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literature

Stationery Pt I

Daily Deviation
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By monstroooo
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Stanley loved stationery.

He loved the way it smelled when you stripped away the crinkly cellophane wrapper. He loved the Spartan beauty of an unspoiled pad of paper (A4, plain, 80gsm). He loved the sound of a cap crisply clicking onto the top of a Biro. He loved the texture of a freshly-sharpened pencil and the flake of the finely-honed graphite point. He loved gazing over stacks and stacks of untouched Post-Its, each a perfect square of yellow, an army of ideas awaiting orders.

He loved everything about it. Stationery was neat. It was orderly. It was always needed, easily replaceable, and something that everyone can appreciate.

Stanley reckoned he had the best job in the world. Working in the post room of a three-storey insurance company, Greenlight Insurance, he was at the very nexus of stationery for the whole building. Letters would come in crumpled, dusty and worn from their journeys; and go out crisp, freshly franked and printed, ready for the adventure ahead. Deliveries of new stock would arrive and Stanley would carefully open the packaging, check the contents against the inventory, and tidy everything away into its proper place. He'd deliver letters, memos, parcels, stationery and (sometimes) even lunches across the office.

Wherever he went, Stanley kept a close eye on the stationery situation. He'd been in the job long enough to have developed a good routine. He'd start his shift an hour early and wander across the empty offices, making sure that every desk had a fresh writing pad, notepad, and set of writing equipment. This was the best time of the day: the office was still, quiet, holding its breath in anticipation of another nine hours of business. The cleaners would have been in the previous evening, but they didn't care for stationery. They never did it right. So Stanley would methodically move across the cubicles, shuffling from desk to desk, arranging the stationery pot and checking the notepads. Empty pens were replaced with new ones (Biro, blue, always with a cap), pencils were sharpened (testing each point against the tip of his forefinger), and notebooks were folded over to a fresh sheet (fold, crease, and smooth). He'd check each printer, making sure that spare paper was close to hand and that the feed tray was full.

Now it was 10'o'clock: time to deliver the morning post. Stanley had already completed his stationery checks and sorted the morning post. The trolley was overflowing with mail for each department, and primed with two empty sacks (brown, woven from coarse string, rough to touch), ready to receive outbound post.

The post rounds were often highlights of the day. He'd do two rounds of the building: once in the morning, and again in the middle of the afternoon. Stanley would wheel the trolley across all three floors of Greenlight Insurance's dedicated offices, delivering post to (mostly) appreciative employees and collecting it from overflowing out-boxes. Freshly sealed envelopes were a beautiful thing – oozing anticipation, perfect packages of potential. By the time letters had been delivered they were stuffy, dusty, dirty things – like soldiers coming home for a war. Stanley gave inbound letters the respect they deserved, of course. He was a professional, as well as a morally-minded human being. But they lacked the charm, the neatness – the innocence -  of unfranked, unsent, unspoiled outbound post.

Of course, the envelopes weren't the only appeal of the post round. The real pleasure was the opportunity it afforded for a conversation with, or perhaps just a glimpse of, Rachel – the call center's very own angel.

Stanley pushed the trolley - overflowing with envelopes (again, it had been a busy month) out of the post room. The ground floor, where Stanley worked, didn't really count for much in the postal round. It was home to reception, maintenance and I.T. – and the post office, of course. The reception staff tended to deliver the mail straight to the post room, so Stanley never paid them any mind. And of course, maintenance didn't have much to say to anyone. Stanley wasn't even sure if that lot could read. So he turned right out of the post room, heading straight for the elevator, making a quick stop at I.T. as he passed.

If stationery was Stanley's passion, then computers might well have been his calling. A calling he chose to mostly ignore – much to the disappointment of his mother. Stanley had a bit of a gift for technology: computers just worked for him. He'd actually applied to Greenlight Insurance's I.T. department many years ago, but was turned down. He joined the post room on a temporary basis, hoping that if an opportunity arrived in I.T., he could just pop along the hallway and apply directly.  But as it happened, Stanley had become so comfortable working in the post room, with all that lovely stationery, that he had stayed put. When his opportunity arrived, he decided he'd rather stay where he was – and he hadn't looked back, not once.

