It makes me laugh inside the way that that Henry Caldwell always makes a point of greeting me in the morning, and saying goodbye when he leaves the office. He is a polite boy, I will give him that. I say ‘boy’ – he must be pushing forty, but he has a lot to learn about life. A lot to learn. About life. About the way the world really is.
He is trying to be a writer. I can’t work out why people go to university and college and do all this studying, run up debts and so on that you keep reading about now, and then say that they want to chuck it. Do something ‘more creative’ I hear him saying. What’s he want to do that for? He must get paid three times what I do. Four times. Maybe even five times. And what is it that he actually does? That’s the thing about people in computers and information technology: you ask them what they do, and what they come out with makes no sense to anybody – not even them. In the old days, people had proper jobs, like farmer, soldier, factory worker, policeman, schoolteacher, miner, docker, builder, plumber. Not anymore. I used to be a security guard. Now I’m a ‘Customer Operations Officer’, whatever that means.
I’ve seen the screen that the supervisor uses to monitor people’s internet access and emails, and Henry Caldwell has held the record, every day for the last 139 days running – running, mark you – for time spent on websites other than the company’s website. It’s all to do with this writing nonsense.
A few weeks ago, he started putting letters in the post tray. I’d never noticed him doing that before. Whenever anybody puts a letter in with a hand-written address, I make sure to find out who wrote it. I compare it with room-bookings and other things we have behind the desk that the people in the office write in, and I pick out the handwriting. If I suspect who it might be but have not got a sample to compare it with, I make up some excuse to get them to write something, like I ask them for the email address or phone number of some-one I know they know who has a very common surname, which I don’t want to look up in the company directory in case I get the wrong one. That works every time. They always fall for it. It is funny how gullible and stupid educated people can be. If I still can’t find out who wrote the address, I have got this very strong light which I keep in my private drawer. The bulb is shaped like a knife-blade. The police and MI5 use them. You stick the bulb in the little gap where the flap of the envelope folds over, and you can usually make out what is written inside, if there aren’t too many sheets, or anything inside made of cardboard. That is how I learnt to recognise Henry Caldwell’s writing.
That means that when he puts one of his envelopes in the post tray, I spot it straight away now, when I go through it at 4:30 to make sure that all the personal items have got stamps on, and to pick out all the company ones that need weighing and franking.
I’ve got quite a fat file now of the stuff he has sent off to magazines, and publishers and people. Some of it is quite good, actually. Interesting. Sometimes with really unexpected endings. Not the poetry, though. He should pack in writing poetry completely if you ask me. It’s rubbish. Hardly any of it rhymes. Some of it is all in little letters, with no commas or full stops. Drivel.
I take out the letters he puts in with the stuff he is sending off, and I write a rejection letter. Dear Mr Caldwell, or sometimes even Dear Henry, depending on how he has addressed his letter. I am afraid that we cannot use the material you sent. Best wishes, and I wish you every success with the people you next send your work to. Except he never has any success, because ‘the people’ is really me. I’ve got some stuff set up on my computer at home that lets me print what looks like franking on the envelopes I use, to make them look more proper, more official.
Oh, god – here’s another one, addressed to somewhere called ‘Stand Magazine’. Another letter to send off.
He’ll never be a writer. He just hasn’t got what it takes. I know he hasn’t.