Axe of God
Short story by Michael Botur
First published in Takahe magazine aaages ago. Issue 71, 2010.
We’re standin where the carport meets the road, tryin ta have this conversation over the noisy horns ‘n shit.
‘Glad you came,’ this dick goes, ‘You’ve heard we’ve been burgled?’
‘Woulda come in anyways, workin til six bro. Chris tell you I work weekends?’ It’s early on Satday mornin.
‘Wimzy – Williams – general man.’
‘General manager for_______?’
‘Aw – C-dos, up on the second floor. We do them pictures on the internet.’
‘You’re referring to web design, are you?’
‘Yeah whatevs. I’m pretty high up in the company eh. Who you reppin?’
The man looks at me mistrustful as, steppin me out with his eyes. Eyein up my bag too, hard out. Termsa physical stature, I gots the advantages but the fulla’s older, like a teacher or somethin. Can’t really get away wiv mouthin off ta older people less you’re in school. That’s gotta be the only reason to go back there I reckons, apart from ta bomb the place. One thing I like about standin out here though is you can let shit slip out when the traffic goes past, so I takes the advantage and runs with it, call him this ’n that under my breath under the honks. Loadsa cars is comin past round Biscetti Junction past our buildin eh. Real loud.
‘Who you workin for?’ I goes again. Bloody traffic.
‘Netcom. I’m General Manager. You’ve probably read about us ‘
‘I can’t read,’ I goes.
‘Your name is ___________?’
‘G. Big G.’
‘It’s not G on your birth certificate I’ll bet.’ He sneers, makes a double chin. This is starting to suck. You can smell rubber in the air from the motorway. The windows get this sticky black dust on them. ‘How do you spell your superior’s name?’
‘W- uh-Y– y’know, howeva ya spell Williams. He ain’t superior though.’
The man’s cellphone rings. ‘Just hang tight alright?’
Hang tight about what? Like this dick needs to be in control. Probly don’t hear though, he woulda only heard his mate on the phone. The man goes he’s here with a G who says he works for C-dos.
‘Yes, we’ll wait here. I’ll enquire, hang tight.’ The man tucks his phone in his armpit.
‘You have some sort of ID or proof that you work here? Work permit?’
‘Eh? I’m from Roskill, work permit what? Don’t gots ta need ID bro – they just gaves us the codes.’
‘If you could show me how you entered the building.’ The man goes back to his phone call. ‘Young lad’s going to show me how he entered.’
‘Not that young.’ Short-arse motherfuckin… I’m sure peeps is eyeballin us from the road. I’m lookin out at the traffic on Union but they don’t seem as interested as they should be.
The dick laughs in my direction. Someone on his moby’s backin’ him up. ‘Those people… the bag, oh yes.’ He snaps his mobile shut and whistles at us.
‘Can I ask what’s in your bag there?’
‘Lunch ’n whatnot.’
‘Are you prepared to show me?’
‘Nahp,’ I goes, holdin my bag real tight.
‘And might I ask why there’s spraypaint residue on your bag?’
‘Doin some sprays,’ I goes, ‘But, like, coverin up other peeps’s tags.’
‘You admit that you were graffitiing.’
‘Gotta fight tag with tag, son. I care about my place of ah, what was it, work.’
‘To be discussed. Show me how you got in then. I’m uncertain what’s holding up the – ah.’
A bluey pulls into the carpark while he runs his mouth. Wore my FUCK DA PO-LICE hoodie today. Somethin about it makes peeps look at me all suss but I ain’t sure what. The colour? And I know they’s gonna pull us up about this tag-bag shit again. The poey gets out of its vehicle as I turns to punch my punchcode in the stairwell door. The lift ain’t workin good. There’s hell-as rents in the stainless steel lips which are sposda close on each other with a sigh, like a nice kiss. No kisses now though, just the whine as the motors tries ta force the doors shut and can’t. Rents mighta been caused by a crowby or even a axe. Lift’s got tagged and pissed in, no way we’s goin in it. The mergency phone’s off the hook.
