The Shit by Jason Lee

‘I have a cunning plan.’

‘I have a cunning plan.’

‘I have a cunning plan.’

When I got off the train, after an hour of listening to the man behind me wittering on to his work colleague, I feared for her life. She wasn’t a refugee from Syria. She didn’t have Ebola, by the looks of it. Nor was she suffering from bi-polar, as far as I could tell. But you couldn’t tell could you; that was the whole point. More than this, she had been sitting next to this shit for an hour, all the way from London to Leicester. Knowing him, he had forced her to meet him forty five minutes before the journey, for a ‘pre-meet’.

Anyone would want to kill themselves after that, even before getting on the train, and if they didn’t then there was something wrong with them, something seriously wrong with them. Why couldn’t the arse just be like the mean and moody French man, on his old lap-top and his basic phone, who made the odd remark in French and then spent the journey hunched over his machine, checking his grammar, occasionally staring at the bleak English landscape and constantly eating exorbitantly priced sandwiches?

‘We need to polish his head, make it really shiny polish it nice, like this.’

With this so-called joke, he acted it out in front of her, mocking someone else at work. He went on to describe how one Christmas Rachel from estates had offered herself to him, but he had been too pissed to take her up on this.

‘Maybe this year she’s in luck!’ he chirped, as they raced through Northampton.

He had a northern accent, perhaps he was going as far as Sheffield, a type of accent that over the last twenty years had filtered into the media, so now it penetrated every orifice. It was the new voice of the establishment, the official tone of ‘Newspeak’. And there was something snide about it. He was clearly the office bully, and it was the kind of office where nothing of real significance happened. If you didn’t laugh at his jokes then you were not promoted, simple as that.

‘OK John, I mean we signed him up to that training course, and did he go, did he go. Did he go? Of course he didn’t go. He never went. Went he did not. I don’t want to be a pedant about it, like that word, do you, but what’s the point? We know whatever we do for this guy he won’t be cooperative, or corporate, never is. He’s just really lazy. The first day, that was different. You cut people some slack on the first day don’t you, and he did his job well, and was just a bit monged out at the end of the day. That’s to be expected, isn’t it, mixing with bell-ends like you! Ding dong!’

The twat from Sheffield proceeded to berate those who were always on their phone, not realising that he had been doing this himself just now, bitching about another colleague, slagging off another.

Fearing for her life, as I stepped up to the bridge at Leicester, I had a strange sensation that this was not the end of it.

‘Help me please, I beg you, he’s killing me, I can’t take any more of it, the fucking shit.’

She was screaming at me, dragging on to the back of my new business coat which made me feel like Danny Dyer, now on her knees, literally. Should I respond, or was this nothing to do with me? I couldn’t tell if we were one and the same. I’m not sure what it was she wanted from me exactly. She was off the train now, and had escaped the man, wasn’t this good enough?

‘You don’t understand, nobody understands!’

Normally I would have ignored a damsel in distress, but this was different, I could truly sense her pain, I felt it. I wasn’t an idiot. I’d read Bukowski, which had made me stupidly forgiving. People hurt things when they are unhappy, and everyone’s unhappy. And those who pretend to be happy are just too ashamed and frightened to admit it; they just don’t have the guts.

‘I explained to him I couldn’t cope with his droning on any longer, but he just laughed. He thought I was joking. It’s not just me I speak for, it’s everyone in the whole of the Faculty.’

As I was ten minutes early, I let her buy me a coffee in a diner I frequented, which was more like a bohemian dive where you felt guilty not supping strong foreign beer while stuffed animals glared at you. The red leather chairs and sofas still squeaked to remind you of their origins.

‘He makes us sleep with images of him around our beds, and we have to listen to his podcasts all night long, it’s more than just a boring conversation on a train, he’s forced himself into our lives completely.’

I couldn’t believe what she was saying. Could any boss operate like this today and get away with it? Unless they were David Ike, who of course could get away with anything as he was the Son of God.

‘So why not leave and get another job, something far away from that jerk off?’

‘He’d make it impossible for us to get another job, he’d write not only a bad reference, he’d say we were worse than bad, all in his awful northern accent.’

She was starting to convince me that I had to do something to help, but why should I be their knight in shining armour. I had my own problems. Life was too short. And all the other clichés! I have this theory that all those who go around helping others are just trying to avoid their own crap, so it’s totally selfish and arrogant to help anyone.

‘It almost sounds as if you’ve got something similar to Stockholm syndrome, as if you’ve got some level of sympathy with the guy who has captured you.’

She was pulling the face a dog pulls when you send it out into the garden for a piss, but it doesn’t realise it yet.

‘I mean come on; he’s just some sad bastard who manages some sad company, or Faculty did you say. You either put up with that shit, or get out of there, just a simple choice really.’

There was a moment when I had a deep desire to explain to her some of Augustine’s thinking, such as original sin. Most people today haven’t a clue what that means. All it means is individual or collective egotism, which was really how all of society ran, so if you gave into these arseholes you were continuing original sin in a very unoriginal fashion.

And, of course, there was a bit of pain involved in being made into what one isn’t, which eventually happened. What people didn’t understand was that Augustine was a romantic. Adam did not love Eve because she was beautiful. It was his love that made her beautiful.

The ten minutes was up and I had to be on my way, so I left her my number and thought very little of it throughout the rest of my day, getting on with my own business.

I took the usual train back, and after overhearing that bastard in the morning everyone else now seemed like an angel.

‘You know what Sandra, I think we should start asking people to sleep at work, or at least have breakfast meetings. You know, what is it they’re called, power breakfasts, just to separate the sheep from the goats and see who is really committed.’

Getting to sleep early a familiar voice awoke me.

I sat up in bed and could hear the fucker but couldn’t work out where he was broadcasting from. Going to the bathroom, I rubbed hot water in my eyes, and then it struck me. The shit was coming out of the toilet – literally.

His voice was echoing up, past the toilet seat, with constant little jibes and sad puns reflecting his grey suit, brown tie and non-descript haircut. This seemed very apt, that he would live in such a vessel. I wanted to scream at him to piss off out of my house, to just fuck right off out of there, but I was too tired, too gob smacked.

‘You know what Andy, you and me we’re the same; we have our shitty jobs and live in our shitty towns, and all for what?’

He was away now, completely away.

And I was with him, the shit.

We were one.