Office drone killed by brainwave


Staff in a central London office building were left covered in gore this afternoon when their colleague’s head exploded after she experienced a brainwave.

Gemma Tartt, 28, from Camden Town, died instantly from spontaneous cranial rupture as she sat in Conference Room 2 at the regional headquarters of Paperpushers Inc.

Witnesses say that just before the incident happened, a strange light was seen in her eyes, she went unusually quiet for a few seconds and was pointing up in the air with one finger. Her last words were “Hey, what if we…”

Her teammates say they often feared what would happen if Tartt ever had an original idea.

Rosie Pratt, who was Tartt’s desk neighbour for two years, said, “We all thought the strain of  thinking might prove too much for her.

“But nobody had ever heard Gemma say anything that was even remotely interesting, so I guess we all just became complacent.”

Management say, in light of this tragic incident, brainstorming sessions have been suspended until further notice.

Stephen Dullard, Tartt’s line manager, told reporters that Tartt’s absence would certainly be felt by everybody in the building.

“Even when she just took a week’s holiday, the noise level was considerably reduced and production levels noticeably higher.”

Pratt said Tartt’s loss was a bitter blow to the team. “Without her constant stream of gossip, people may fill the void by talking about work. Once we start discussing work, it’s inevitable that we will start to streamline processes.

“Then management will realize how half the people could do the same volume of work if only employees knew what was required of them.

“And nobody else on the team is as capable as Gemma at creating antagonism within the team and between departments. I never saw anybody spread a lie or a rumour with the speed of that little so-and-so.”

Paperpusher staff continue to deny that a leaked internal email inviting people to a ‘Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead’ party in a local pub, circulated throughout the company just hours after the incident, bears any relation to the demise of Tartt.


Learn your place


Mrs Smythe watched as her new class trooped in. She had no major worries about this crop of young ‘uns; she often ate lunch with Miss Mahon, who was the teacher for the year below her own. Listening to Miss Mahon complain about her students gave Mrs Smythe a year’s warning of any troublemakers heading her way.

But this group had never left Miss Mahon crying into her cucumber sandwiches at 12:30 p.m. on a Tuesday morning. None of them had ever needed intervention from the Social Services or had parents waiting to slap a lawsuit on anyone that even thought of frowning at their child. There wasn’t even any that needed special assistance; it was just an average, steady class.

Mrs Smythe decided to spend the morning before the ‘Little Break’ organizing the seating for the year. The pupils would rotate through the seats as usual, so that they didn’t get too comfortable – or uncomfortable – with their desk neighbour. But she needed to make sure the desks were arranged in such a way that the pupils could remember how to rotate.

Once everyone had a seat, Mrs Smythe asked the children to write their names on the pieces of paper she handed out, telling them they would make name badges with them. When she said they could decorate them any way they wanted to, the children got to work happily.

As Mrs Smythe walked around the desks, peering over the children’s shoulders, she noticed Johnny Fitzgerald had written his name down twice: once in English and then he had written the Irish version, Seán Mac Gerailt, underneath. “Johnny,” she said, “we only need your English name. We won’t be writing any Irish in this classroom.” 

Johnny looked up at her, confused. “But Miss Mahon always got us to write both our names…”

“I know,’ replied Mrs Smythe, “but the Department of Education decided over the summer that children should not learn to spell any Irish words until they are in Third Class. So you have to forget every word you have so far learned to spell in Irish until you get to Third Class. Then you’ll have to learn everything all over again. Start another name badge quickly or you won’t be able to finish before break time.”

Mrs Smythe did not expect Johnny to pay much attention to her little rant against the Department of Education, but the poor boy was left horrified. He had loved learning Irish the last couple of years. It was like learning a secret code. Johnny’s father had been born in England and so didn’t know a word of Irish. His mother knew some of the language, but had forgotten most of what she had been taught in school. So Johnny and his big brother Paul used Irish at home as their own secret language. Their communications were still basic at this point, but they had so much fun with it. Johnny loved going home with a new word to show off. What would he do now if he wasn’t going to learn to spell any new words for another two years?

Over the next couple of weeks, Johnny kept asking Mrs Smythe to spell new Irish words for him, but she always refused. Eventually, she got annoyed with him and started to snap at him when he asked, so he stopped asking.

