Under 18, Native Speaker — Winner 2018




by Eliza OVEY



I trip over my feet as I walk into work but quickly recollect myself as the music blasting through my earphones starts up again, almost comically, as if imitating the opening scene of an 80s sitcom. The skip in my step and the low whistle that falls from my lips, a reflection of my good mood.

“Gooood mooorning” I singsong to my colleagues as I stroll to my desk, “beautiful day!”

Finally arriving, I sigh as I slump into my leather seat and prop my legs up onto the desk, ready for another day of scrolling through Facebook and catching up on Netflix. However, rather inconveniently, a hesitant hand slides a set of 4 documents right in front of me, successfully knocking my feet off their foot-rest.

“Uh- Excuse me, Fred, sorry to bother you, but um, these were due the 15th.” The man, Roderick, says to me, in an anxious voice.

My eyes scan the junkyard of a desk in front of me in order to locate the tiny calendar, gifted to me at the office’s last secret Santa. A quick glance ensures me that the 15th was indeed 3 weeks ago.

I scratch my head, feigning innocence, “Oh, looks like they were! I’ll get riiight in to it!”

Roderick, then, looking very relieved, walks away.

I lean back, getting ready for this boring turn of events. I crack my fingers, carefully slip my bag open to fetch my favourite pen, do a signature little finger dance on the hard wood of my desk and reach into my pocket to fetch my reading glasses (but not before polishing them carefully). Finally, I carefully peel away the protective slip of document one, and open to the first page.

“Bla bla bla… monthly sale figures… bla bla… stocks are decreasing, bla…”

The words on the page seem to blur in front of my eyes, the tik-tok-tik-tok of the clock taunting me, the tapping of my co-worker’s foot irritating me to no end. It really is quite unreasonable to expect me to work on such a boring useless piece of text, but, if I am going to do this, I definitely need a warm cup of coffee by my side, and maybe while I’m there I can stop by the deli next door and get myself a nice, chocolatey muffin.

A quick glance around the office informs me that Roderick has gone god-knows where, which signals my leave. I grab my coat and head out.

Just as I walk back into the office, a nice chunk of my muffin between my lips, I’m stopped in my tracks by a stressed and hushed voice through the crack of the door next to the coffee machine.

“Yes, I do know. I of all people am quite familiar with the importance of deadlines and I can assure you I will get this done!” Roderick, talking on the phone.

“Yes, yes, I can assure you I do understand company policy, if there is anyone on my team who is not pulling their weight, I understand I have to fire them, you have made that quite clear…”

Appalled, a single sweat drop rolls down my forehead, and quickly I look down at my phone, and I do the only thing that I could, I yell. Obviously, at my cry, Roderick stumbles out of the room and looks at me with a puzzled expression.

“I am so sorry! I just received the news that my dog has died! I need to leave immediately!” and with this, I rush out of the sad looking stone building and run home.

The next day, I decide it would be disrespectful to my poor, departed pooch to go to work, and decide to stay at home, in the warmth of my bed, mourning my imaginary loss.

Of course, because I am a deeply caring man, I decide to warn Roderick and send him a notice text, and surely, the best thing I can do, because I’ve never been quite the best at words, I send him a picture of a sad-eyed dog with a few crying face emojis.

Wednesday, I finally bring myself to work, earphones in, my favourite Britney Spears song ringing in my ears and my foot mimicking the beat, when yet again, Roderick informs me that the documents are now 4 weeks late and “it’s extremely urgent! I need you to finish these asap!” What a bore. So, as any other sane person would, I take one look at the paper and burst into tears.

“Oh!” Sniff Sniff, “just looking at these documents gives me such a terrible pang in my heart” I flail my arms in emphasise, “all this talk of sales reminding me of those terrible lorries as they delivered these exact products across the country” I wail and cry, my outburst causing a number of heads to turn my way. Then, I decide to put on my bravest face, as I whisper out in a defeated voice, “My poor, poor Fluffy! He was knocked down by a lorry, you know!”

Pale is an understatement as I look up, wiping my eyes with a clean handkerchief handed to me by a colleague, and notice Roderick, a stressed and pained expression painting his face as he nods and walks away.

I manage to spin out the dog mourning for at least a week, but then, just as I thought Roderick had probably forgotten the documents, I receive an email calling me to his office.

I trudge along the sad, boring workplace and bring myself before his door, before knocking three times politely and entering the room.

“Come in, come in” Roderick says as I sit down, his face mirroring the one from Wednesday, his eyes seeming to look everywhere but my face.

“I – uh, Fred, there’s something rather difficult I have to tell you, Mr Gregson from head office has been onto me and has told me to pass on a message,”

Quick as a flash, I interrupt him, “oh what good news! Roderick, Roderick, you really shouldn’t have! I would be ever so pleased to take on a management role in head office; I thought you’d never ask! I really do believe I have those kinds of people skills, and after all, the staff loves me! Thank you! Thank you!”

Roderick stares back at me, flabbergasted and at a complete loss for words before I scrape back my chair and bounce out.

The next day, as I come into work, only half an hour late, I am completely astounded to see Roderick’s office open and empty, rid of his possessions, and when I ask my colleagues where exactly he had gone, somebody informs me that he had fled from the room in a nervous breakdown and handed in his notice. Apparently, he had been under pressure from the head office to sack someone in his team that wasn’t pulling his weight, but he hadn’t found the nerve to do it.

Oh poor, poor Roderick. I do feel for him, I really do. Some people just aren’t made for the working life.