The poey, she’s a piggess, that’s a female pig. She takes a readin of my hoodie and looks a bit angus. She musta think I stole it. If she arkses us about what’s writ on it I’ll tell her I can’t read what it says.
So this short-arse mil-aged dick’s all up in my face:
‘Your punchcode? Show me it on the keypad.’
‘Keypad’s busted,’ I goes, ‘I’m tryin’a show ya – just round the corner here.’ The poey’s prodding the cinderblocks with her fingertips, making notes on her notepad. Not bad lookin for a lady po, real wide hips eh, like Nigella, bros reckon I’m wack for lovin the wide ladies but they’s ignant.
‘Here: code.’ I punches in the code real quick. Someone’s had a go at the buttons, they’re munted.
‘Show me again.’ His arms are folded. I whams the code back in, bit slower for the dumb-arse audience.
‘Satisfactory,’ he goes, smilin all reluctant-arse, obviously still hatin’ on me, ‘but let’s wait here for the officer to have a word with you, hey?’
‘She can have a word with you too bro,’ I goes, on the offensive.
Judiff’s strollin up as well, wearin this thick red coat what finishes below her knees, and it’s got shoulder pads. The dick looks gleefully happy, like somethin’s been caught in his trap. ‘Ah – perhaps this woman can clarify things.’ Judiff has a quick word to the officer.
‘Break in I understand?’ Judiff goes.
I cut Dickman off before he can make me look bad. ‘Yeah check out the wide-as rents in the elevator, woulda been a crowbar they woulda used,’ I goes to her, just to her, not lookin at my mate, the dick. Better arks his name at this point I thinks.
‘By the way bro what’s y– ’
‘You work for C-dos do you?’ Judiff arkses me. Man, I’ve stood beside Judiff loadsa times in the kitchen scrapin shit off my lunch plate makin a big-arse effort to show her I care about hygiene and that. And what do I get for it? Disrecognised.
‘You’ve clocked me, like, countless times! C’mon! I’m real high up in… that company what I work for. The one what I said before.’
‘He does say he works for C-dos,’ Dick goes.
‘Oh yes, I suppose so,’ Judiff’s like, ‘you’re better dressed most days though aren’t you Gary.’ That makes us even anguser. Shoulda wored my FUCK JUDIFF hood instead.
‘What’s in your bag there?’
‘Jus lunch eh, ah, Jude.’ She glares us up.
That dick goes, ‘Left your briefcase in the Porsche, hm?’
Miss Piggy comes up and joins us, done talkin on her radio for the mo. She’s got a walkie talkie on one side, countless accessories on her belt eh, pepper spray and capsicum spray and stuff, lookin’ like Batman ‘n shit. She doesn’t waffle on and on like these other cunts.
‘Sir, were you here when the burglary occurred, were you the person who called emergency services?’
‘Nah yeah well I rang yous and no one answered, what’s up with that? Had to call that security firm instead. Mergency phone’s all smashed up now.’
‘But it’s not so smashed that you couldn’t call?’
‘Used my moby.’ I takes out my phone and waves it side ta side.
‘What was the police response time?’ She pulls out one of her sprays and I recoils a bit. Memoirs of that stuff lingers with ya. Turns out it’s a notebook though and she starts writin shit down.
‘Arks this guy, they sent him down.’ I jerk a thumb at the jerk. He steps in front of me, literary. It’s like a eclipse of the sun.
‘Security protocol for the firm – that’s S-@-F-E Secure, got that?,’ he prebbles, ‘With an At symbol for the A. Protocol is for S@fe Secure to have a senior employee at the site investigate any disturbances before they dispatch a security guard, due to fiscal foresight.’
‘Fiscal force… wot?’
‘Money,’ this dick goes, firmly, ‘budgeting. However my own company, that’s Netcom, you might’ve read about us, has me indemnified for accident or injury sustained while investigating untoward incidents of this nature, Axe of God. Same as the others in the building. Our levies are discounted if their guards don’t have to be called out. Do the investigating myself, obviously, to keep the premiums down somewhat. So, long story short, I’ve come down here this morning with a certain…’ he fishes in the air for a pinafore,’…Dutch courage.’
