Authors: Gordon Brown
Fledgling Press 2009
First Published in
2009 by Fledgling Press
7 Lennox Street,
Edinburgh, EH4 1QB, Scotland
The moral right of
Gordon Brown to be identified as the
author of this work
has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be
transmitted, in any form by any means,
mechanical, including photocopying,
recording or any
information storage or retrieval system,
permission from the publisher or copyright owner.
All the characters in
this book are imaginary. Any
resemblance to real
people, living or dead, is purely
places are real, others are in the
imagination of the
author. Any errors are those of the author.
A CIP catalogue
reference for this book is available
from the British
ISBN: 978 1 905916 33
Cover by 999 Design.
About the author
Brown was born and lives in Glasgow. He is married with two children - having
spent twenty five years in the sales and marketing world working on everything
from alcohol to global charities and from TV to lingerie.
Gordon started out life packing shelves for
Sainsbury’s before moving to Canada to join the brewery business. He set up his
own marketing business in 2001 and has an honours degree from Strathclyde along
with an MBA from Nottingham Trent University.
Gordon has been writing for pleasure for some
twenty years and this is his debut novel.
This book is dedicated
Lesley for putting up with her husband battering a keyboard when he should have
been helping out and believing that one day a book would emerge.
To Scott and Nicole
for letting Dad write in peace.
To Richard, Fiona,
Doug, Tracy and Julie for taking the time to read my rough manuscript.
To Alison for all the
support and advice.
And to Zander for
being the one who said yes when I most needed it.
The door to the toilet slams open
and I turn to the noise. Two men in suits, one tall, one small, barrel across
the tiles and pin me to the wall. The tall one is grinning like a cat on speed
and he grabs my arm, spins me around to connect with the fist of the short one
and I go into stun mode.
They are strong and the tall one
kicks my feet from under me and they haul me out of the toilet and onto the
fire escape. I try to resist and receive a slap to the head for every word I
utter. Seven slaps - I’m a slow learner.
We hit the roof at full speed and
I’m lifted clean off my feet and hurled over the edge.
Tina needs a
‘Get your own tea’
God I could spit. You wear a
skirt, sit next to a computer and some male tosser thinks you’re the office
slave. Why the hell would I want to make tea? When was the last time someone
made tea for me? It’s not in my bloody job description. I know - I looked. Bad
day already and it’s not even past ten. Time to take a cigarette break.
Even a ciggie break is a pain in
the rear end. When I started work, smoking was almost compulsory. By mid
morning the fug in the office was so thick that it blurred the edges of the
people, my wonderful work colleagues, who sat at the far end of the office.
Crashing fags was a given. It was an unwritten offence to come to work with
less than a twenty pack and you were in the mire if you came back from foreign
climes with anything less than a box of two hundred.
How it’s all changed for us
lepers. First we were banished to a hell hole of a room in the basement. Just
an awful place! No windows. No decoration and rock hard chairs. Like a secret
meeting of some perverse society we sat, drawing in, in turn, your own
cigarette smoke and then someone else’s. But at least it was a place to go and,
crappy or not, you could escape from work for ten minutes.
Then we were relegated to the
street. Correction, relegated to a spot in the lane round the corner from our
front door. There we would huddle rain, shine, snow, wind. Backs to the
elements - drawing sustenance and complaining. Complaining, complaining and
complaining. Complaining about our bosses, our work colleagues, our staff, our
spouses, our neighbours, the newsreader on BBC1, the girl in reception with the
worst dress sense on the planet, the security guard with the breath of Satan,
the pay, the conditions, the weather, the lack of toilet rolls last Tuesday,
the smell of urine in the lane, the size of Mars Bars (yes they were bigger in
the past), the price of a cup of coffee in Starbucks, the taste of a cup of
coffee in Starbucks, the unisex toilet in Starbucks (but we still go to
Starbucks), the cost of petrol, the cost of living, the cost of smoking.
Complaining is what we do best and the time to do it is during a fag break. And
now in another clampdown by the cigarette police we are to be banished from the
It seems our mounting doubts (the
ciggy kind not the mental kind) and the sheer number of addicts that congregate
to partake have caused other people to complain - ironic or what! We have been
told to find a spot away from our building.
As a group we are fairly sure
this is illegal but it gives us something else to complain about and has, to be
fair, given birth to an unforeseen opportunity. An opportunity spotted by yours
I had been talking to Satan
Breath about the ban on smoking in the lane and to my surprise he informed me
he was also a smoker. Since I hadn’t seen him in the leper colony I asked where
he smoked. ‘The roof’ he informed me. And so was born the mile high club.
Smoking on the roof is strictly
against company policy and no doubt it is against safety regulations, local bye
laws and the civil liberties of the pigeons that now have to inhale our waste
products. But for a short window it is also glorious.
