There’s a lot riding on him, but that’s okay – at 450 metres long, you’ll hardly notice 

You have to admit he has an impressive, even intimidating, CV. Right from the top and his quadruple-quadruple barrelled name. What is it now? Old Man of the Desert? Old Father Eternity? Shai-Halud? You know better than to ask. Cultural sensitivities and all that. And besides, it doesn’t have any bearing on whether he can do the job. It is clear, just to look at him, that he has the necessary attributes. 

“It’s a lot to get through,” you tell him, after the business with finding him a comfortable chair (an impossibility, but a compromise has been reached that, in the end, takes up half the corridor outside your office and a considerable proportion of the foyer downstairs. Not to mention the street outside).  

“I think you’ll find I have got through more demanding materials,” is his answer. Each word carrying with it his not altogether unpleasant scent. Cinnamon, you think. Cinnamon and flint and other, distinctly primordial, smells. You’ve had worse candidates over the years for this kind of opening, though. Minimum wage, of course, because it isn’t exactly the most highly skilled job. But he’d shrugged at that when you’d told him. At least, you’d taken it for a shrug. It had taken him some time to perform the manoeuvre. You’re not even sure it’s over with now. 

“Data protection,” you tell him, by means of an explanation. The only explanation you’ll allow yourself to provide out loud, anyway. “There’s just so much of it that needs…securely disposing of.” 

“Not a problem,” he cinnamons back at you. “I will work my way through it.” 

And he gives an undulating shimmy that roils out into the hall and down the stairs and into the foyer. Someone shrieks on reception. He apologises for that. You tell him that Cheryl had always been jumpy. She’ll get used to him. 

If you take him on, of course. 

“And the end product,” you say, because this is important when thinking about who might want to see the paperwork, where that paperwork might then go, what it might be used to prove, “will be absolutely unrecognisable from…what went in?” 

Another undulating shimmy-shudder coils its way around your question. “Absolutely, your paperwork will be reduced to its constituent atoms. In this instance, you can be assured that it will be rendered considerably less…spicy.” 

This, you realise, after the building has stopped rocking on its foundations, is a joke.  

You’ll allow him a joke. 

It is a hell of a lot of incriminating evidence the firm has to get rid of, after all. And you can’t risk another incident like the industrial shredder explosion. 

“There’s a lot riding on you,” you tell him, as you confirm the job offer. 

“Really?” He puckers his Old Man of the Desert maw. He gives it some thought. He exhales a hell of a lot more cinnamon. “Oh, that’ll just be the Fremen on my back. That’s okay, you get them extra. No charge.” 

Mike Hickman (@MikeHicWriter) is a writer from York, England. He has written for Off the Rock Productions (stage and audio), including 2018’s “Not So Funny Now” about Groucho Marx and Erin Fleming. He has recently been published in EllipsisZine, Dwelling Literary, Bandit Fiction, Nymphs, Flash Fiction Magazine, Brown Bag, and Red Fez. His co-written, completed six-part BBC radio sit com remains frustratingly as unproduced as it was the last time he updated this biography. So here it is, line by [almost] line (Part Eight): “Seriously, before telling us any further details about the dinner we’ve just held our noses over…” “We used blindfolds, too.” “Just remember we do not want to know. The digestion has been and gone. The butler has seen to the drains and there is, I stress, no need to revisit it.” “I think some people revisited it several times, miss. It took some scrubbing.”

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