Judiff interventions. ‘This is Dick Netta – he runs Netcom? You’ve probably read about them.’
The officer writes more stuff down. ‘A burglary’s covered as an Act of God is it, Mr Netta?’ She gets Mr Netta to spell his name for her.
‘What’s a Axe of God?’ I arks.
‘Acts of God,’ Judiff goes, ‘are acts for which no one can be held responsible – this means they are hard for insurance to cover, and insurance likes to avoid such claims. Or to make them somebody else’s responsiblity.’ She sighs. ‘Comparable to our current circumstances – we’re still to determine why the alarm wasn’t activated.’
Dick steps right into the middle of our four-sided shape, squintin up at me wearin like magnifyin glasses:
‘”G”, I’m going to ask you this without preamble, because preamble would be both a waste of mine and your time, and that of the good officer here, and Ju– ‘
‘Did you see any burglars this morning?’
‘Has anything been taken from C-dos? Or my offices? Or any of the others within the building?’
‘Why’d you call security?’
‘Keypad’s munted. Escalator too.’
‘Elevator. G, you need to get your superior down here to assess damage, confirm things with Judiff and myself. And to check whether the alarm’s working.’
I want to tell him I don’t have no superior but, whatever, I gets out my moby and gives old Wimzy a call. He says he’s in bed reading the financial news. I arks him if it says who won the league. Then I tells him there’s been some kinda a break-in, nah haven’t been up to see if anythin’s stolen but the excavator’s shot and we got a poey and Judiff, you know her, and some dick standin round tryina suss things out. The short-arse gives me a sick-arse look when I call him a dick. Soon as I’m hung up, he goes to me:
‘Let’s get efficient: did you break in here?’
The poey raises her eyebrows. Judiff’s got her arm folded.
‘Why did you call security instead of the Police?’
‘Told you straight up, I rang 911 and you pricks didn’t answer. This is like what Mum said, like how God only helps them what help themselves.’
‘I’d just like an explanation about the alarm system,’ Judiff goes. The poey finally runs her mouth.
‘I visited S@fe on the way down here,’ she goes, ‘which held me up. They confirmed the alarm system was disconnected this morning. Perhaps by whoever did all the graffiti.’
While we’s waiting for Wimzy to turn up, I goes and fiddles with the scraps of the alarm circuitry all hangin out of their box. This is round the corner where the concrete gets rougher and there’s broken glass all over the show. That short-arse Dick comes round and arks me what the hell do I think I’m doin with evidence and he summonses over Judiff and po-lady.
I go, ‘Hey is this a Axe of God?’ indicatin the smashed up shit, ‘coz it looks like For’s carved up wiv his hammer. A hammer’s pretty much a blunt axe.’
‘That Glaswegian god dude. For. For’s Hammer.’
‘Unlikely,’ Judiff goes. But she kinda starts smilin for some reason.
‘Who pays for the damage, if insurance don’t? And like to replace the stolen shit? If it is a Axe of God.’
The poey chuckles. Dick, who you mighta read about, goes
‘The taxpayer,’ real angry.
I’m like, ‘Jeez, I ain’t payin taxes – they’ll hafta take em from me yo.’ That sets em chucklin even harder.
So Wimzy turns up wearing his dressing gown and I cracks up. He tries to gimme one a them fist pumps like my main man Obama. Wimzy’s got this thing about connecting with the youth, givin us opportunities. He even tries to rap. Introduces himself round to the three stooges, shakes all their hands holdin his gown closed with his free hand. Wimzy’s all g but he’s kinda one a them effluent fag types what drinks their Lion Red out of a wine glass.
‘So, you’re in charge of C-Dos, Mr Williams?’ goes the piglet
‘We are, yes. Hi Jude. Our Godfrey here, Godfrey Scott, we let him come in on weekends and do a spot of web design work. During the week he’s,’ and Wimzy leans in and gets all conspiracy styles – ‘well, he makes a fine cuppa tea.’ He rubs my hair so I pulls my hood up, this is stink.
‘Got your lunch there eh?’ he goes to me, chur as, ‘Mum’s egg sandwiches again?’ Stink as. ‘I hope they haven’t given you too much grief, Godfrey.’
