FREE STORY: The Pink Biscuit Curse

Posted: August 25, 2011 in Stories

She was a little woman, wizened, bent and hook-nosed. She scurried into the boardoom with a silver platter of biscuits, to join the tea and coffee on the gleaming table. She glanced around like a foraging shrew as she slid the platter onto the table, nudging a chair out of the way to reach the centre. She darted out of the boardroom and back to the small kitchen hidden behind wood panelling. The boardroom door slid closed, hissing on the plush carpetpile, clicking shut after a graceful pause.

A few minutes later, the door banged open. A procession of suited men filed in and took up their stations, sliding onto plush leather. They wore identical ties with the company’s logo, and the same cut of suit, charcoal-grey with white shirt. They all looked like rugby players, old and young, without the tolerated benefit of club ties. There was only one club now after all and they were all players.  One of the men frowned as he noticed a chair was out of place. It was lucky the Chairman hadn’t arrived early to see it. He would have gone mental!

They waited for the accustomed five minutes before the Chairman appeared. The door was held open for him by his assistant, a harassed-looking woman who placed a bundle of papers at the head of the table in front of him as he sat down. She walked out as quickly as dignity could carry her, aware of the dozen eyes on the back of her tight corporate skirt.

‘Good morning gentlemen.’ The Chairman was short, with thinning sandy hair. He alone wore a patterned tie of handpainted silk supplied by an artist the Company sponsored, which conveyed an interpretation of the corporate logo.

The executives mumbled and nodded in response, ensuring the ‘Sir’ was loud and clear. He had only started greeting them in this way since his knighthood, and the first time he had said ‘good morning who?’when the appropriate response had not been forthcoming.

‘Shall we have coffee?’ The Chairman smiled. The coffee was without peer. It was flown in from Kenya each week, ready-roasted and vacuum-sealed. The nearest executive poured for the Chairman, just the way he liked it, with a splash of milk and one sugar. He reached for the biscuits, to pass the platter up the table, and then froze in horror.

There were pink biscuits on the platter.

Pink biscuits. Offensive, pink-naked wafer-style biscuits, like something from a corner shop instead of the wholesome oatcakes and shortbreads made in the Borders and Highlands, or handpicked from the Ducal offerings of the Prince of Wales. They stood out among the beiges and browns, thrust out in neon defiance like proud little penises or rampant dildoes.

At the head of the table, the Chairman’s face was turning as pink as the offending biscuits. He slammed the cup down, splashing coffee over the rim, onto the gleaming tabletop. ‘For fuck’s sake,’ he yelled. ‘Pink biscuits!’ His fist thumped the table. ‘Pink bloody biscuits!’ Who the fuck put them out?’

The roar echoed through the boardoom door. The woman cringed in the kitchen, huddled over a glossy magazine. The biscuits had been her idea, to impress the Chairman. They looked so nice, so bright and colourful, and he was always so angry. Like a startled rabbit in a headlight beam, she froze, deep brown eyes staring at the door beneath her furrowed brow and  straggly grey mop of hair.

Another echo of anger spilled from the boardroom. ‘Who authorised these? She can fucking well pay for them herself! This could have been a bloody client meeting! Who eats pink wafers in a fucking client meeting? I don’t fucking care whether she realised or not.  You.  Get out there and drag her in!’

That was enough for her. She darted out of the kitchen and down the stairs, her wooden sandals echoing on the marble steps. Behind her, a suited executive stood at the top of the stairs, his mouth open in an oval of uncertainty.

‘Stop her!’ The Chairman’s voice echoed down the stairs, through the panelled halls and up to the high-vaulted ceiling. A uniformed security guard moved to the bottom of the stairs, his arms outstretched, and the fleeing woman ducked to the left. She clattered into a pedestal, and an object fell to the floor. The plastic Spitfire Mark 2a aircraft, lovingly glued and painted in 1:24 scale, crashed into the marble and smashed into dozens of fragments.

She stood in front of the guard, her hands held up to her mouth in terror, a small birdlike woman with stick-thin arms. The Chairman stomped down the stairs, followed by a timid mob of goggle-eyed executives, and his jaw dropped open as he saw the shattered plane.  He lurched towards the woman, face flaming with red fury. ‘You stupid fucking bitch!’

The woman retreated in terror and the security guard moved between them in an attempt to placate the chairman. ‘Sir….’

‘Get that cunt out of here! Gross misconduct! No payoff, not a penny, nothing.’ Spittle sprayed on the guard’s polyester uniform as the Chairman jabbed his finger at the cowering woman. ‘You stupid fucking bitch, get out of my sight!’ Flecks of saliva landed on the old lady as well.

But the drizzle of sputum had its own magic.

The woman’s hands fell limply from her face and she drew herself upright to her full modest height.  ‘You can curse me, but you will not spit on me!’ Her eyes blazed with fury. ‘Instead I curse you!’ She spat out the words in an Eastern European accent and prodded the Chairman in the chest. For once, he was silent.

‘I curse you, and your family and your children. I curse your  money, your houses, and your aeroplanes.’ She poked him a second time. ‘I curse your friends, your businesses, your WORLD!’

Then she turned and walked briskly out of the door.

‘Well, don’t just stand there!’ The chairman turned his ire on the security guard and the staff who had gathered around, jabbing his finger around. ‘Get someone to clean that mess up. And get a lawyer onto that bitch!’

The guard poked his head around the main door. He looked up and down the street, but couldn’t see her in either direction. She had vanished into thin air.

Sometimes he remembers the old woman. When the business collapsed around him, her face swam into his mind.  When he was stripped of his honours, her face mocked his shame. When his injunction failed, when his wife left him and took what remained of the fortune, her face was laughing at him. Sometimes he saw her image reflected on the TV screen as he watched the news, arrows flashing downwards in red, businesses failing across the world, queues outside banks, job centres and soup kitchens. He saw her face in the elegant glass pane of his front door as he locked it for the last time and handed the keys to the estate agent. And he remembers her now, catching glimpses of her in the grimy window of the council flat and in the swirling whisky in the half-pint tumbler which is never empty.

  1. Gill Hoffs says:

    Ace! Really enjoyed it.

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