A couple of months ago, my other half was having trouble sleeping, and it suddenly dawned on me that I should do what my mother did to help him fall asleep: tell him a really boring story. My mum was a gifted storyteller, but she deliberately crafted dull and long-winded tales to coax the recipient into sleep. It was for this reason that I created Gordon the Accountant from Dudley, an almost painfully dull man with a penchant for the colour brown. I really thought that Gordon would inspire snoring within minutes, and not only that, but he’d send me off to sleepwards too.
I couldn’t have predicted that far from send him to sleep, my stories actually inspired a barrage of excited questions. Would Gordon ever break free from his mundane existence? Why didn’t he and his sour, controlling wife have children? What was Gordon like as a teenager?
Gordon, apparently, really has shape as a character. He is likeable, possibly even loveable.
Not only that, but I discovered that Gordon was funny. After several recordings of oral storytelling (during which I have to apologise for my inexplicably Scouse take on a Dudley accent), I decided to begin writing about Gordon. I have to say, it was a pleasure to sit down and write about Gordon, and truth be told, I love him a little bit already. This is definitely a work in progress so far, but I wanted to share it on here. Of course, I welcome any comments or suggestions. And if you fall asleep, I truly apologise!
‘Work in progress: Gordon Banks’
“I saw a beetle in me bathroom this morning.”
The man sniffed, rubbed his bulbous red nose and continued.
“Crawling up the sink, it was, quite a slow crawl if I recall. It looked a bit like a pumpkin seed, except a pumpkin seed that walks or, y’know, crawls. A slow crawl. It had these long feelers, probably a good couple of millimetres, three millimetres or perhaps four, no, three, and it had long back legs too like a cricket. You know how they bend backwards at an angle, an angle of about forty-five degrees I’d say, or not quite a right angle, more like forty-eight point five or maybe forty-seven or even forty -”
The blonde woman who had been on the receiving end of such anecdotes for quite some time smoothed down her red polyester skirt and gave an almost wincing smile of apology.
“Would you excuse me, please? I’m just going to the loo.”
“Forty- eight point two, perhaps,” the chubby man in the brown suit continued, before looking up to see her swiftly retreating back as she bustled down the train carriage. “Oh.”
His bottom lip sagged with mild disappointment, and he busied himself with his briefcase. It was rather battered, but the brown leather case with a foolproof combination of 1066 had lasted him almost his entire career in accountancy. It clicked open with a familiar rusty creak to reveal a neat paper-clipped wad of A4 with margins hand-drawn in blue biro, a black balance book with ‘GORDON BANKS’ inscribed on the spine, and an underripe banana. Gordon’s bottom lip protruded again for a moment, then he sucked it back in and withdrew the banana. Brenda never let bananas gain as much as a freckle. As soon as she saw a hint of ripeness, she threw them away as she genuinely believed that bananas should be “crunchy and green, otherwise they’ve gone orf”. For thirty years, Gordon hadn’t consumed a ripe (or he suspected, digestible) banana. Although he had resigned himself to the furry feeling on his teeth and the chronic indigestion from Brenda’s unripe fruit, he had never understood how a woman who insisted soft fruit should be al dente should boil vegetables to an unrecognisable grey slime.
Still, he ate it.
There was then a brief flicker of anxiety as Gordon wondered what to do with the banana skin. There were surely bins on the train, but he’d have to leave his seat to find them. Leaving his seat meant that Fiona the Book-keeper from Harlesden in the red suit might come back from the toilet, find him gone, and then move elsewhere for the rest of the journey. She’d think he was bored of her company! No, he would throw the skin out later, but there was now the problem of where to hide the offending skin. He didn’t want Fiona the Book-keeper from Harlesden to see the potential eyesore of a crumpled banana skin laid out on the plastic table in front of her. Brenda loathed “lazy slatterns” who left food waste on show, and he’d hate Fiona to think he was a lazy slattern. What to do? He fumbled the skin up into a loose ball, bundling it into his jacket pocket. No good: it poked out the top like a dysfunctional handkerchief. Now he could see a flash of red returning up the carriage, so he sharply pulled the skin out of his pocket and shoved it out of sight into the briefcase with an echoing snap.
Fiona the Book-keeper sat back down, oblivious to the great banana skin debacle.
“Did you, uh, have a nice…” Gordon tailed off. It wasn’t the done thing to enquire about whether people enjoyed their trips to the toilet, after all.
Her response was one nervous snort, or perhaps it was a giggle. Fiona was the exactly sort of lady that Brenda wouldn’t want him looking at. Blonde, with a spiral perm, two strands dangling over her face like the antennae of an exotic butterfly. The rest of her hair was pinned in a chignon, but the curls were straining to escape. She had a naturally pretty, glowing sort of face with slightly wrinkled grey eyes. She looked no older than forty, and her slim legs, not that Gordon had looked, could pass for thirty.
It was funny how they’d been brought together. On a train full of people, the two people attending the same event chose to sit next to each other. She’d noticed the minute she sat down, taking one look at the red badge on Gordon’s lapel and pointing to hers with a dazzling smile.
For Fiona and Gordon were both members of the Accountancy and Revenue Service Exchange. Unfortunately, the organisation went by its acronym. This resulted in Gordon and Fiona wearing circular badges emblazoned with ‘A.R.S.E’. It was unknown if the organisation even realised that its acronym spelt a crude word, but members of the Accountancy and Revenue Service Exchange delighted in saying that they were “going up the arse” if they had to visit the organisation. Today, Gordon was certainly going up the arse, although Brenda would object to any such language. In fact, she had taken a black marker pen to Gordon’s badge and scrawled a huge black line down the middle of the acronym. What she had, in fact, done, was given the acronym that spelled ‘arse’ a rather apt crack.
The reason for going up the arse with Fiona? All A.R.S.E members were to attend the yearly ‘Away Day’ function. It was held where it was always held, at headquarters in Peterborough on a grey, nondescript business estate. For thirty years, the Away Day had followed exactly the same itinerary. Members who had been to an Away Day before no longer even received an itinerary, as they “knew what to expect”.
Gordon couldn’t complain. An Away Day was just that: a trip on the train, a chance to see different faces and different (albeit grey) scenery.
He was suddenly aware that Fiona was gazing out of the window, possibly losing interest. He needed to hook her back in, and fast. He cleared his throat with a rich phlegmy hum.
“It was big, that beetle in the bathroom,” continued Gordon, his Dudley accent flattening the words dead. “Like a pumpkin seed.”