by Jared Booth
At work that day David forgot to put his tie on. His boss Mr Huntslow pointed it out to him. Where’s your tie, he said.
David said he didn’t know. He hadn’t realised he wasn’t wearing his tie. David had a lot of ties at home and he liked to wear ties because he thought they made him look professional. He wondered where his tie was.
You don’t know, said Mr Huntslow. Did you put it on this morning?
I think so, said David. He was trying to remember.
Mr Huntslow looked at him suspiciously. He was a fat man with a sweaty head.
Tomorrow, he said, I want to see you wearing your tie.
All right, said David.
The next day David made sure he put his tie on. It was a green tie with pictures of little fire engines on it. The fire engines looked like they were all speeding to an emergency that lasted only as long as the width of the tie. On the bus to work David kept looking down, checking that his tie was still there. It always was. The other passengers looked at him a bit strangely, but he didn’t notice: he was too busy checking that his tie was still there. It always was.
He arrived at work feeling proud of himself. He had been forgetting a lot of things recently and it pleased him that he’d remembered to put his tie on. When he saw Mr Huntslow he proudly held up his tie at him. I’ve remembered it, he said.
Very good, said Mr Huntslow. Where’s your shirt?
David looked down. He was only wearing his vest. It was a baggy grey vest, and there was a stain on it, too. The stain looked like breakfast. That’s strange, David thought. He wondered why he hadn’t noticed it earlier.
David, said Mr Huntslow. Are you going to tell me where your shirt is?
I don’t know, said David. I thought I was wearing it.
You thought you were wearing it, Mr Huntslow said. He was a fat man with a sweaty head, which he shook now at David. Tomorrow, he said, I want to see you wearing your shirt and your tie.
All right, said David.
The next David arrived at work with both his shirt and his tie present and accounted for. His shoes, however, were missing. He was only wearing his socks. They were black, and there was a stain on one of them. The stain, however, didn’t look like breakfast. When he saw him, Mr Huntslow called him into his office. Sit down, David, he said.
David sat down.
Now then, said Mr Huntslow. He went and sat down behind his desk and leant forward across it. I want to know what’s going on.
What do you mean? David asked.
I mean I want to know what’s going on, Mr Huntslow explained. You seem to be getting very absent-minded recently. It’s not like you. You used to be a good worker, David. Don’t you like your job anymore?
Of course I do, said David.
Then what’s going on, David, asked Mr Huntslow. If you don’t mind me saying so, you look a bit tired. Is there anything you’d like to talk to me about? Anything you’d like to tell me?
David thought about it. I keep forgetting things, he said.
I’ve noticed, said Mr Huntslow.
I don’t know why, said David. If I remember one thing, I forget another. I’ve never been like this before. I don’t know what’s going on.
Are you under any strain at the moment? asked Mr Huntslow. Perhaps at home? Are you under any undue pressure at the moment?
I don’t think so, said David. I feel fine at the moment. He looked down at his socks, then back up at Mr Huntslow. My feet are a bit sore, he said. That’s all.
Mr Huntslow sent him home for the day.
Come back in when you’re feeling better, he said.
Three days later the telephone in David’s office rang. He picked it up. Hello, he said.
David? said a voice. It was Mr Huntslow.
Yes, said David.
David, it’s Mr Huntslow, said Mr Huntslow.
Hello, Mr Huntslow, said David.
I’m calling to see how you are, David, said Mr Huntslow. Are you feeling any better?
Much better, said David.
Well, that’s good, said Mr Huntslow. That’s a relief.
Yes, said David. It’s good to be back at work. I don’t seem to be forgetting things as much anymore.
Well, said Mr Huntslow, after a short silence. That’s good. I’ll call in a day or two and see how you are then.
All right, said David. Thank you, Mr Huntslow.
Don’t mention it, said Mr Huntslow. Bye, David.
G’bye, Mr Huntslow, said David, putting down the phone.
He loosened his tie and looked around his living-room. It was a nice place to work.
Jared Booth is 25-years-old and lives in England. His work has appeared, or will soon appear, in Unquiet Desperation, Forge, Read This Magazine, and Zygote in My Coffee, among others. He is going on holiday to the Lake District soon, and is really looking forward to it.