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Stationery Pt III

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By monstroooo
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The stationery looked lustrous as Stanley closed the cupboard door on it. He suppressed a sigh, twisting the lock and sealing the stock away for the evening. Locked away, wrapped up in polythene, safe from harm. None of this stuff would find its way into a bin tonight.

He rose, pulled his coat from the back of his chair, and shrugged it on. It was quarter past six and high time Stanley got himself home.

"You must be Stanley," came a voice from the doorway. Stanley turned to see Harvey standing there, wrapped in a thick black coat which stretched down past his knees. He was carefully prising a black leather glove from one hand.

"Um, yeah," Stanley said. "Hi."

"The post room!" Harvey said, almost in awe, peeling off this other glove. "So this is where it all happens, huh?"

"I guess so."

"Eli Harvey," the man said, striding into the room and holding a hand out to Stanley. He shook it, his hand almost crushed under Harvey's fierce grip.

"Can I help you with something, Eli?" Stanley asked, noticing two figures, also clad in black coats, stride very deliberately into the room. While Harvey had entered gazing around in curiosity, these men kept their gaze firmly locked on Stanley. Something about them made him nervous – they didn't exactly look like underwriters.

"Sure you can, Stan," Harvey replied. A confident, warm smile spread across his face but somehow failed to touch his eyes. "I was wondering if you could do me a little favour?"

"I prefer Stanley, actually-"

"What's that?"

"Nothing."

"Listen, Stan, a little bird tells me that you're some kind of genius when it comes to computers. Take a seat," Harvey said, gesturing towards a chair by one of the desks.

Stanley sat uncertainly as Harvey perched on the edge of the desk, looming over him. The other men stood either side of the doorway, eyes still locked on him. Harvey seemed to notice Stanley's worried glances and looked back over his shoulder.

"Oh," he said dismissively, "don't you worry about my associates there."

"Now, I'm going to ask for two things from you," Harvey flashed that lifeless smile again. "This doesn't have to take long."

"Right, OK, because-"

"First off, I'm going to ask to borrow that skeleton key of yours."

"What? I... I can't just-"

"Sure you can! I want to prepare a little surprise for old man Greening. You two are mates, aren't you?"

"I can't just go giving my key away."

"Hey, I'm not asking you to actually give it to me," Harvey held his hands in the air defensively. "I'd just like you to come up to Greening's office with me. You can open the door, let me in... it won't take long."

"I'm sorry, I really can't-"

"Which brings me on to the second thing. I'd like you to use those computer skills of yours to send a little e-mail."

"Well, you can do that from here," Stanley said, pointing to the beige CRT monitor which sat on the desk.

"Not this kind of e-mail, Stan. This needs to come from Greening's desk."

"Look, I'm sorry, but I really don't think I can help you."

"You'll be rewarded," Harvey said. "I repay my favours, Stan. What do you want in return? Name it."

"Nothing."

"Come on! Everyone has a price. You want money? That's easy," Harvey reached into his coat pocket and pulled out the most beautiful chequebook Stanley had ever seen. It was jet black and dark grey on the cover, divided by a streak of silver. Harvey then retrieved a silver pen – a Parker, judging by the arrow-feather clip. "A hundred quid to open a door? Easy money!"

Stanley stayed quiet as Harvey scribbled in the chequebook.

"Not interested? Five hundred?" Harvey stared at Stanley curiously. "A thousand?"

"No. I'm sorry, I'm not interested in being... bribed. Find someone else to help you."

"Money not your thing, huh? That's alright, Stan, I've got imagination. Money's so boring – you're right.

"Let me tell you something. I'm a pretty powerful guy. Sounds cocky, I know, but it's true. There's not much I can't do within this company. And if you help me out, this company is going to get BIG. We're talking huge. You have no idea how far this company is going to grow in the next year. We're going to start making some serious fucking money here. And as soon as that happens, you'll feel the benefit. You like cars? Girls?"

"Oh, come on."

"A bit naff, huh? OK, You're a gentleman. I like that. Tell me, you like your job, Stan?"

"Yeah."

"Great! How about a promotion?"

"No, thanks."

"You could be running this place in two weeks," Harvey said, spreading his arms wide. "This won't be THE post room, it'll be Stan's post room! Or we'll get you out of here altogether. You're a computer guy, right? I'll make you head of I.T."

The thought of leaving the post room – the stationery – made Stanley's blood run cold.

"Sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it?" said Harvey, noticing Stanley's sudden discomfort. "Don't worry – the higher you go up the ladder, the less you have to do. Hell, give it a year and you'll be an executive! No more pushing paper around, Stan, your office will be on the golf course!"

"Look, I'm sorry," Stanley pulled himself to his feet, reaching out for his rucksack. "I really can't help you," he said, sweeping past Harvey towards the door.

One of the two men stepped in front of the doorway. Stanley stopped  – the man was huge, twice the width of Stanley. He crossed his arms very deliberately.

"I'm afraid I don't have time for this, Stan," Harvey said over his shoulder.

"Excuse me," said Stanley to the human wall in front of him, shifting his bag nervously on his shoulder.

