Funny Drama

“Well, that was dramatic.” Arthur said out loud to the empty room, looking towards the open window from where his longtime colleague, Neville Flange, had just defenestrated himself. With a sigh Arthur got up from his creaky office chair, totteted a few steps in the direction of the window, then abruptly came to his senses and swerved back towards his desk. Having never claimed to be of especially hardy stock, Arthur could not imagine it would do him much good to gaze upon whatever shape his colleague had assumed after what was bound to have been a rather brutal meeting with the sidewalk four stories down. No, instead Arthur began to gather up all of the papers currently on his desk, shuffling them into the bin. After he cleared the desk, he lit the documents on fire with a lighter he had purchased with just this occasion in mind. The papers went up in a merry blaze, setting off the smoke alarm, and subsequently the sprinkler system. “Oh, my.” said Arthur. 

Arthur watched the smouldering dustbin for a second longer, then became aware that he was getting uncomfortably damp along his shoulders, and moved, on slightly unsteady legs, towards the door. He figured it might be safer to be at the ground level once the police, or, god forbid, Daniel, showed up. Forward momentum, he thought to himself, and then cast an involuntary glance towards the window again. Well, he remedied, forward momentum within reason

For more than forty years, Arthur had worked quite happily as a semi-valued cog in the semi-well oiled machine that was Mulch Holdings Inc. He was a lawyer, of sorts, had studied law, anyhow, and for the last few decades he had checked and rechecked and printed in duplicate most of the important business transactions completed by Mulch Holdings Incorporated. Arthur was, he had always been assured, part of the Mulch family. Privately, Arthur believed he was viewed more as part of the Mulch furniture, like a small settee, generally not noticed to be either present or absent until one suddenly needed a place to sit down. 

Arthur had never minded this. He liked his job, he liked the predictability. Every day at Mulch was the same, more or less, as the one that came before it, and this was, to Arthur, the main thing to recommend the place. Every morning he woke up before the alarm, got dressed in one of his interchangeable shirts, ate a bagel, and took the subway the seven stops from his modest apartment to the downtown business district. You could set your watch by Arthur, people would have said, if anyone but Arthur still had a watch they could manually set. 

What one might have suspected, looking at Arthur, was that he was stoic. What one would not have suspected was that, unlike most people whom this is said of, in Arthur’s case, he actually was, in the deeply philosophical understanding of the term. Arthur genuinely believed in the philosophy of Stoicism, invented by the Greeks. In Arthur’s old and somewhat bird-like chest beat the heart of a temperate but fiercely just individual. Most of the time this was of little consequence, as the matters in which Arthur dealt were neither just nor unjust, they mainly concerned shipments of things that left one port and appeared in another. This kind of morally neutral work was perfectly suited to Arthur’s philosophy. Stoics, for obvious reasons, could not work as hedge fund managers. Anyway, if his co-workers had known this about Arthur, the events that were about to unfold would possibly have made a little more sense. 

So what had happened was this: There was a container that got lost. The whole office was aware of it, because Daniel, the head of Mulch Holdings, was on the warpath about it, and people were, very sensibly, terrified. Daniel was the temperamental son of Daniel sr., whose heart exploded a few years earlier at the tender age of fifty-seven, due, in part, to the massive amounts of cocaine he regularly imbibed. The first week the container remained lost there were so many staplers thrown across various rooms at Mulch Holdings that the secretaries, very sensibly, began chaining them to their respective desks. After this there were many unsuccessful attempts at throwing desks, and many upended lunches and potted plants. 

Arthur might have been the only person at Mulch Holdings (besides one very old secretary named Dorris) not terrified of Daniel. This was due to the great secret that no one knew about Arthur, which was that Arthur was scared of nothing. Arthur believed himself to be faint of heart simply because he had not tried using it for anything. Arthur, in fact, had the heart of a lion. Daniel, who was not so much a lion as a hyena, could smell that Arthur did not fear him, but did not know why, and this unsettled him. He never tried to threaten him, because he could tell instinctually that Arthur would not be threatened. So Daniel left Arthur alone, and Arthur quietly and competently did his job, and mainly these two unlikely adversaries avoided each other like distant relations at a Christening. 

