Gringo Greene - Excerpt
The Life and Loves of Gringo Greene
Warning: This book is intended for the adult audience.
Here's the first two chapters of the book to give you a feeling and a flavour for the book.
Hope you like it...
In the greater scheme of things an employee desiring a word with the boss would not cause too many ripples in the murky pond of any company’s working life. Yet it did.
He saw her ambling down the general office, a gentle swaying movement, her tall slender figure covering the ground with minimal movement of the legs, or so it seemed. He tried hard not to look at her, but couldn’t, so snatched a final glimpse, before returning his eyesight to the timesheets he’d been checking all morning.
His office boasted floor-to-ceiling glass walls, and when the blinds were open he could see exactly what was going on through the general office spread out before him. He fixed his eye lines back to those damned sheets and prayed that she would walk on by, heading down toward the accounting section, but she did not. She paused outside. He knew she had, though he still didn’t look up.
A tap came to the open door, a feminine tap, an apologetic tap, a gentle tap that definitely meant trouble. She heard him counting something meaningfully out loud, not knowing it was total gibberish entirely for effect, and then he glanced up.
‘Gringo, I need a word with you,’ she whispered.
‘Oh yeah? You know my office door is always open to you.’
She glanced over her shoulder, back down the general office, and saw several raised faces staring back.
‘In private, if you don’t mind.’
Mind? Why should I mind?
‘Sure,’ he said, standing and beckoning her outside. ‘The boardroom, I think.’
He saw her gently nod and amble that way, leaving the prying eyes to wonder, as she headed for the sanctuary and secretiveness of the boardroom, that private space only ever troubled with important business. His mind wandered, pondering on what was to come. He could guess, but said nothing. He closed the solid door firmly behind them, and motioned for her to take a seat on the far side of the huge polished oak table.
There was the same smell in the room. The same odour that was there the day she first entered the hallowed territory of Dryden Engineering. The scent of furniture polish mingling with money and success, gleaming and new, ambition and wealth, a clean and unused smell that mere office staff never became fully acquainted with. She sat down and watched him pull back one of the twenty sumptuous leather chairs, before he sat heavily opposite.
He began playing with his moustache, something he always did when he was anxious, or stressed. She had first noticed that the day he interviewed her all of three years before.
‘So,’ he said. ‘What can I do for you, Glen?’
She took a deep breath.
‘I’m sorry about this, Gringo, but I need to give in my notice. Thirty days, I’d like to leave at the end of the month.’
It was one of the scenarios he had imagined, one of the worst if he had to admit the truth.
‘I’m sorry to hear that. Better job offer?’
It was quite possible she’d had a better offer. Dryden Engineering paid okay, but certainly not the best in the industry. There was a Yankee company up the road that occasionally hijacked their better staff with promises of free holidays in Florida, and secondments to their Philadelphia office. The best that Dryden Engineering could offer was a week in the head office in Reading, or down at the stores division in Bognor. Bugger Bognor! And then there were the Japanese. The bloody Japanese, an entire race of industrious individuals placed on earth solely to make the life of Dryden Engineering pure hell, so it seemed, and don’t even bother to think of the Chinese!
She breathed out a short jabbing breath, a dismissive blow as if to say: You don’t know anything and at that moment he still didn’t.
‘No,’ she said, ‘nothing like that.’
‘Well what, then?’ he said, spikily, only just managing to keep the irritation from his voice.
‘Do I have to give a reason?’
‘It is usual.’
‘You’re not pregnant, are you?’
Her mouth fell open and her eyes widened. What the hell has it got to do with you? she thought of blurting out, but heard herself saying: ‘Certainly not!’
‘Well, what then?’
‘If you must know, I’m going to New York.’
‘New York?’ he heard himself uttering in amazement, New fucking York, and then he remembered that she’d told him something about a guy in New York, a banker, that’s what she’d said: He’s a banker, rolling in dough, apparently. It had all started as an Internet mating dance a year or so before, something like that, a guy, yes it was a guy, it would always be a guy with Glenda, but everyone dismissed her impossible dreams as hopeful romanticism.