But Miss Piggy cuts in, ‘I see C-Dos isn’t registered on here,’ fingering the sign what says what companies is inside. Sign’s a bit old so I know my man’s gonna get a bit of a grillin.
‘That’s out of date I’m afraid,’ he goes, gives us faggoty wee chuckle like it’s not his fault we ain’t listed, which it is and makes a hassle for me when I get couriers pokin their noses in our office askin if we’re Netcom.
‘Anyway,’ Pigita goes, tuckin her notepad back on them luscious hips, ‘please indicate to me which components of the alarm system will need repairing. I can contact your security provider and insist on expediency. And that’s us.’
‘Right-o, will do,’ Wimz goes, ‘listen, G: you are obliged to work today– ‘
I swears at that, but at least I won’t get disturbed if everyone’s buggerin off now. It’s not so bad workin’ in a trashed orifice by myself. I work in mysterious ways.
‘Until what time are you working, hon?’ Judiff arkses me, all concerned and shit, ‘We want you to be secure up there.’
I go, real mournful, ‘Aw, better do my full hours eh.’ Come ON Wimzy, I’m thinkin, intravene! Help me out!
Wimz goes, ‘It’s not safe up there, there are thieves about. Just give my office a clean-up and head home safely. Don’t worry about any programming for now.’ He shakes hands again and retreats back to his Jag. Jude tells Dick to stay away from the office until the cleaners and locksmiths is done their shit.
‘And don’t fret about cleaning my office, Geoffrey. Just give my coffee mug a rinse if you would.’
‘Hang on,’ Dick goes, ‘let’s not exculpate the human element – will anyone be sought?’
‘It’s less than likely we can identify a suspect. Let insurance clean up.’ The po tucks her notepad back into them hips. ‘Thanks for your help, G.’ She gives us a wink.
I tells her she’s welcome. The dick who ya mighta read about tries to linger and give me another earful but the po toots at him. My hood’s up and I pull the drawstrings tight and I couldn’t hear Dick if I wanted to. They’re big but G’s bigger.
The switch to activate the escalators is identified by a small red box painted above it. Seen tonnes of these eh. I find this one beside the fake fern. I switches it on, ride the lift up in style. One thing I loves about havin the alarm deactivated is I don’t have to remember the code, which is like eight digits long and I don’t have time for that shit. I don’t wanna linger round here, there’s bad peeps about.
The kitchen’s just off left from reception. Walkin through, I’m about to grabs a Reader’s Digest, they got mean-as jokes in em, but that’s a waste of bag space – spray cans be takin up room. I dumps my lunch out on the kitchen table and rip mum’s sammies into little pieces and smoosh some of them down the sink and chucks the rest in the bin. Mouth’s a bit too dry ta eat.
I reckon I’m a pretty faithful employee eh. I follow Wimzy’s command to a T and clean out his office real good. Nab his laptop, gold Parker pens ‘n shit. Then I moves through to Jude’s part of the office, find me some petty cash, lotta prepaid envelopes too, Mum arksed me to pick sum up coz she writes lotsa letters, specially letters to the principal. Hopefully For’ll help me not get too weighed down with mum’s gear – like mum said, God helps them what helps themselves.
Lasties I move up a floor to Netcom. The door’s a bit hard for me to kick down so the li’l axe in my bag does the trick on the lock. Hatrick’s what they call a li’l axe. I find the office of Dick Netta: General Manager. I opens one of his draws and dumps Wimzy’s laptop and shit in there, and Jude’s cash. Mum’ll jus be happy with the envelopes.
I remembers just as I’m leavin that I gots ta rinse out Jude’s coffee mug, what’s on her desk. Give it some quick lovin under the tap. They’ll be needin a new teaboy on the job I reckon when I fill the gen manager openin at Netcom.
I fills out a timesheet, just for the hour’s clean-up I’s arksed to do. Otherwise it’d be dishonest.
I catch the lift back down and switch er off. I hope Dick’s in shit when Insurance gets some detectives on the case. Or maybe he can blame shit on a Axe of God.