Puck had been whistling for hours. This was quite an achievement and he felt justifiably proud. The stamina involved in maintaining a high-pitched, irritating whistle was in itself impressive but he’d prepared himself well beforehand with a bottle of low calorie Volvic and a small stick of peach-flavoured lip balm. He’d come to work that morning at the usual time and was at his desk just before 6.3a0am, throat lubed and lips moist with gel. At exactly 6.30am, he’d begun. It was a top-forty tune, a favourite of his, but sufficiently lacking in melody to baffle any listener.
By eight o’clock the office was filling up nicely with the firm’s faithful. Any ‘Good mornings’ Puck received were acknowledged simply with a nod and at around 8.30am he was beginning to attract a few odd looks. It was at this early stage that he suffered his first pangs of foolishness and his whistling dropped to a low-key drone. Then his resolve returned afresh, bringing with it a sense of purpose. His whistling soared: vigorous, tuneless and even more annoying. He decided to experiment a little. Using his tongue, he tried throat warbling and was quite pleased with the sound he produced. It was like a jackdaw, or a blackbird, or something. At about ten o’clock he noticed a sudden change of mood in the office. His colleagues were beginning to frown in his direction. He found that if he caught their attention and just stared at them, they would eventually turn back to their work, muttering. Cook, on the other hand, was really beginning to get annoyed and Puck knew why.
Mr F. Cook, office sexist and chronic lush, was obviously suffering from another mid-week hangover. Gaping, bloodshot eyes glared from a thin, pale face with unconcealed contempt. Puck returned his stare and kept whistling. Cook looked away, his red watery eyes squinting, his wide brow furrowed and his small, white fists clenched.
The joke, or thing said to excite laughter in the office, was that because Cook believed himself to be better than everyone else he’d spend weeks looking for a four-piece suite. Some of the girls, the more liberated ones that is, claimed that he couldn’t have a foreskin, he’d have to have a five-skin!
Manning, who sat by the huge window with the breath-stealing view of the side wall of the bank next door, had also begun to take notice of Puck’s small musical venture. He was a closet musician given to inflicting tales of the various pop quizzes he’d championed on his colleagues. Puck began to whistle a vaguely well known tune, then just as Manning looked as though he was going to get it, he changed it to something else. Manning’s confused, stupid face was almost enough to make Puck laugh, but that of course would affect his whistling.
Across the office, Cook was nearing apoplexy. The moment he’d woken up that morning a buzzing had begun in his head, at the base of his skull, annoying at first, a bit like a bluebottle. Cook had refused to acknowledge it. This was his way of dealing with the after-effects of a Smirnoff evening and it had worked perfectly so far. But when he got to work and slumped at his desk, he’d noticed a tuneless drone-a fixed continuous monotone that he just could not place. Finally, he’d traced the absurd sound to Puck, that indolent, sad fool with nowhere on his mind.
Puck was smirking behind pursed, moist lips. He was genuinely thrilled at the tension he was beginning to produce in Cook. He realised that there was a lot to disturb and desecrate in him.
Cook had got through the morning on automatic, having mind-made Puck’s infernal whistling into the innocent, innocuous droning of a small, harmless insect. After a couple of hours, the insect had blitzkrieged into a blue neon insect trap on overload. At present, he was registering Puck’s indulgence as something between a badly played set of bagpipes and a chronically overworked chainsaw. His brain, slow-cooked by the heat of his madness, suddenly became infused with blood and serum and sent him to his feet. His wheeled office chair fled backwards through the room and out into the corridor. He turned quickly and lunged across the office, thin-lipped curses chilling the air as he charged. Shocked colleagues scattered like dropped beads, leaving a wide path that would end ultimately at Puck’s desk.
Unexpectedly, Cook slid to a halt before he got there, a small, pale hand clutching his shirt-front as his tiny, hard heart exploded. The explosion, silent and fatal, tore his brain loose and broke his neck at the same time. He sank slowly to the floor.
Colleagues stood and watched, unsure whether the dramatic situation had indeed ended. Silence flooded into the bright office creating a still pool. In the distance, an ambulance could be heard. Puck pursed his moist, full lips and mimicked it perfectly.