The roof could have been custom
designed for smoking. Stunning views, plenty of shelter, easy access and the
world’s largest dustbin - just chuck the ciggies over the edge. Satan Breath
has assured us that the twenty storey fall will put out the burning stub well
before it hits the ground. Just to be on the safe side we sling them into the
lane. This will no doubt confuse the hell out of the office manager. No smokers
in the lane but lots of used cigarettes. It won’t last. Can’t last. Someone
will blab and we will be ejected. But while the going is good, let’s smoke.
It’s just warming up on the roof
today and there is no one else around. Unusual for this time of day! Maybe
we’ve been found out and I’m the last to know and, any moment now, someone will
burst from the fire escape to arrest me.
I think I’ll enjoy my moment of
solitude on the west wing today. Not the best view. A forty storey office block
sits just across the lane but there is a small sun trap and a vent that can be
used as a seat. An uncomfortable seat - but a seat none the less.
I light up, look up and nearly
throw up. Above me on the block opposite there is a man falling from the roof.
One foot on the roof - the rest of him hanging out in space.
Charlie learns to fly
Falling is the last thing I
wanted to do. You really don’t fancy it when you’re standing on the edge of a
forty storey building and all that stands between you and the road below is a
few hundred feet of fresh air. But, hey life’s not all a bed of roses and
sometimes it throws you a dodgy one and you either fight it or bend over and wait
for the bad news to arrive.
In my case the bad news was on
its way. If you’ve ever stood next to a large drop and possess half the vertigo
that I suffer from then, that feeling you get in your bowel, the one that
resembles a full on food mixer, take it, triple it, add on some brown sauce for
seasoning and you might get close to what I was going through.
Not that I wanted to be stepping
out into the wide blue. Far from it! I had a million other things I would
rather have been doing. Don’t ask me for the full million long list - but you
get the gig. I didn’t want to go freefalling without the benefit of a safety
net or at least a parachute.
What I did want to do was to move
four feet to my left and stay there. Simple really! Not much to ask for. No
great demand of life, God and the universe. Not as if I’m asking for a win on
the lottery or a weekend with Cybil McLean. You won’t know Cybil but trust me
if you are male, straight and alive you would like Cybil.
It’s not even as if I’m asking to
add a hundred years to my lifespan. Ten minutes would be good. Ten seconds
would be a starting point. Anything other than the three or four seconds
between now and the concrete waiting below!
On the plus side I can see a lot
from up here. Not that its registering that well but it’s still a hell of a
view. On a better day it would be worth trying to grab a few photos. Maybe even
a video. I heard once that the last image you see before you die stays embedded
on your retina. Maybe I should pick out a good landmark, stare at it and close
my eyes. That way the coroner can stare into my dead eyes and view a pleasant
snapshot from five hundred feet up - one for the morgue wall maybe.
I still have one foot on the roof
but no chance of redemption. One foot, in this case, is one foot too few. A
fully planted foot with all my weight would give me hope. Unfortunately I have
less than the tip of my shoe left on the building and even that is about to go
I also resemble something of a
windmill at the moment. Arms flailing. Leg flailing - leg singular - not legs -
my tiny connection to the roof prevents my left leg joining in the fun. My head
is flailing. My heart is flailing. Hell even my dick is flailing. Not that this
excess of flailing is making a blind bit of difference to my fate - but then
again what would?
Maybe a man can fly? Maybe world
class flailing precedes the ability to soar like a bird and I’ll soon find
myself buzzing around the sky.
I’m also screaming. Not words.
Just sounds. Strange, I would have thought that words such as ‘No’ or more
likely ‘Noooooooooooo’ would have been up there as a more likely response to my
situation. But I seem to have reverted to a high pitch wail.
Wail and flail that’s me.
My name is Charlie Wiggs and I’m
fifty four years old. I planned on making fifty five until less than ten
minutes ago when two gorillas entered the toilet, picked me up and threw me off
the roof of the building I have happily worked in for some thirty years.
I can see them both now, watching
my impending demise, dressed in tightly fitting grey suits, muscles pressing
hard on the material. Gorilla number one is shorter than me - and that takes
some doing. Hair cropped to the bone and a handlebar moustache that was last
seen on the Village People. He hasn’t uttered a word but growls a lot from the
back of his throat.
Gorilla number two is taller. A
good foot on me. Long greasy hair and designer or just lazy-man stubble. He
seems to be the more articulate of the two although this only stretches as far
as shouting ‘Shut the fuck up’ on a regular basis.
I’d guess the gorillas are both
in their forties and their guts, nicely hanging out over their waistband in
best beer belly tradition, suggest that brute force rather than physical
fitness is the order of the day in their line of work. People that like their
pop and food and rely on muscle built up many years ago to get by in their day
to day work.