But there was a container that had gone missing, and Daniel was desperate that it should be found. It was supposed to contain rubber nipples, a product that failed to inspire the same level of panic in most of the employees at Mulch which it clearly inspired in Daniel, but they were all committed to finding it, in large part to avoid future close acquaintance with office staplers. Then something happened which was always likely to happen. Arthur found the container. He found it buried in piles upon piles of paperwork, mislabeled at least twice before even entering the harbour, a single crate of what was supposed to be rubber nipples, now labeled instead as christmas lights, formerly bars of soap. But Arthur found it, because that was the kind of thing Arthur did, he was thorough, and he never stopped until he reached the end of whatever laborious task he took upon himself to complete. So Arthur found the crate, after a week of looking for it. And then he found that the shipment contained neither rubber nipples, Christmas lights, nor soap. The container was full of guns. 

Arthur, after two days of thinking about this, told Neville, his coworker and de-facto assistant for the last ten years. Neville was suitably terrified by this information. Neville, though a fairly loyal friend to Arthur, did not share his brave heart. “We should tell the police,” he had said, when Arthur first told him. 

“...Maybe,” Arthur had responded.

“Or… we should tell Daniel?” Neville had tried, unsure of what Arthur wanted him to say.

Neville believed in Arthur in much the same way other men believed in God. “No.” Said Arthur firmly, and Neville nodded, relieved, as he was, with good reason, terrified of Daniel. 

“No, no, of course not. What- What should one do, Arthur?” 

Arthur had shaken his head, thoughtfully. “One should do some research, I think, old chap. Find out why the container holds guns, for one.” Arthur had always treated Neville as somewhat infirm, despite the other man being at least twenty years his junior. 

Neville accepted this with great equanimity. He had never wanted to be in charge of anything, and had taken to late middle-age with conviction. Having Arthur as a boss had always suited him perfectly, despite Arthur technically not being his boss at all. 

So Arthur and Neville chased paper trails for a few weeks more, as Daniel grew steadily more agitated, and by the end of week three, Arthur had assembled enough evidence to prove without a shadow of a doubt that Mulch holdings had been importing guns for the Serbian mafia for the last few years, more or less since Daniel jr. had taken over running the business. “This seems very bad,” Said Neville, chewing on a hangnail and bouncing a little on his toes.

“Yes, it does, doesn’t it?” Arthur agreed. 

“Well, nothing for it.”

“Nothing for what?” Neville asked, bouncing a little faster.

“Well, we need to report this now, I suppose, and then, well, Daniel will go to jail, possibly the two of us as well, for facilitating all of this, however unwittingly, and then, I imagine, the Serbian mafia will have no choice but to murder us all.” Arthur said all of this with very little inflection. 

“But-” Protested Neville, weakly.

“I don’t want to be killed by the Serbian mafia.”

“Well, I don’t particularly relish the thought myself, Neville, old sport, but I fail to see any way for this to be avoided.”

“We could… not tell anyone?” Neville tried, knowing already that this would be futile. 

Having worked with Arthur for some time, Neville was well aware that the other man was more principled than a Nepalese Monk, and equally willing to light himself on fire, should the situation call for it. It appeared that the situation suddenly did. He only wished that Arthur didn’t feel the need to immolate Neville by association. 

Arthur gave them three days to, as he ominously put it, get their affairs in order. For Arthur this meant taking out the trash, doing and folding his laundry three days earlier than he usually did, and writing a short email to the homeless shelter where he monthly sent half of his paycheck and volunteered on Sundays. I will most likely not be in on Sunday, the email read, As I will likely be in prison, or dead. This is no cause for concern, as In the event of my passing, my pension, modest though it is, will be transferred to your account as long as it is provided by either my employer or the state. 

Kind Regards,

Arthur Penrose

Then he overwatered his plants a little, and wrote a short letter to his cleaning lady which he placed on the kitchen table along with a sizeable tip. 

Back at the office, Arthur nodded at Neville with calm authority, and Neville nodded back, looking decidedly sweaty and pale. “What about our families?” He asked Arthur, somewhat pathetically. 

“What families?” Arthur asked, startled.