At home, Johnny got embarrassed as Paul’s ‘secret code’ notes to him became more and more complicated. He was still depending on the few words he had learned while in Miss Mahon’s class. He tried spelling things himself, but Paul ridiculed his attempts so much he stopped trying that too.

Johnny soon began to dread the Irish lessons. It was boring without the spelling and his attention wandered from what the class was doing. Mrs Smythe was quick to get cross with him too, as she had him labeled as a troublemaker due to his questioning about spellings.

After a while, Johnny began to act out when he was bored, because he knew Mrs Smythe would react – and at least things would be a bit more fun then. As the school year wore on, the battle of wills between them worsened.  Johnny had to be sent to the headmaster’s office a few times, and his parents even came in for a special meeting with Mrs Smythe.

Johnny did move up with the rest of his class at the end of that year which got him away from Mrs Smythe. But he had stopped using Irish at home with Paul. He had also begun to think of school as something boring, and continued to act up in class. By the time he got to Third Class, he was no longer interested in learning Irish spellings – in fact, the spellings then were the same as he had learned in Miss Mahon’s class, which just made the task even more tedious.

Throughout the rest of his schooling, Johnny looked on languages as a boring subject. It wasn’t until he was an adult and tried some evening classes in Spanish that he discovered he had a flair for languages. This discovery merely strengthened the nagging feeling inside him that he wasted his life by never discovering his potential until it was too late.

Mrs Smythe retired a few years after Johnny had left her class, but she always felt confident in her ability to spot a troublemaker.

The Department of Education officials continue to this day to argue over which theories they get to inflict on the children passing through their educational system. 

Occasionally, some children learn some things.


When your numbers come up


Louise sat in the armchair in front of the television and picked up the remote. The Saturday night film feature would be starting soon, and she was looking forward to this week’s offering. It was a film she had hoped to see in the cinema but, as usual, she had missed it.

But she was early. The Lotto still had to come on first. Because she was habitually early for everything, Louise had sat through the drawing of the Lotto numbers rigmarole far more times than she had ever needed to. Why couldn’t they just get to the movie and let people enjoy their Saturday night, she wondered.

She glowered at the presenter, who was now delivering her opening spiel in her usual confident and cheerful manner. She seemed blissfully unaware that her dress and hair were been sneered at by at least one impatient viewer.

“Wow! You know all your numbers up to 42! What a talented blonde you are,” Louise thought to herself. She wondered if the presenter went home proud of a hard day’s work of pressing buttons on a couple of machines and then calling out the numbers.

Her thoughts were continuing along that vein when she heard “… this week’s prize money of €6,476,832.” Six million wouldn’t be too bad at all. She’d give the extra change to charity, of course, before she fecked off to the south of France for the rest of her life.

The first number to fall down the tube was 23. “My birthday!” thought Louise, “I got one number anyway.”

The next was 27. “Janis Joplin, that’s for you. I’m doing well this week.” Then it was 11 (legs eleven) and 7 (for the Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven/Secret Seven).

By now, her jaw was hanging loose. She knew nobody that had gotten four numbers before. Three numbers was fairly common, and usually resulted in a scratch ticket, or maybe a couple of euros, but four could bring in a good few hundred.

The fifth number was 42 – the answer to life, the universe and everything. Louise was no longer bitching about the presenter in her head – she now seemed like the most fabulous creature ever put on this earth. They were probably kindred souls too, and Louise swore she would take her for a drink if only she managed to produce the final number.

And the gorgeous angel did – 33, the unpronounceable age for any self-respecting Paddy. And the age Jesus was when he died, of course.

Louise found herself on her knees before the television screen, tears pouring from her eyes. What should she do now? Who would she call first? She couldn’t think straight so, as she always did in these situations, she grabbed her cigarettes and went outside for a celebratory fag.

It was a beautiful night outside; cold, but with so many stars twinkling in the sky. But as she bent her head to the flame from the lighter, Louise remembered what had actually happened earlier that day when she went to the newsagents. How she had forgotten her debit card and only had €10 in her wallet. How that was enough for either a pack of cigarettes or a lottery ticket, but not for both. How nothing ever takes precedence over cigarettes, not food, not coffee, and certainly not a stupid lottery ticket. 

