Thursday 14 April 2011

Penny Carter is Unwell

By Charlie Britten


Penny woke early. With the morning sun streaming through the office windows, she hummed to herself as she tidied her desktop and put her files into folders. But today it was a real effort to get started, and she didn't feel her usual energy, even at the touch of Greg’s silken fingers.

‘Maybe I have a virus,’ she thought.

That evening she visited Dr Norton. In his turquoise bow-tie and flapping white coat, she thought he was quite the genuine article - until he said, ‘We'll have to take your top off.’

She didn't like this one bit. As he groped around looking for leads, she asked, ‘Is it my memory, Doctor?’

‘Unlikely.’ He peered over his half-moon glasses. ‘I hope you’re not using that stuff off the internet.’

‘But it’s free, Doctor.’

‘You’re just run down. What you need is lots of fresh air and plenty of exercise.’

But next day Greg told her that she was slow. The shame of it. Then he shoved his memory stick into one of the new laptops and printed his sales brochure on her colour printer, the one she was quite attached to. She returned to the doctors and saw Dr McAfee this time.

‘Doctor, I’m so worried.’

Dr McAfee was Scots; his red beard clashed with his pink shirt. ‘Aye.’

‘Is it my age, Doctor?’

He shook his head as he looked through her history. ‘None of us are getting any younger, dear.’

‘I've heard some terrible things.’ Penny went black, then white, then black again. ‘In some offices they replace all hardware on a three year rolling programme. I can still see the look on the inkjet printer when they carried him away. He was only two and a half.’

‘Wouldn't happen now. Not during the economic downturn.’

Penny’s fan whirred in relief.

‘What you need is a good clear out.’

‘Oh. The little orange sachets? I order them for Greg online. Quite embarrassing,’ she added in a whisper.

‘Same sort of thing. We call it a defrag.’

‘Will it hurt?’

‘No, no. I'm just going to rearrange your files and folders-’

‘I do that myself, every morning.’

‘Let me explain. I'm going to push them closer together to make more space.’ He arched his eyebrows. ‘Your Greg should do this for you every six months.’

‘Greg’s forgetful, Doctor.’

‘You’ll feel like a new woman afterwards.’

The following morning Greg rushed into the office, crying, ‘Penny. Quick. Mr Large wants to see the sales presentation. He’s coming now.’

‘Okay,’ she said, opening PowerPoint.

‘As fast as you can. Please, Penny. I know you haven’t been yourself but-’

‘I'm fine, thank you, Greg. There you are.’

‘Oh, well done, Penny.’

‘The New York office must see this,’ said Mr Large, after she had whizzed through slides, animations and videos.

She booked Greg’s business class flight and luxury Manhattan hotel. If only she were a notebook, she could go with him.

Charlie Britten enjoys making readers laugh. Her work has been published in ‘Radgepacket’, ‘Myslexia’ magazine and ‘The Story Behind the Story’ and online at ‘FictionAtWork’ and ‘Linnet’s Wings’. She writes because she loves doing it and, like every other author, she is writing a novel – a serious one, about the Cold War. In real life she lives in eastern England with her husband and cat and lectures in IT at a college of further education.

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