And as fortune would have it, Stanley's skills still came in handy. I.T. was a miserable, sweaty place, and most of the office workers didn't go near it unless they absolutely had to. Stanley would often spend his rounds connecting printers, fixing email accounts and plugging in modems. He prided himself on being more efficient than the I.T. staff themselves – and he got the job done with a smile, too.

It was an exciting time for I.T., he reflected. The office had a lightning-quick 128kb/s always-on ISDN connection, which blew the intermittent 33.8kb/s modem connection at Stanley's home out of the water. It made the internet available and ready to anyone who needed it. Or at least, anyone with the skills. Computer graphics were getting better all the time: the very latest 3D games were mind-blowing in quality, capable of rendering hundreds of polygons per second in real-time. The latest wave of dedicated graphics processing units offered 16 megabytes of memory purely for 3D rendering – that was more than most computers had available! Just thinking about it made Stanley giddy with excitement. He'd read that in just two years, computers would be able to generate display photo-realistic images.

Two years.

Stanley shook his head and he made his way down the corridor. The world was changing fast, alright. Parts of it, anyway.

No outbound post from I.T. today, as usual. Stanley guessed that they used e-mail as much as possible. While he enjoyed the technology, Stanley wasn't convinced that it would ever really catch on in the real world. People would always need letters, after all. What could possibly be so urgent that it couldn't wait a couple of days? Besides, an email couldn't compare to the smooth feel of an envelope, that slight sharpness of the paper against your finger as you tear it open; the gentle sigh it exhales as your release the message inside. No, e-mail was a lovely novelty, but wouldn't catch on.

Stanley paused as he reached the lift. Normally, he went straight to the first floor to the administration offices and the call centre. The call centre where Rachel worked. Stanley had often considered registering his house with Greenlight Insurance just so that he'd have a legitimate excuse to phone  up and, just maybe, get to speak with Rachel. But he decided that was a little creepy, and ended up avoiding Greenlight Insurance in his personal life for exactly the same reasons. Stanley's finger lingered over the little number one, feeling the slight grain of the polished steel.

They'd often have little chats, Rachel and he. Often about inconsequential things. She introduced him to the American sitcom Friends; he bought her a VHS with some episodes of Red Dwarf. Their relationship had blossomed through fleeting snatches of conversation, exchanging admiration for Blur's music or complaining about the weather. They'd spoken for six minutes over the phone, once, when trying to rendez-vous during an office night out. She'd giggled freely as he pretended to have no idea where he was, describing the town through the less-than-complimentary eyes of a tourist. Stanley sighed – that had been three months ago, and they'd barely spoken since.

No, not today.

Today Stanley would head straight to the second floor. Rachel would still be around later, and he was suddenly feeling unconfident and awkward. The second floor held the executive offices, where the best stationery in all the building could be found. Stanley would head there first, build up his nerve, then head down to the call centre. Maybe he'd see the managing director, Mr Greening: the man who built up this successful insurance company from, as he put it,  "the money the tooth fairy gave me when Ken Rogers punched my lights out for smashing his prized conker".

Stanley mentally planned out his route as the lift gently swooshed up to the executive floor. The second floor held only a small number of large rooms: half a dozen executive offices, where the heads of department did their work (when they weren't out on lunches, at least, which seemed to Stanley to be a pretty small percentage of the time); a very swish executive conference room, sitting opposite Greening's expansive private office; the executive toilets and a small (executive) kitchenette.

The lift pinged to announce its arrival on the third floor. Stanley pushed the trolley across the plush emerald carpet (patterned with jade trim, hint of oriental styling). The conference room was full, the half-frosted glass walls showing the seated figures of the executives sat around the mahogany table. A man stood in front of a whiteboard at the back of the room, his arms gesturing wildly, a charismatic smile on his face. Whatever he was talking about, he seemed pretty excited about it. More excited than Earle Greening, anyway. Stanley could make out his slumped figure at the head of the table – his shock of white hair stood out even through the frosting.

Stanley knew Earle pretty well. Earle respected stationery, respected its importance. In fact, Earle respected just about everything. Stanley liked that about him. The managing director of a nationally successful insurance company, Earle Greening still found time for his employees.

"It's not enough to just employ people, Stanley," Earle would often declare, raising one bushy white eyebrow in some fascimile of wisdom. "You have to look after them."