“Well…” Neville hesitated.

“There might be wifes, along the line, mightn’t there?” 

Arthur cocked his head at him. Arthur’s own wife, bless her heart, had died almost fifteen years previous, from cancer she had suffered through with great dignity, and in Neville’s case, no wife had ever seemed to materialize. “I think, Neville, it’s quite unlikely, at this stage in our lives, that new prospective wives will appear for either of us.” Arthur said.

“-Not that you’re not, you know, very eligible, and all that,” He hastily amended, to not hurt Neville’s feelings. 

Neville shrugged. “I guess not, at this point.” He agreed.

“There’s always my cousin Barry, though, up in Leeds. What if the Serbians went after him?”

“You haven’t talked to Barry in over three years, Neville. He probably doesn’t know you’re still alive. Why would the Serbians care about Barry?”

Neville just shrugged. He shouldn’t have said anything. Arthur was usually right anyway. 

“So, I have gathered all the evidence we need. I will now call the police.” Arthur was narrating more than was, possibly, strictly necessary, but he had never had to act so actively on his stoicism before, and he found that saying everything out loud helped with his resolve. 

“Right,” said Neville, faintly. 

Arthur called the police. The police, after a bit of back and forth, agreed to come down to the office to collect the evidence Arthur had gathered. “I am very old and infirm,” Arthur had told them, very firmly. 

As leads on the Serbian mafia, and anyone stupid enough to testify against them, were few and far between, the police had allowed Arthur to pretend to be old and infirm. “Now, we have to call Daniel,” Arthur said, after hanging up with the police. He must be given the chance to surrender peacefully and explain his actions and the reasoning behind them.” 

“What?” Croaked Neville. 

Arthur was already dialing. Someone picked up at the other end, and Arthur very calmly told this person what had just happened. “I see,” He said, then hung up.

“Daniel is coming here”, Said Arthur, with a slight frown. “He says he is going to murder us.” 

This was the point at where the short spell of bravery passed from Neville, and he threw himself out the window. 

After lighting the papers that detailed Arthur and Neville’s semi-legal activities on fire and stuffing the slightly damp memory stick into his trouser pocket, Arthur exited the office. He had shuffled almost to the end of the fourth floor hallway before Daniel found him. “I will kill you, “ The much younger man said, practically foaming at the mouth. 

“No,” Said Arthur.

“You will come with me to meet the police downstairs, and then you will surrender to their care, as you should. You are guilty.”

Daniel laughed, an ugly sound. “Who cares about that? Guilty, not guilty, Jesus, old man, this is just business, capitalism, you know? No one is guilty, unless they get caught.”

“Well, but you did get caught, didn’t you?” Arthur asked, not unreasonably.

“What?” Daniel shook his head.

“No, I mean-”

“So by your own logic, you are guilty. You got caught, so you are guilty. Actually, hold on-” Arthur struggled with his briefcase for a second.

He then pulled out what looked like a very large, very old, gun. “If you prefer, we don’t even need to wait for the police. I can shoot you right now, if you’d rather not have to admit to everything all over again.” 

Daniel blinked first at Arthur, then at his large gun. “In fact,” Arthur went on, seemingly unaware of the minor aneurysm Daniel was experiencing. 

“It might be less humiliating for you, all together. If you like, I can even tell the police that you did it yourself, when you processed your own guilt, that might make this whole thing slightly more… honourable,” Arthur finally settled on. 

Then he looked at Daniel expectantly. “You’re insane,” Daniel said, and was right. 

Arthur shrugged. “I’m a Stoic. Each to his own, I say.” 

“I am not letting you shoot me.”


“Nor am I surrendering!” 

“Well, now.”

“I’m going to kill you.”

“Well, now-”

Daniel charged, roaring. Arthur fired his gun, more or less straight into Daniel’s snarling face. It very effectively stopped his charge. Bits of him decorated Arthur’s already damp shirt. Arthur absentmindedly patted himself down, brushing pieces of brain off of his lapel. Well, he thought to himself as he very slowly made his way towards the elevator, heading downstairs to meet the steadily approaching sirens. That was dramatic. 

December 11, 2021 00:15

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