‘I see,’ he said again, when he clearly didn’t. His mind raced ahead. What exactly did this mean?
‘How long are you going for?’
He stared across the table and watched her bob her head, somewhat reluctantly, he thought, as if she felt he had no business in damn well asking.
‘Are you getting married?’
‘No one’s asked me,’ she said coyly, ‘not yet,’ and she grinned in that captivating way of hers.
He found that hard to believe. Girls like Glen did not remain single for long. She was choosy, that was the truth of it, and why shouldn’t she be with her assets and beauty. Glen could afford to be as choosy as she damn well liked, and they both knew that well enough. She was in the market for a long term man; that was a fact that only she knew, though other people could guess as much, but she would not be rushed. Nosiree! She was determined to hook the right one, and if she had to travel across the ocean to do it, half way round the globe if necessary, then so be it.
‘I see,’ Gringo sighed. ‘Well, you’ll have to put it in writing.’
She pulled a letter from the pocket of her checked, grey dress and set it down on the polished oak before him. That took him by surprise. She clearly meant what she said. Mister Gringo Greene, it said, in her neat backward sloping handwriting, written with the green ball pen she preferred to use, the same pen that would often get her into trouble. Gringo recalled hearing her supervisor Miss Rivers intoning down the office on many an occasion, Use black ink, Miss Martin, use black!But she rarely did.
There was a silence that dragged on for longer than either of them wished, as they fought for something vaguely sensible to say.
Finally she broke the deadlock. ‘Is that everything?’
‘Eh?’ said Gringo, looking up. ‘Oh yeah, that’s it. All done and dusted.’
She forced a smile through pursed lips and stood up and left the room.
Gringo picked up the envelope and shook it as if it might contain more than a single sheet of paper. He brought it to his nose. Glenda Martin. He would recognise that aroma anywhere. He puffed out his cheeks and blew hard. They would have to find someone new. He would have to do the bloody interviews. He hated interviewing strangers, especially bright-eyed young women fresh out of college, still full of optimism and enthusiasm, as they displayed their papered qualifications before him. They would be better qualified than he was, that was a gimme, but could they do the job? That was something else entirely. Probably not, and certainly not as efficiently as Glenda Martin.
I picked up my qualifications in the University of Life he heard his old boss intoning from years before, which was a euphemism for I aint got none! The sheer thought of it, of him, that balding red-faced man crazy about horseracing, reminded Gringo not to become the office bore, the office has-been that no one ever had a moment for.
‘Fuck it!’ he whispered, ‘Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!’ and he slipped the letter into his jacket pocket without opening it, and went back to work.
Glen’s last day coincided with a Friday, which was neat because a big drink-up was inevitable, when the guys, single and married alike, would take their chance, and make a move on one of the prettier lasses they may have had their eye on for months. If all else failed, surely there would be a kiss or three to be extracted from the swaying and departing Miss Martin. Afterwards they would all have the weekend to sleep it off. Imagine if it had fallen on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. That didn’t bear thinking about.
Everyone was going, that went without saying, everyone except Gringo, who had a prior appointment, or so he said. Not many believed him, and Glen certainly didn’t, but that was how it turned out.
As it happened, Gringo did have a longstanding appointment. He was meeting a buxom woman in a quiet pub on the other side of town, a woman so big he didn’t want anyone else to witness the tryst.
‘Your mind seems elsewhere tonight, Gringo.’
‘Eh? Oh, sorry Brenda, just work things, you know how it is. End of the month, targets to reach, figures to meet. All the usual hoopla.’
Brenda fluttered her huge imported eyelashes.
‘The only figure I want you to concentrate on tonight, Gringo, is mine,’ and she reached across and took hold of his cold hand and set it on her ample tummy. ‘If you know what I mean.’
What am I doing here? he thought, but he knew full well what he was doing there. He was trying to forget all about Glenda Martin, and if Brenda Hodges was the instrument in aiding that particular target, then so be it. I might never see her again, he suddenly thought, still thinking of Glen, as Brenda, still holding his hand, began rubbing it up and down her stomach.