Stanley enjoyed many little chats with Earle. Rarely about anything important (except for Earle's nuggets of wisdom, anyway). They'd discuss stationery orders – thanks to Earle's fondness for "a touch of class", the executive offices were stocked with the best that money could buy. Gold leaf pens, leather-bound ledgers, a shining aluminium globe on each deep mahogany desk. Earle Greening appreciated quality.

"There's no point in being successful," he would sometimes say, slapping a hand on the desk enthusiastically, "if you don't feel successful. If a man doesn't end his years signing his name with a fine pen, what's he lived his life for?"

Earle had an awful lot of fine pens, so he must have felt a lot of success in his life.

Stanley turned his back on the conference room, the silver-streaked man pacing to and fro. He left mail inside each of the locked executive offices, letting himself inside with his skeleton key (Earle wouldn't stand to have letter boxes in the doors up here, claiming: "a man can claim no dignity while he's collecting his mail from the floor") and placing tidy piles of post inside varnished wooden in-trays. It looked like Stanley wouldn't get to speak to Earle this morning - a shame, the latest Staples brochre had a fine selection of File-o-Faxes, which Stanley was sure he'd love to browse.

He returned to the lift and headed down to the first floor. As he descended, he wondered whether the tightening of his stomach was caused by the swift vertical movement, or the thought of staring into Rachel's green eyes.
Meet Stanley - a white-collar worker somewhere in mid-nineties England.

Update June '16 I recently learned that the enigmatic director Stanley Kubrick loved stationary. This story is not about the enigmatic director Stanley Kubrick.

:#: Next -->

A short story in four acts, featuring the fetishisation (ish) of stationery and the moral decline of the corporation (to an extent).

This story represents quite a challenge for me because I've stepped away from all the clichés which define my writing. You'll find no fantasy themes, no western imagery, no whiskey (save for a brief thematic homage which I don't think counts) and not a single reference to folk music (not even outlaw country). Blimey.

Edit November 2014: Absolutely floored today to see that this piece has received a Daily Deviation! I am humbled and grateful. Thanks everyone for checking out my story (especially those who get to the end - very big love to you!). And special thanks to SilverInkblot and inknalcohol for giving me the nod.
Published:
© 2012 - 2020 monstroooo
Comments71
anonymous's avatar
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Mrs-Durden's avatar
Mrs-DurdenHobbyist Photographer
Your amazing work has been featured here: Daily Deviations Weekly Highlight! :heart:
monstroooo's avatar
monstrooooProfessional Writer
Thank you for the feature! Too kind of you :heart:
Karinta's avatar
KarintaStudent General Artist
Brilliant... :hug: I love the mundanity and the realism!
monstroooo's avatar
monstrooooProfessional Writer
Thanks! I'm thrilled you enjoyed it :)
Karinta's avatar
KarintaStudent General Artist
You're welcome!!
TheGalleryOfEve's avatar
TheGalleryOfEveProfessional Digital Artist
Congratulations on your well-deserved DD!!! :iconflyingheartsplz::iconlainloveplz::iconflyingheartsplz: :clap::clap::clap:
I’m very happy for you!!! :iconloveloveplz: :tighthug:
monstroooo's avatar
monstrooooProfessional Writer
Thank you so much! Squee! 
xlntwtch's avatar
xlntwtch Writer
From DLD to DD, congratulations on the features this story has gotten! It deserves them. A fun story to read. Thank you.
monstroooo's avatar
monstrooooProfessional Writer
Aah I'm not so sure about that, I re-read it this morning and counted at least three repeated adjectives and a factual inconsistency. Shocking, really Happy to be a Dunce 

Thanks though, as always :love:
xlntwtch's avatar
xlntwtch Writer
I find errors in my work all the time. It's no shock for me. :lol:
And you're welcome. :heart:
OriiPrincess's avatar
I like you descriptions!! While I was reading this I could almost smell and feel the stationery myself. And I really appreciate Stanley's character. He's a little different from most protagonists and it's kinda refreshing!!
monstroooo's avatar
monstrooooProfessional Writer
Thank you! Stanley isn't your hero. He's just a simple guy who likes his simple life, you know? I tend to find it more interesting to explore real people than heroic ones.
TheSilverBells's avatar
This is an incredibly satisfying read. The story itself has a crisp tidy feeling. I can appreciate Stanley's character and habits. I work as a secretary in an office and can relate to a lot of this. (My office actually has thick green carpet! xD) 
monstroooo's avatar
monstrooooProfessional Writer
I'm sure office carpets come in three colours: grey, green and blue. Fancy ones get beige.

