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Fiona Backwards
by Mike Hickman



Fiona had got it all back to front, but she had got Lloyd all the same.

Day One for Lloyd was given over to induction. The five minute meetings with the colleagues who happened to be in the building that day. Unlike their many fellows who, in some cases, had not now returned for over two years since the first Covid lockdown.

Day One for Lloyd was also given over to the computer. Tickling it into some kind of grudging acceptance of his inputs. The usual new-boy abasement that had to be performed to the device he’d be wasting so much of his life on and with in the months to come.

Presuming he lasted that long, of course.

Fiona could have left him to entering and re-entering what Derek in IT kept assuring him was his password. She could have left it at the checking in at the start of the day, when he had been altogether too sullen for her liking, and then at periodic intervals, perhaps – over coffee or whatever – until he finally went home at 5. Or earlier. (Fiona had scheduled herself until half 5 today precisely to check on exactly when Lloyd departed.)

She could, in short, have left him to the typical Day One chores. But she needed to know who he was and where she stood. Only, as she told Tina the Tease at the wine bar on Friday night, she’d got it back to front.

“I’ve made a mistake,” was her opening on Day One, and that had him looking up from the entirely empty screen still asking for a password the computer wouldn’t accept and Derek wouldn’t reset.

Lloyd said nothing to this. Which was good. Fiona gave him that.

“I’ve arranged with Colin the Coins to come in on Wednesday to go over the payroll… But I’m not in Wednesday. Now, I know you don’t work Wednesdays…”

Lloyd worked Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. The pair of them knew this, even though Office Manager Sally was unlikely to get his contract to him before Christmas and, right now, he could almost do whatever he liked.

“I don’t suppose,” Fiona said again, “you might be able to…”

Lloyd’s eyes flickered back to the screen telling him where he could put his latest attempt to sign in. “Sorry,” he said.

“It’s only for a couple of hours,” Fiona told him.

“I am sorry,” he said again. And there was no attempt at an excuse. No lengthy description of what he was going to be doing with his Wednesday. Just the sorry. Can’t help you. The computer says no. Which, indeed, it then stopped doing as it let him in.

“That was a mistake,” Fiona said to Tina the Tease over their cherry flavoured Bourbon. But she’d tried again a few days later, when she’d been checking over his induction paperwork, noting that he had failed to arrange an appointment with Hannah the Head. Although he ought to be given a little slack when she was a home worker whose email responses could be timed with a calendar.

“It’s a small stall and we run it every year. Sunday afternoon. The Working Men’s Club. I don’t suppose…?”

And, again, Lloyd was sorry because, again, she’d gone in too big.

“Yeah, but he might have said yes,” said Tina the Tease. She’d got the second round in while Fiona had been off at the loo.

“He might, but still too big, Tina. Still too big,” Fiona said, before remembering the prawn cocktail crisps she’d fancied and offering to look after Tina’s bag while she popped back over to the bar.

It was Day Nine before she finally got him. Had him worked out and precisely where she wanted him.

“Ah, no milk,” she’d said, bringing the milk bottle down to the office with her so that Lloyd could see the precise nature of the quandary. “No milk and the Dennisons are going to be here any moment. I don’t suppose you…”

Lloyd had a list on his screen. A “To Do” list she recognised from checking up after him on the shared drive. His priorities were all wrong, although he was certainly assiduous about the upkeep of the document. He paused, mid-way through deleting the item relating to the filing he still hadn’t got right (or, indeed, started), and he looked at the milk and he looked at Fiona and he looked at the door.

“Nip to the shop?” he asked. “You’d like me to nip to the shop?”

“If you don’t mind,” she said.

“Of course,” he said, taking the bottle from her. He’d have to tip it away down the sink, too. “You only need to ask,” he said.

“Got him where I want him,” Fiona told Tina the Tease when she returned with the prawn cocktail. She could smell the ciggy on her, but you had to allow a bit of leeway, didn’t you? Long as you got what you wanted. It was all part of the give and take of people management.

“He went and got the milk,” Tina the Tease observed.

“He did. Took four weeks before the last one did it. Seven weeks, the one before that.”

“You asked him to get the milk, and he got the milk?”

“He did.”

Tina mused for a moment over her cherry flavoured Bourbon. Her third. Fiona hadn’t noticed she’d got a third cherry flavoured Bourbon.

“That shop’s a good mile up the road, isn’t it?”

“It is,” Fiona said. She wasn’t wasting petrol or shoe leather on a trip like that, several times a week.

“Does he drive?” Tina asked.


“Uh-huh. Well, I’ll give him this. You’ve got him where he wants you and no mistake. He knows you backwards, Fi.”

“I thank you,” Fiona said, with mock bow.

It was only when she was halfway through the packet that she realised Tina had bought her cheese and onion.   




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