It was like a trial placement,
she the employer,
he the prospective employee.
She’d already assayed the precious ores in his CV.
And his personal statement was wonderful,
but be careful now,
words alone are not to be believed.
Throughout the trial,
she made his good intentions walk the line.
On the forms he’d lied about smoking,
he smelled of breath mints all the time.
And those other qualities,
the equanimity and patience he’d boasted of,
alas, were nowhere to be seen.
And as for him,
the post had looked good on paper.
But already the pension scheme appeared dubious,
and the office hours never seemed to end.
She’d claimed so many things
that were blatant falsehoods.
But he couldn’t run away,
having cut off all his toes to fit her shoes.
Each night she’d go through his file,
with a set of coloured biros.
Blue for true and red for false,
the green for annotations in the margins.
Within six weeks, the thing looked like
a Jackson Pollock painting.
Each night he’d lie awake
with thoughts of resignation,
But each morning he’d stay his hand,
he’d seen the cracks,
he’d seen the accounts,
it wasn’t the decent thing.
She took him on after the trial period,
and they settled into their roles
like patients settling into anaesthesia.
And once in a while,
one or the other would briefly come awake.
Writhe hard against the gurney straps
in a frenzied bid to escape.
I hear she managed it in the end.
Slapped down his P45,
and started hiring again.
He had to take the train with all
the trappings from his desk.
Halfway home they sidled off the mainline,
the driver had to rest.
That evening she took the 1805,
and watched as the embankments trundled gently by.
A dusky light shone down from
the orange mackerel sky.
She was free from him,
and next time she’d take better care.
For a moment, as she was drifting off,
she could have sworn she saw him sitting in that siding there.
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