‘You know why I called you in here, don’t you?’
Rog nods and stares at the staple gun. He tilts his head and imagines chewing on the lever, leaving pinprick teeth indents.
Tony Walsh sighs. ‘Frankly, the quality of your work, Rog…I hate to do this, but it’s not just me that’s noticed. You used to be meticulous, precise. Now, sloppy is the word that springs to mind. Well, sorry, but someone had to say it.’
Rog hunkers down in his chair like a dog being scolded.
‘I know it’s been difficult with Karen running off like that…’ Tony pauses.
Rog shifts in his seat and something close to a growl rumbles from his throat.
Tony puts his hands up. ‘OK, OK. I won’t mention it, but this has only been a problem since…well, anyway, you must stop moping, smarten up...that beard…’
Rog’s focus is back on the staple gun. He wants to crunch on the metal strips, gnaw the identity out of the tool that’s supposed to pin things together.
‘…and some of the girls, well, you’re making them uneasy. Em said she caught you…hanging around her desk drawer…sniffing her chair seat.’
Rog lowers his head further; his spine curves, as if a tail is tucked between his legs.
‘Look, I’m a reasonable sort of chap. You’ve worked here for a long time. I’ll give you a month. I’ll monitor.’ He sighs. ‘I don’t want to start with written warnings, let’s see how things go…’
Rog stands in the woodland, a mile from his road. He breathes hard. He ran and ran, he never runs. He glances at the stars, and wishes harder. But it can’t be tonight. The moon is a glinting billhook. Yellow and red leaves have yet to fall – but soon the trees will transform. He puffs out his chest, rips open his shirt, bends, removes his shoes and socks, and attempts to scratch the bristles on his chin with his toenails.
Karen said he was staid. He wished she could see him now, or better, in the near future. One month. Time enough. In a couple of weeks the billhook will reflect his bloated potential; this time it’ll happen, he can feel the monster within, waxing, waxing.
He practises a howl, low and cautious, but with burgeoning power until it loops towards the staggered rows of houses.