"Come and sit down," commanded Harvey.

"Are you trying to bully me?" asked Stanley.

"No, Stan. This isn't a school playground. You will help me."

Harvey rose and pulled a chair into the centre of the room, wheels sweeping along the carpet in an angry hiss.

"Now, sit down."

There was no trace of Harvey's smile now. Stanley sat down nervously.

"Good man," Harvey clapped his hands and rubbed them together. "So, you'll help me get into Greening's office?"

"What exactly do you want me to do?" Stanley said, eyeing up the figures by the doorway.

"I want you to unlock Greening's door with that key of yours – and I know you can do that – write up a little letter for me, email it to a couple of friends and then print it out onto Greening's letterheaded paper."

That was fine paper, Greening's private letterheaded stock. The pride of Stanley's operation – there were only ever two or three reams of it in the office at any one time. A little thicker than standard A4, it had a beautifully smooth, matte finish. The top of the paper contained the company's name and address, the bottom had Greening's private correspondence details. A three-tone pastel flourish enriched the top and sides of the paper. It oozed authority, importance, and confidence. Stanley had never seen paper so beautiful in all his life: it was paper you'd trust in, buy from, even die for. Greening's office was the only place in the company it could be found, and if anything, that exclusivity made it even more-

"Think you can handle that, Stan?" Harvey's voice thrust Stanley rudely back into the present.

"No," Stanley replied, curtly.

Harvey sighed melodramatically. "You know, Stanley, I served for a few years in the Royal Marines," he said, nodding towards one of men at the door. "A fine way for a man to learn some discipline. The military, well, they don't put up with any "bull", as the Americans say."

A burly man at the door slowly crossed the room, pulling something out of a pocket. Stanley squinted to try and see what it was.

"But sometimes, we on the ground had to take matters into our own hands. Without the brass getting wind of it, of course."

The man stepped right up to Stanley's chair, something wrapped around one hand, and swung his arm toward Stanley. Pain exploded in his stomach. He let out a startled yelp and bent over double.

"How do you do that, Stan? How do you force your will on others without leaving evidence?"

The words washed over Stanley in a haze of white noise.

"Well, marines are enterprising guys. Turns out, the simplest things can be very powerful in the right hands."

Stanley looked up, panting, clutching his waist. He held his silence, not trusting his voice. As tears stung the corners of his eyes, he felt a surge of shame run through him.

Harvey held out a hand and his associate placed something in it. Harvey took it by one end and shook it, causing a cream-coloured object to fall out.

"A sock and a bar of soap," Harvey held out the items as if to prove their existence, then placed the soap back inside the sock. "That's all it takes, Stan. All it takes to exert your will on another." Harvey handed the sock back to his lackey, who wound it up once more.

"N-" Stanley started – but quick as flash, the man lashed out with his arm once more, swinging the soap into Stanley's midriff. The blow winded him completely.

"The soap doesn't bruise, you see," Harvey continued. "Isn't that amazing? You can spend hours beating on a man, and it doesn't leave a mark."

"Wh-why are you doing this?" Stanley wheezed.

"You know why, Stanley. You know what I want."

Stanley hung his head between his knees, trying not to cry. He couldn't figure out what he was doing here, why this was happening to him.

"I'm not asking much, Stan. No-one has to get hurt, here."

Something seized Stanley's shoulders and pulled him back upright. His arms were pinned back against the chair – his abdominal muscles screamed in pain as they were suddenly stretched out.

"No... please..."

The soap swung into his stomach once more. Stanley cried out in pain.

"Come on, Stan. Help me out. Help yourself out."

Stanley breathed slowly, heavily, trying to centre his thoughts. He stared into the ceiling lights, watching the world blur into green and red spots. A tear rolled down his cheek.

What was the point?

He sighed, sniffed, and stared at the floor.

"Alright," Stanley heard himself say. The effort brought out a racking cough.

"Good man!" Harvey said, the pressure leaving his arms. Stanley instantly leaned forward protectively in an effort to lessen the burn in his waist. A man walked from behind him and back to the doorway, pausing just long enough to slap Stanley lightly on the cheek.

"You OK?" Harvey asked. Stanley pulled himself to his feet, removed his keys from his pocket, and stumbled heavily towards the door.

"Let's get this over with," he mumbled.
Part 3 of Stationery - featuring a serious change in tone, a sock, and a bar of soap. There is a single swear word here, although I'm not sure that it warrants a mature content warning. Will gladly change should anyone take offence.

<-- Previous :#: 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.
Published:
© 2012 - 2021 monstroooo
Comments25
anonymous's avatar
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Faraleigh's avatar
Some technical things:

"It was quarter past six and high time Stanley got himself home. " Shouldn't it be "a quarter past six"? Maybe that's just some other silly American thing.

"The other men stood either side of the doorway..." Stood on?

This is two paragraphs: ""Oh," he said dismissively, "don't you worry about my associates there."
/"Now, I'm going to ask for two things from you," Harvey flashed that lifeless smile again. "This doesn't have to take long."" That quote after "associates here" needs to go.