‘Shall we go and eat?’ she said. ‘I am starving.’
Brenda was always hungry and Gringo was happy enough to feed her, usually, and afterwards back at her small but smart apartment, anything was possible. Brenda had never been a tease, and that was one of the things, maybe the only thing, he liked about her. She was as reliable as rain falling during the Lord’s Test, always had been, and inevitably he found himself sitting closer to her.
‘Fine,’ he said, ‘I fancy a steak.’
‘Me too!’ she said, sucking her teeth and licking her lips and getting her things together, and already heading toward the restaurant. ‘T-bone for me,’ she shrilled, ‘the biggest they’ve got! And a bottle of cold chardonnay,’ she added, just in case he forgot to order the drinks.
Brenda looked even bigger in the morning; Gringo had long since noticed that. He propped himself up on his elbow and examined her. She was sleeping still, snoring like a navvy, her white body reminding him of a killer whale beached in some Cornish cove.
No doubt she would soon be awake and wanting breakfast. The full English for you, Gringo? He could hear her shrill voice filling the flat, hurtling down his ears, and if he stayed, following the bacon and sausages and eggs, she would want him as dessert, indigestion or not, and suddenly the whole idea had lost any appeal it ever had.
He slipped from the bed and dressed silently. In the sitting room he found a pen and scribbled a note.
Must go to work. Essential overtime. Couldn’t get out of it. I’ll call ya next week. Have fun GG. XX.
Of course it was all a lie, but human beings lie all the time. They fib about everything, their age, their weight, their previous relationships, their drinking habits, their bedroom habits, their pay, their success, their qualifications, their education, their bank balance, their forebears, the size of their dongers, even their honesty, the list is endless, human beings lie and lie and lie, and Gringo was no different from all the rest.
He did try hard not to tell fibs, most of the time, but had long since realised it was quite impossible to get through life in modern day Britain without telling the odd porky-pie. Go with the flow, Joe, go with the flow. Do whatever is necessary.
He thought the office wouldn’t be the same without Glen, but it was exactly the same. The phones still rang, the computers still whirred and winked and printers huffed and puffed and chucked out reams of paper, and still resolutely refused to work when it was absolutely essential they did. Photocopiers copied, the coffee machine still churned out the hopeless muck it called Fresh and Delicious, fax machines faxed each other all day and all night with more energy than he ever possessed, the internet intercoursed with other computers worldwide behind his back, behind everyone’s back.
Does anyone really know what computers are talking about between themselves when the humans aren’t watching? And what the bloody hell are Cookies if they aren’t something good to eat that are bad for you? Yeah, the office was exactly the same in Glen’s absence, as the men continued to lust after Melanie Tucker, the office glamour puss, though Melanie was now happily married to Brian, so they said, and well off limits to all and sundry. It didn’t stop the men looking and wondering though, and Gringo Greene was no different when it came to Melanie Tucker.
He still called her Miss Harris, and that always brought a smile to her wide-mouthed face, though she had not been a Miss Harris for more than eighteen months, more’s the pity.
Yeah, the office was exactly the same, except it wasn’t the same at all. Glen wasn’t there. He couldn’t keep an eye on her. He couldn’t see how well she looked. He couldn’t begin to know what she was doing, or how she was feeling. He wasn’t even certain where she was. New York, they said, such a long way away, New bloody York, thousands of miles across the planet. Damn and bloody blast!
No, the office wasn’t the same at all, not for Gringo Greene, though everyone else went about their business as if Glen had never worked there at all. It was as if she had never really existed. Her name was never mentioned. Perhaps the men were all so hypnotised by the glamour that Melanie exuded like a stressed octopus oozing ink, or perhaps it was because the remaining women were just so happy to see Glen gone. One more competitor off the block, so to speak, one less beautiful woman to worry about; leaving more men for the rest of them.
Gringo noticed all this, though he didn’t once speak her name. He didn’t want to muddy the waters that had so quickly settled after her abrupt departure. He wondered if he would ever see her again. He wondered if he would ever speak to her again. He wondered if he would ever kiss her again. Those heavy thoughts weighed on his mind; and other places too.
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