On a crowded platform, Lester Philips stuffed the last bites of breakfast into his mouth and watched the late running train pull in.
He squeezed into a tightly packed carriage and held onto a hanging strap. Most of the passengers were looking down at their hand held screens and wouldn’t notice the crumbs of toast stuck to the corners of his mouth.
The train lurched forward causing his face to disappear into the armpit of a large passenger. He recoiled and winced as his nostrils filled with the odour of someone in desperate need of a shower.
At the third stop he disembarked and shouldered his way out of the tube station and into the raindrops of Upper Regent Street.
He turned up the collar of his mackintosh coat and sloshed along the wet pavement, sidestepping open umbrellas. He was tired. Tired of commuting and the daily grind of the nine to five.
Further on, a shop window caught his eye and he stopped to look at the display. He stood spellbound, gawping at the enlarged photo of an island in French Polynesia.
Bright sunlight shimmered off white sand and turquoise water, evoking thoughts of travel and being in a far off land. Lester had always harboured desires of giving it all up, travelling the world and living off his savings but he never really thought it could be done.
After several minutes of staring, he tore himself away from the picture he wanted to dive into and continued on to his place of work.
He came through the revolving doors of the high-rise building, bade the receptionist good morning and stood by the lift dripping excess water onto the carpet.
Five floors up he removed his mac and hung it on the coat stand behind his desk.
He gazed out the window down at the pedestrian-choked street, and the umbrellas, seemingly joined, moving like a giant caterpillar.
Cars crawled along nose to tail in a fug of fumes, drivers honking impatiently.
Spinning round, he noticed a yellow post it note stuck to his monitor, covered in red scrawl. He pulled it off and read it.
‘Bagley wants to see you. NOW.’
Lester showed the note to the office secretary.
"What’s this about?" he said.
"Search me. He told me he wanted to see you in his office."
His throat tightened as he pigeon toed his way through the open plan office, past a score of employees sat facing brightly lit screens. The office was industrious but in a quiet kind of way. Bagley, the manager, didn’t like noise.
His room at the far end contained a large oak desk and commanded high views of the city and the river beyond.
Bagley stood five-five in built up shoes and always wore a navy blue pinstripe suit over a white shirt. His dyed jet-black hair was parted at the side and his thin lips were set in a ruddy face suggesting a fondness for booze. He stood looking out as Lester came in.
Lester stood inside the door. Only important people sat at Bagley’s desk.
"Ah. Philips. There you are. Overslept again?" Said Bagley turning round.
"Sorry. Train delay. Engineering works on the line." Said Lester looking down at his shoes.
"Right. I’ll keep it brief. Lot’s to do. It’s been brought to my attention that you’ve missed several deadlines in the past few weeks and you’ve been coming in late almost every day."
"Well I’ll try and make it up."
"Good. I’m counting on you Philips. I run a tight ship here. I expect 110 per cent from all my employees. I don’t want excuses. Look at me. I didn’t get this far by making excuses. I need doers, people who are not afraid to do the work of ten men."
Lester couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He knew Bagley spent most afternoons down the pub. Prick, he thought. Bagley had more.
"I need you to produce a report for me by three o’clock this afternoon. I have a client waiting on it. This is your chance to shine Philips."
"That’s not much time Mr Bagley."
"No excuses Philips, get to work and shut the door behind you." Said Bagley, waving him out.
Lester schlepped back to his desk and sat down and checked his emails. A slew of messages came in, all related to the report he had to write up. He scanned through the documents and realised that he had a few days work in front of him. There was no way he would finish by that afternoon.
"Wanker," Lester muttered.
He was flustered and out of sorts. There’s got to be more to life than this he thought. He’d been at the company five years but the mundane, the routine, and the stress of travel was putting a strain on him. He didn’t need this. He was young, in his thirties. He should be out there seeing the world. Lester started surfing the net. He found a webpage on the desert island he saw in the window display. He hadn’t had a holiday in three years and he salivated at the image on screen. With his savings he realised he could go travelling, and live comfortably for at least a year.
Then, his desk phone rang, jolting him out of his reverie. He looked down at the phone and saw Bagley’s name flash up.
"Philips. You should have everything you need to get that report done. Don’t forget, I need it by three."
"Yes, I’ll try my best."
"There’s no trying Philips, only doing."
Bagley hung up and Lester sat there staring into space, listening to a dead line.
"Fuck this," he said.
Dennis started composing an email. It was short and sweet.
‘I quit.’ It said and he sent it to Bagley.
After pressing send he rose from his chair, grabbed his coat and headed out the door saying goodbye to the secretary as he passed. She looked up with a furrowed brow and watched him disappear.
There was a spring in his step out on the street. The rain had stopped and sun was breaking through the clouds. He felt lighter, relieved as headed down to the shop with the dream island in its window display.