A few unnecessary words here: "pointing to the beige CRT monitor which sat on the desk." All it can do is sit on the desk so there's no reason for that to be mentioned. You could cut just a few words by removing "which sat on". :)

"...this company is going to get BIG." Why caps instead of italics? If you've a good reason for it, I'd love to hear it. :)

""N-" Stanley started – but quick as flash..." Quick as a flash?

There are numerous instances (3-4 I think) where you use a comma between dialogue and an unrelated action instead of a period.

Now that the technical stuff is out of the way, I have mixed feelings about this turn of events. I appreciate that Stanley broke rather quickly. Though he had noble intentions, self-preservation won over his morality. It wouldn't have been Stanley if he'd tried to stick it out longer.

I love that Stanley went on this mental tirade about Earle's stationery in the middle of his conversation with Harvey. Not only does it speak of his love for stationery, it shows just how uncomfortable he was with the situation because he sought something familiar and comfortable at the first opportunity presented. Wonderfully done!

I appreciate Harvey's approach to negotiation. I know it's nothing spectacular but I appreciate you being considerate of his type's tactics. He was just slow and methodical, explaining everything as they went. He is clearly a man of power and unshakable confidence.

It's kind of sad that Stanley gave in and got nothing out of his betrayal. I doubt Harvey will keep him around once power changes hands.

I also must wonder if Stanley has any idea what he's being asked to do...
RiFlight's avatar
I like how straight forward this sections is. Also, every time I hear mention of a sock filled with a bar of soap, I think about hat movie Full Metal Jacket where they beat that poor dude.

Once again - awww, poor Stanley. LOL
monstroooo's avatar
That's where it came from! :blush:

The idea behind this scene was that playing it very straight, after such a bouncy opening to the story, would really help the blows land. Seeing as pretty much everyone has said "Poor Stanley!" and dashed off to the final part, I think that it's been successful in that way :)
RiFlight's avatar
I agree with your idea to play it straight. This part is faster-paced yet didn't suffer from the "middle child" syndrome where the middle parts of a series only serve the purpose of bridging the beginning to the ending.
KwatzHeWrote's avatar
Wow, I wasn't expecting the story to take this direction! Nice work!
disrhythmic's avatar
Ouch. That hurt. Which is a good thing. :)

You nailed Harvey's voice, y'know--the smooth-talking con man who lets other people do the dirty work. :D
monstroooo's avatar
0hgravity's avatar
wow quite a violent turn of events! I felt so bad for Stanley.
Great writing as before. I could really see the scene playing out here.

didn't know the bit about the soap...made me think of fight club haha

As for the swear word I actually think it was kind of strange at that moment to use it. I could see it after he dropped the act but, eh, that's just me.
and as for the "bull" bit:
:iconfryplz: can't tell if it's a slight or a nod to American readers...
monstroooo's avatar
With enough soap, you can blow up just about anything...

The "bull" thing is a nod to America's influence on Britain, indicative of the linguistic and cultural change which has been happening in England for the past fifty years or so. Harvey's buying into the American language in a way which acknowledges that influence (this all hangs on the belief that "bullshit" is a quintessentially American phrase, but I might be wrong...). I also see Harvey as quite an Americanised character, the embodiment of the capitalist ideal which is currently threatening both Greening's and Stanley's way of life.

Thanks for the comments, as always :love:
0hgravity's avatar
that movie...is insane haha

Ah yeah that's what I thought in a vague kind of way - just wish America didn't come off as so... brutish haha.

welcome!
Meggie272's avatar
Oh no! This is bloody awful. Stanley's luck, not your writing. Your writing is fantastic and I cannot get enough lush descriptions of paper. (is that weird?)
monstroooo's avatar
Hehe, I think it is a bit wierd, but it makes me happy to hear :)

Yes, poor Stanley does have rather a rough time of it here :hmm: I shouldn't be so cruel to him, really...
Sleyf's avatar
Oh no! Poor Stanley getting caught up in office Mafia wars so soon, I'm so intrigued about this email now, and slightly disturbed about the soap in a sock thing, where on earth did you learn that?
Also, I understand Stanley's love for stationary and fine quality paper :lmao:
monstroooo's avatar
Haha, you're starting to come around to Stanley's point of view! It's infectious...

The soap-in-a-sock thing comes from many hard years I spent watching war movies :blush:
Sleyf's avatar
:giggle: don't worry, I had that stationary addiction way before this, and paper is a secret passion...I have more paper than I know what to do with and it's kind of embarrassing to admit that I get excited going into stationary shops :lmao:

:lmao: it's a tough life being a sofa soldier, suffering all those wars, I think I'll call you Old Veteran now.
monstroooo's avatar
Haha! Nice to know that somebody understands where I'm Stanley is coming from ;)
Vigilo's avatar
..aw. Does it get better for Stanley? :(
monstroooo's avatar
Surely, after that, things can't get any worse...?
Vigilo's avatar
Murphy's Law says otherwise, I believe... :(
monstroooo's avatar
beeswingblue's avatar
anonymous's avatar
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