nicer.”
“You might as well invent the perfect oven for storing ice cream if we’re talking about
impossible things,” Nigel said.
“Perhaps,” Clarissa said. “God. I can’t believe we’re so close to the end.
Nigel nodded and started to make sounds of exaggerated enjoyment of his food. “Then we can send it and forget all about it.”
“Send it. Yes,” Clarissa said. “We won’t really be able to forget about it though. We will, no
doubt, have to defend it, make presentations, clarify certain points, probably have it discussed on panel shows.”
“Well that wouldn’t be so bad would it?” Nigel said. “The good news is that we can let
others take the blame for…”
Clarissa scoffed. “Speak for yourself. I will be held to account for this.”
“We both know,” Nigel said taking another slice of pizza. “That the minister will be the one to ultimately be…”
“Oh.” Clarissa blew a raspberry. “These sorts of things roll down hill.”
“Well then you just find a contact inside the KGB and make a fortune.”
“The KGB was disbanded…”
“That’s what they want you to think.”
Clarissa rolled her eyes.
Nigel took another slice of pizza. “I mean think about it. There are all these films about MI5, MI6, KGB, CIA, and MFI.” He held up a finger. “But don’t you find it a tad weird that we know their names? I mean surely a real secret organisation wouldn’t officially exist.”
Clarissa put the words there as a joke. She imagined the satisfaction that that might represent to a writer. She backspaced the words and sat back in her chair. The Sidebottom report, as it would be
officially known, was finished. She cursed again her horrendous surname and imagined the jokes that might be made on television from the abstracts that would be read out.
With a heavy sigh she uploaded the document to the mainframe. The connection was as secure as possible and there were encryptions to add an extra layer of security. She watched the progress bar as the upload inched its way to one hundred per cent. She was
concentrating so hard that she literally jumped when Nigel came in.
“A watched file never uploads.”
“Jesus,” she said.
“Yes,” Nigel said. “I am your Lord and Saviour.”
“I’m still worried that something is going to go tits up.”
“Nothing is going to go wrong.” Nigel placed a hand on her shoulder. “This is the easy
The uploaded continued slowly. Clarissa tapped in annoyance as she watched. “I hope
“We don’t have to stay and watch,” Nigel said. “Let’s get some food and it’ll be done by the time we’re back.”
“Yeah. Good idea.” She pushed her chair back, picked up her handbag, and followed Nigel out of the room.
Due to all the security checkpoints leaving the building was a rather lengthy process. The last checkpoint was at the exit.
Clarissa thought this to be a little excessive. She wanted to ask the
security guard how she could possibly have something in her bag now that wasn’t present at the last checkpoint.
She said nothing of the sort as the guard took her bag. “I’m sorry about this, ma’am.”
“Not your fault,” Clarissa said.
The guard checked the bag. He spotted the zipped compartment at the back, the previous
guard had missed it, in side he found her chap stick. Clarissa guessed that this was the reason for the multiply checkpoints – there was always the possibility of human error. The man checked Nigel’s bag too and they headed out.
They took a cab across town to O’Connor’s. The restaurant had an excellent reputation in the city. They had long ago decided that this would be the place to visit at the conclusion of the project.
“Table for two please,” Clarissa said.
The waiter lead them to the back of the restaurant to one of the booths. Clarissa and Nigel sat opposite each other. “Can I get you started with something to drink?” The waiter asked.
Nigel looked briefly down at the menu. “I’ll have a glass of the house…” He stopped and
looked at Clarissa. “Is that…”
Clarissa chucked at his over politeness. “Go ahead.”
“The house red,” Nigel said.
“Just water for me please,” Clarissa said.
“Yes, ma’am.” The waiter said leaving.
“So…” Nigel said, “is it as good as it reputation suggested?”
Clarissa looked over the menu. “Yes. Its a vegan menu that goes beyond just removing the meat.”
“That is good,” Nigel said. “So what do you have in mind for your next big project?”
“I don’t even want to think about that. Project: holiday.”
“That does sound good.”
“A nice beach somewhere. Maybe the Caribbean. Where the locals are friendly and I don’t have to do any experiments. And perhaps find a nice surfer girl. What about you? Where what would you like to do next?”
“I hate to be a copier but your plan sounds pretty sweet,” Nigel said.
“Including the surfer girl?”
“Especially the surfer girl.”
They chuckled briefly as the waiter came back with their drinks. “Are you ready to order?”
“Yeah,” Clarissa said. “Nigel?”
“Yeah,” Nigel said. “Um… this one.” He pointed at the menu not wanting to attempt the
Clarissa perfectly executed the pronunciation as she ordered. The waiter double checked for extras and was gone from the table again. “You weren’t even going to try to say that?”
“And you just had to show off didn’t you?” Nigel said.
“It’s the only way I have used my Spanish in the last ten years,” she said, “perhaps its my
strange attempt to prove my Spanish teacher right. She always used to say that in order to get any job worth a damn we would need a language.”
Nigel knitted his brow. “But this has nothing to do with work.”
“My work needs my brain, my brain needs my body, my body needs fuel, so… in a way this is work related. QED.”
Nigel picked up his drink. “You have manipulated the situation with the skill of a politician.”
Clarissa folded her arms. “I have never felt so insulted.”
“Do you think the government will take action on our report?”
“Who can say,” Clarissa said. “Some how I doubt it.”
A few months later Clarissa was curled up on the sofa with her girlfriend – she could feel
her heartbeat as they watched television together. They had spent the day walking in the park and were enjoying a quiet evening. Clarissa smiled at her touch. “It was a wonderful day.”
“It was,” her girlfriend spoke with a Jamaican drawl.
On the television the continuity announcer came on. “And now on BBC One – Have I Got
News For You.”
The theme tune played and Clarissa smiled. As it started they chuckled together as the host made fun of the new Prime Minister.
In round two Clarissa was surprised to hear her name come up. Her report had now been released. Of course very few people would actually read it and fewer would fully understand it. The information would only come through the media – giving people sound bites and oversimplification of complex issues – so this was probably how most people would experience it. At the end of the segment the host said. “So if you are having trouble sleeping the Sidebottom report is available from all good book shops – and probably some of the bad ones.”
“Do you think it always goes this way? Clarissa asked.
“Probably,” her girlfriend said. “But it might be looked at properly by the government.”
Clarissa laughed. “Sorry that,” she pointed to the screen. “Not what you said. I hope you’re right – pigs might fly.”
Her girlfriend kissed her on the forehead as they turned their attention back to the television.
I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.
The picture here is from: https://www.pexels.com/