The Temp Typist's Tale — 29 February 2020
by Barry Graham
I don’t feel bad about it. I wish I did. I know I should. But I don’t, though I kind of feel bad about not feeling bad. Like when one of your relatives dies and you don’t feel bad because they’re dead, you feel bad because you don’t really care that they’re dead. That’s kind of how I feel.
Not just that, of course. I feel bad about Tony’s friends getting in trouble, and I’m scared the cops might realise that Tony knew them and that I’m Tony’s girlfriend and that I worked for Greaves and then we’ll be in trouble as well. I feel bad about that. But Greaves? I don’t feel anything. I don’t even feel all that happy, though I thought I would. I just kind of feel like it was right, like he got what he deserved. Maybe not exactly right, but fair. It feels like it was fair.
Greaves thought he was God’s Gift. That was as much the fault of the girls at the bank as it was his fault. They thought his carry on was funny. I couldn’t believe them. I’m not a feminist or anything, but I couldn’t believe women would find it funny, a wanker like that doing things to women they worked with.
I’m a temp typist. My agency said I’d be needed at the bank for six weeks, but it turned into four months. That was fine by me. I liked it there. A lot of the time there was hardly any work to do and I could just mess around online. Funny, considering that this was the bank’s head office and I was doing the typing for four different managers. And you should see what they were getting paid. The more important your job is, the more money you get and the less work you have to do.
Greaves didn’t work any harder than the other managers, so he didn’t give me any more work than they did. But he was a total arsehole, just a horrible, arrogant arsehole. Sometimes if you asked him a question he’d throw his head back and give this long, nasty laugh like you were dirt and there was something funny about you. And he wouldn’t answer the question. Once I asked him what time he needed some memos typed by, and he did that — haw—haw—HAW — and put his dirty hand on my shoulder and then just walked away.
I was angry at him doing that, him thinking he could do that to me because I was only twenty and female and only a temp. So, next time he walked past my desk, I had another question for him.
“Mr Greaves, what are you going to use for a face when Quasimodo wants that one back?”
All the other typists and even my supervisor laughed, but this time Greaves didn’t. I thought he’d do something about it, maybe complain to my agency and ask for another temp to replace me. He didn’t. But I soon realised he wasn’t letting it go.
About a week after I said that to him, I sent a memo to all four managers, telling them I was taking Friday afternoon off, so if they had any typing for me to do they’d better give it to me first thing on Friday morning, and if they had anything really big they should give it to me the day before.
On the Thursday, Greaves walked up to my desk. “Hey. Ruth. I’ve got something big. Do you want it now?”
“Okay,” I said. “When do you need it done?”
“Oh, I don’t have any typing for you to do. I just said I’ve got something big. That’s what you asked in your memo.”
I stood up and made to say something or do something, but then the other girls — even Linda, my supervisor — started laughing. Laughing at that. Christ.
“Grow up,” I muttered, and sat down again.
“It’s probably too big for you,” Greaves said. “You probably couldn’t handle it.” Then he walked away and went into his office as the girls all started laughing again.
“I want something done about him,” I told Linda.
“Come on. He was only joking. He’s not doing you any harm.”
I wrote a memo to Greaves, telling him that if he ever spoke to me that way again, I’d report him for sexual harassment. He didn’t reply. I thought that might be it, that he might get me fired, but he never said anything. I could have just left. That’s why I like being a temp — if you don’t like a place you can just leave and get your agency to put you somewhere else. But it was a couple weeks before Christmas and things are always slow around then. If I left, I might not be able to get anything else until after New Year. Besides, it was the easiest job I’d had, and I wasn’t going to let one arsehole manager drive me out.
He did it, though.
You couldn’t smoke anywhere in the building. That was fair enough; there was hardly anybody who smoked. But I smoke like a crematorium. So I used to grind my teeth or chew gum until my lunch break and my morning and afternoon breaks, then go outside and get enough nicotine inside me to keep me going.
One morning I got a memo from Greaves telling me not to leave the building during my short breaks. I went into his office and asked him what he was playing at.
“None of the other typists go outside during their breaks. Why should you?”
“None of the other typists smoke. I do.”
“We have a no—smoking policy.”
“I know. That’s why I go outside.”
He smiled at me. “Not anymore. You can conduct yourself like everybody else. You can leave during your lunch break. During your other breaks, you stay in the building.”
“You can’t tell me what to do on my break. My break is mine. I’m not at work then.”
“No, but you’re being paid. You’re still paid for your time. So I want you to remain in the building in case you’re needed.”
I couldn’t handle that. I used the thought of the breaks to keep me going through the mornings and afternoons of cold turkey. Without it, I’d start sniffing glue.
I tried to fight Greaves, but nobody else was interested — not the other managers, not my supervisor, not the other typists. I was just an obnoxious little temp with a big mouth and no sense of humour.
So I left. I was lucky and my agency found me another job, starting the next day. But I didn’t feel any better. I felt as if anybody with plenty of money and no dress sense could do what they liked to me and I couldn’t do anything except give in and walk out.
The day I walked out of the bank, I went to Tony’s house and told him what had happened. He went mental. Then he calmed down and said, “What does this Greaves look like?”
“‘Cause I’m going to wait outside the bank and kick his fucking head in when he comes out.”
“No, you’re not. I don’t need you getting into trouble. With your record, you only need to slap somebody and they’d lock you up.”
He laughed. “I know. I’d love to fuck him up, though. Prick.”
“So would I. But I don’t want you doing it.”
He looked at me. “Serious?”
“Fucking him up?”
At first I wasn’t sure. Then I was. “Yeah. Why?”
“I know some guys that would do it. You’d have to pay them, but they’d do it cheap if I asked them.”
I waited to see if I was still sure, and I was.
They did it for a hundred and fifty. Seventy-five each. That wasn’t in the newspaper. The rest of it was.
They got Greaves outside the bank and started kicking him. He fought back and shouted for help. One of them stuck a knife in his back and then they ran away. Greaves’ lungs filled up with blood and he died just after the ambulance got him to the hospital.
The two guys got picked up by the cops a few blocks away. They’d got rid of the knife, but one of them had Greaves’ blood on him. It was only about ten minutes after they’d done it.
Before he died, Greaves told the ambulance men that the guys had asked, “Are you Martin Greaves?” before they attacked him. So the cops want to know why. Tony says the guys won’t tell them anything, but the cops aren’t always stupid.
Now it’s Christmas Eve. Earlier tonight I was doing some last—minute shopping, getting some presents — one for Tony, one for my mum. The mall was really busy, lots of people with their kids. It said in the paper that Greaves had a wife and three kids. I wonder what he was like with them. I wonder if they knew what he was like at work.
I thought about them, but I still couldn’t be sorry. I didn’t think Greaves would get killed — Tony said they’d just give him a kicking — but I can’t be sorry about him. The cops said it was “a brutal and cowardly murder,” but I don’t see how it was. Greaves was brutal and cowardly. He thought he could do what he liked because he was in charge, but he was only in charge at the bank. Other people are in charge in other places. But people like Greaves and the cops and the papers only think it’s fair if you do things the same way as they do. And they do things the way that suits them. What I did to Greaves maybe wasn’t right, but it was as fair as what he did to me.
I’m going to my mum’s for Christmas, then Tony and I are going to his sister’s party at New Year. If the cops are going to find out what we did, I hope it doesn’t happen until after that.
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