So, her cigarettes had not cost her €8.15; they had in fact cost her €6,476,832. She was right now inhaling her one and only chance at an instant fortune, and was blowing it out her nose in a haze of stinking tar fumes. 

Remember, kids, smoking is bad for you …

The murder in the wardrobe


I awoke to the sounds of a massive whump and a guttural moan coming from my wardrobe. No moan like that had ever been, or was ever likely to be, heard in that bedroom, either in or out of the wardrobe. It could only signify the last living moments of the mouse.

There had been hints of the presence of rodents for a couple of weeks. I had heard the telltale scratching sounds while in my room, but I had been unable to triangulate their location. I reported the noises to my mother but, as she had not heard them, my tale went unbelieved. Until the day she opened the corner press to see a mouse darting away into the darkness. A stainless steel trap was set, using an infinitesimal scrap of cheese as bait, and a big space was cleared for it in the middle of the shelf. I wondered if a neon arrow with ‘TRAP’ emblazoned on it in flashing lights might help. If any creature was stupid enough to stick its head in that thing, it probably was better off dead.

But I think it was my own fault that the mouse managed to migrate down to my wardrobe. I was having a restless nights and got up to make a cup of tea. I met the dog on the way to the kitchen, and he picked up a biscuit to eat in my room. I sat up in bed for a while, reading poetry and drinking my tea. My light and the dog’s biscuit probably acted like a lighthouse operated by sirens to the mouse.

The next morning, I heard some very loud rustling in the wardrobe and knew instantly the mouse had moved in. Fortunately my mother had a couple more traps available. She decided the best places to set them would be (a) right where I get out of bed each morning and (b) where I have to step when pulling the curtains or opening the window. I had visions of myself dancing around some morning soon with a throbbing big toe caught in one of the traps, like in the cartoons.

I was stupid enough to think the mouse would kindly stay in the wardrobe during the day and walk into the trap at night, so as not to disturb me any further. But when I saw it run out from under my bed, double-back, and jump over the trap left waiting for it, I realized just how hard it was going to be to get rid of it. I could not face sleeping in my room that night, thinking of smells, disease, droppings, mouse urine, little sharp teeth. I slept in the spare room with the dog to mind me, despite his inabilities as a mouse-catcher.

The next morning, everybody in the house went to see if there was a dead mouse in the traps, only to walk away disappointed. All the traps seemed to attract that day was the dog. I’m not sure what it says about his level of intelligence that he would be attracted to mousetraps when the mouse jumped over them, but I spent the rest of the day shooing him away from them.

I didn’t do a very good job though. I had closed my door, but hadn’t pulled it tight, and the dog was able to sneak in at some point. I found the door wide open and could hear no sign at all of the mouse in the room, so began to think it had escaped. I slept in my own bed that night, after plugging in a sonic mouse repellant at the head of my bed. But I woke up to hear the mouse scurrying around the floor once more.

This was the day the dog decided to stick his nose into one of the traps. Fortunately he didn’t get caught, but that night I thought it best to put the rebaited trap inside the wardrobe. This trap would definitely not be sitting in the middle of a cleared space; the problem in fact may be in not having enough space for it to close on the mouse if it did set it off.

But that was the night of the whump and squawk in the wardrobe. I felt as proud as if I had caught it myself, until I remembered the lack of space for the trap. What if it hadn’t been able to close properly? If the mouse wasn’t killed, there was no way it would try sticking its head back in another time. But when I gingerly opened the wardrobe door, the mouse was lying there motionless. Strangely enough, it wasn’t actually caught in the trap but was lying underneath with the trap upside down on it. Perhaps it nearly got away, but wasn’t quick enough.

What struck me the most looking at the mouse was how incredibly long its tail was. It was maybe three times the length of its body, hairless and very thin. It belonged in horror films – just looking at it made my skin crawl. I found its paws fascinating as well. They looked like miniature hands, and were as scaly and hairless as its tail. They were the perfect instruments for climbing up walls and onto beds.

I used the fire tongs to dispose of the mouse, first showing it to the dog, who examined the dead body in a very contemplative manner. He always becomes solemn when faced with a dead creature, even if he had taken great joy in chasing that creature when it was alive. Perhaps we should not be so quick to dismiss the ability of animals to reflect on life and death.

But I slept soundly in my bed that night without a single twinge of guilt over the violent murder that had taken place in my wardrobe.