Reginald Rowlands had worked at the shirt factory for one month. The girls had already grown accustomed to his oddness. Hey Reggie, who are you seeing tonight? Has she dumped you? Am I in with a chance? Reginald smiled often, but said nothing much.
Reginald was employed as an odd job man of sorts. He topped up toilet tissue and paper towels in the ladies room and leathered the office windows on Mondays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays he took orders for Mc Donald’s.
“Reggie,” Nancy took a bite of her burger. “Reggie, you puzzle me.” He waited. “It’s just that… well you don’t talk much, do you? I mean, you’re a decent looking guy, and a worker for sure. You’re not dumb - you never mess up the orders.” Reggie waited some more. Nancy’s brow furrowed.
“Thank you,” he smiled, and went off to sweep the cutting room floor.
At 5pm the girls down-tooled and headed for home. Reggie stayed behind to close the windows and set the alarms.
He smiled as he took the pencil, a constant companion to his left ear, from its resting place. It was a nice pencil with orange, yellow and green stripes. At one end it sported a finely sharpened point, and at the other, a rubber.
For a while he gazed dewy eyed at the object of desire, twizzling her with deft fingers like a cheerleaders baton, mesmerised by her kaleidoscope of colours.
And then he drifted, reflective, as his fleeting thoughts vied for attention.
Suddenly, with a swift change of tempo, he perked up and carefully laid the pencil back in its resting place, behind the right ear, underneath a clump of black hair, just before the whisker line.
He liked to think from left to right. It sat well.
Rummaging deep in his pants pocket, he retrieved a note pad. For 30 minutes he scribbled furiously without looking up, until he visualised a plume of smoke escaping from his panting pen. He sat back and smiled.
The following morning at 7.00 prompt, the tyres on his black bicycle skidded to a halt at the factory gates. By 7.45 the girls were sewing frantically to meet their targets.
Molly and Sandra had partied too hard the night before. It ended with a cat-fight over a man. Today Molly’s throbbing head was not impressed with the assault of cheap plonk and strong lager, and plotted revenge.
As the music system reverberated above the whirr of machinery, head instructed stomach to chuck up.
“MOVE!” Screeched Molly in a heroic attempt to reach the Ladies’. Too late!
Reggie smiled, said nothing and went to find his mop.
Molly, now taking refuge inside one of the outsize shirts she’d made, looked quizzically into Reggie’s dark eyes. “Reggie, will you marry me, please?”
“Not today,” he smiled, and fingered the pencil behind his right ear before soaking Molly’s denims and tee in soapy suds.
Speculation was in the air. House-trained even. Who is this janitor guy? Certainly not the regular waif and stray they set on here.
Later, after the girls had clocked out, Reggie repeated the previous night’s performance. Tenderly stroking the rainbow coloured pencil, he gazed trance-like, as though looking into a crystal ball. Tonight, he felt a tug at the heartstrings and struggled to push it aside.
Self-discipline won out. He swopped the pencil to the left ear and took out his notebook. For three hours he hurled words at that little jotter, then quickly locking up, jumped on his bike and pedalled five miles to his tiny bed-sit.
The following day was Friday. Fish Friday, the girls called it. Reggie took orders for the chippie. Plenty of salt and vinegar - pickled onions for me - mushy peas on mine. By now Reggie had qualified as a world class errand boy.
While the orders were being prepared, he slipped outside.
“I’m about done,” he whispered into the phone. “Great setting; Fantastic characters.”
Back at the factory, while the girls were devouring chip butties, Reggie stopped by the office and gave notice to terminate his employment.
One week later, Reginald stepped inside the pretty seaside cottage that he shared with his beautiful, longsuffering wife and their adorable daughter.
“Daddy, did you use my magic pencil?” Asked the four year old.
“Every single day, Katy. Look, it’s still behind my ear.” He winked at mummy.
“Another best seller daddy?”
“Shush… it’s a secret. Those lovely factory ladies need never know that daddy writes story books.”
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