It was Bosses’ Day on Friday. I’d never heard of it until I sensed Threnody, head secretary of the Stoep Talk Organisation, hovering near my desk.
“What is it, Threnody?” I asked rather testily which, on a Friday morning a boss is entitled to be. “Can’t you see I’m busy?”
She looked at my screen for a second and said, “(Cough. Cough.) If you move the four of clubs over to there it will release the five of hearts which can then go up there and then that one…”
“I was about to do that,” I said.
Those who have played solitaire on their computer, and get it to work out, will know the glow of satisfaction, the burst of pride, the ecstasy, that overpowering feeling of having mentally triumphed over mankind’s most complicated and daunting piece of machinery.
“(Cough. Cough) Do you know what day it is?” Threnody asked a little hesitantly.
“I suggest you consult the nearest calendar,” I said dryly.
“(Cough. Cough.) “It’s Bosses’ Day!”
“Well, in September, on Secretaries’ Day, you took me to lunch so my mother said I (Cough. Cough) should take you to lunch!”
I swivelled my boss’s chair around and tilted it in an executive-like way so that I could see her more clearly. I noticed, for the first time, that she was wearing quite a snazzy dress and had had her hair done. I was, to tell the truth, quite taken aback.
“YOU? Take ME to lunch?” I said. Then, a little suspiciously I asked, “Where?”
“Well, not that hamburger place that you took me for Secretaries’ Day. When I told my mom I was thinking of taking you there she nearly had a fit. She said I should take you to La Maison Cuisine.”
“But that’s very expensive!” I said.
“My mother gave me some money.”
“Well then, have you booked? I mean, what are you waiting for? They could be full!”
And so it was that I found myself walking into La Maison Cuisine and ordering extra large huitres and roti carnard a l’orange with une bouteille de vin rouge and waving la fourchette as I told Threnody my life story.
I told her how I had started out in adult life with just a bicycle (albeit a three speed one with drop handlebars and a loud bell) and how, over the years, I became an intrepid reporter until one day I was able to buy myself a 12-speed bicycle…
“What year was that?” she asked.
“You tell me,” I suggested.
“1916?” she said.
“What!” I said. “My gosh! How old do you think I am?” (I was barely 50 at the time.) She thought for a long time and said at last: “Sixty?”
“Sorry, Sir, am I a bit out?”
“A bit? You’re 10 years out!”
“You mean you’re 70!”
This greatly curbed the appetite which, up to that point, had been shouting up from below that it wanted crème broulet.
Although Threnody only sipped her wine and was still on her first glass, the bottle, miraculously, was empty. I ordered another and solemnly toasted her dear old mum.
Threnody ate with surprising energy while I traced my writing career from primary school. I had barely reached my prize-winning composition (well, it was a consolation prize actually) in fifth grade, when the bill came.
Threnody, without looking at it, folded a R50 note inside it and placed it back in the folder.
“That won’t be sufficient,” I said, thoroughly alarmed.
“That’s all my mother gave me! My mother said ‘R50 should be enough for that old skinfli… for your dear old boss’.”
I had to pay the R425.45 balance AND part with a 20c tip.
Back at the office I looked in vain in the dictionary for the word “skinfli”. It was quite some time before my colour returned. Threnody, on the other hand, was uncharacteristically chipper and hummed a little tune.
Obviously the vin rouge.