THE TEXT

The Life of Henry Fuckit
(1950 - 2015)

 

16   He becomes acquainted with Ivor Hopper

When Henry entered The Red Lion in Longmarket Street there were only four men at the bar. It was eleven thirty on a weekday morning and not at all unusual to be so quiet. They sat separately, with deliberate spaces between them and spoke only with the barman. Henry ordered a beer and put his library books on the counter while he extracted coins from the pocket of his jeans. The barman placed the glass and bottle before him and took the money. Henry was about to retire to the bench against the wall when the young man next to whom he was standing looked up at him and spoke.

"Weird bunch of fuckers, these existentialists." He pointed to the top book, which was "The Myth of Sisyphus" by Albert Camus. "Depresses the shit out of me. Got a point though. The work I do is truly Sisyphean - unceasing and fruitless toil."

"What work is that?" Henry looked at him with interest. A broad expanse of forehead. There was an intelligent gleam in both his eyes, but the left one glinted more intensely. The right eye possessed a disconcerting cast that gave to his gaze a certain demented wildness. After a few minutes Henry discovered that it was better to concentrate his attention on the left eye alone and disregard the other, which appeared distracted by some image in the distance to the left.

"I'm a Junior Clerk in an insurance company. The Commercial Union Assurance Company of South Africa Limited. Short term insurance, renewals."

"What's the difference between assurance and insurance?"

"Fucked if I know. Some kind of semantic paradox. Bound to be no logic in it."

"I suppose you're on leave at the moment?" Henry's curiosity had been kindled and was now burning brightly.

"No ways. You don't think I would be sitting in this dump if I was on leave? No, I'm supposed to be in the filing room on the fifth floor stuffing bits of paper into brown cardboard folders. A truly Sisyphean task and an insult to my intelligence and my imagination. No, I told Abe, the goffel filing clerk, to do it. He's a sedulous ape, and far more suited for that kind of mindlessness. I'll have to do him a favour in return, I suppose."

Henry was astonished and amused. He was also interested on account of his own pressing need to find employment. Of the two hundred and fifty rand Mrs Rabinowitz had bestowed upon him, only eighty remained. "So you're actually being paid a salary to sit here and drink beer? That's the type of job I'm looking for."

"I can't do this all the time. Anyway, who wants to sit in some crummy pub with the last remnants of the defeated army?" He looked about him contemptuously and then drained his glass. "I'd better be getting back or the Senior Clerk will be shitting himself, the miserable cunt. But if you're seriously looking for a job there is a junior position vacant. You can phone me at this number." He took out a ballpoint and wrote on the back of a beer coaster.

Ivor W Hopper
Junior Clerk
Commercial Union Assurance Company Limited
Phone 211312

"Well, thanks, Ivor. I'm Henry Fuckit. I'll definitely give you a call tomorrow."

"Henry who? Did you say Fuckit?" Henry nodded modestly. "Man oh man! That's brilliant! You're the first Fuckit I've ever met. Right, I must be going. When you phone tell the bitch on the switchboard you want to speak to me about increasing your sum insured. See you."

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