Thanks for commenting and favouriting :love:
DailyBreadCafe's avatar
Hello, just thought i'd give you a read since you read some of mine. 

I think you characterise really well here and i'm really starting to get into the head of Stanley. One tiny thing that stood out to me in terms of characterisation was: "Stanley reckoned he had the best job in the world" 
I think that because we're watching from his POV, it would actually be more effective to say "Stanley had the best job in the world."

Another thing i noticed was that you write a lot of "he would do this, he would do that" to demonstrate that it's a pattern, but i think the little brackets that point out how he does it already suggests that it's a usual occurrence so to make it more direct, you could cut "would" and have it in the simple past, and just keep the brackets. 

Apart from that, it was a good read and i'm glad you're stepping out of your comfort zone :) 
monstroooo's avatar
monstrooooProfessional Writer
Thanks for stopping by - it's much appreciated :)

I've been wanting to give this piece an edit for about a year now (I started to look at it back in, er, March-ish, but lost my nerve). More for later sections than this one, but I feel the story misses a few of the targets it tries to hit.

That's interesting feedback on the "he would" pattern, though. Not something I'm aware of - I'll have a look at it. I suspect you're probably right about "Stanley reckoned", too - the narrator's voice does indeed give me the leeway to be more direct. Another point I shall consider during the edit :sherlock:
DailyBreadCafe's avatar
Yeah, i would've given the others a read but every time i click the link i get this message:

The server encountered an internal error. Please consult our help library if you need any assistance.

So i assume you've taken them down? 
monstroooo's avatar
monstrooooProfessional Writer
That's odd - no, they're still online (and the links work on my machine). Does this chap work -> fav.me/d4ri7qq ?
DailyBreadCafe's avatar
Ahh that links works for me, I don't know why it didn't before. Maybe it was dA.

What stands out to me in the second part mainly is the part where he goes to fix the printer and the part where he makes the crane. With the printer, than other guy seems like a bit of a prat, but i don't fully get why when he's asked him for help. It also seems a bit confrontational by the way he squares up to him before he starts and then just snatches the paper tray at the end. I just find it a strange, would that really happen in a professional setting?

Secondly, with the paper crane, i know he loves stationary and everything but it was just too much. Nothing's happening and i sort of just skim read that part to get on with the rest of the story. >.<

Oh, just another thing, the word "warbled" is something i've never heard of and as a dialogue tag, it was really distracting. 

Apart from that, it was well written and i like how we're getting to see more of the characters bit by bit :)
monstroooo's avatar
monstrooooProfessional Writer
Thanks for your thoughts :)

I think that sort of thing could easily happen in a professional setting (although bear in mind that this is just very low-level white collar work, where "professionalism" isn't really a buzzword). Aaron is a bully and, in this instance, is simply showing off to Rachel. The scene is designed to show how awkward Stanley is with confrontation, as well as to show that he's at the bottom of the pile. He just wants a quiet life - which is a luxury he's often not afforded. His help is required because the story is set at a time when office printers are intimidating pieces of technology that most people don't know how to work (I think there's still an argument for that state of affairs, actually!).

The crane scene was an experiment, one which hasn't really worked out (but I'm determined to succeed in eventually!). It's had more negative comments than positive, but does at least  generate a response from most readers. It is a long section, I'll willingly admit, designed more to add an aspect to Stanley's character than to the story.
DailyBreadCafe's avatar
Hmm I see. I just personally had trouble picturing it.

With the crane thing, I just felt that you could show just as much in a few lines that wouldn't be so jarring for the reader :)
SilverInkblot's avatar
SilverInkblotHobbyist Writer
Hi there! Just a note to let you know I've featured this piece in my 2012 showcase of 100 pieces of literature: [link] :D
monstroooo's avatar
monstrooooProfessional Writer
Oh lovely, what a pleasant surprise! Thank you so much :love:
SilverInkblot's avatar
SilverInkblotHobbyist Writer
Of course :la:
anonymous's avatar
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