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Vol.3. No. 2. January 2010





Andrew Campbell-Kearsey
Claire Godden-Rowland
Dike Okoro
Dominic James
Emmanuel Sigauke
Mandy Pannett
Noel Williams
N Quentin Woolf
Olu Oguibe
Paul Jeffcutt
Sharma Taylor
Susanna Roxman
W Jack Savage


BIG MAN by N Quentin Woolf


Here he is, The Man in the Hat, says Mike Spencer, who at ten to nine is established in the work canteen with an agglomeration of amanuenses and henchpersons: my managerial colleagues. Both the conference room and the management suite are undergoing refurbishment. Mike, bald and squat, who both in appearance and power but most especially in size has always reminded me of the Wizard of Oz, sits at the centre of a row of people ranged along one side of an MDF breakfast counter like some spoof of the Last Supper. He’s five feet four. He’s got the prime spot, near the espresso machine. He looks like it means something to him. Hapless workers hoping for an early-morning brew wander in, grunt to themselves, and bugger off.


I exchange pleasantries with several of my co-managers, and look for somewhere to sit. Mike pointedly ignores me. Thanks to the delay from my Turkish friend at the coffee shop, I have been the last to arrive; consequently, all the stools of suitable height for use with a breakfast bar have been snaffled by the Disciples. The only option is to fetch an ordinary office chair and pump it as high as possible. Even with my biological advantage, I am left barely able to rest my nose on the counter.


 – Very nice, mocks Mike Spencer, a lot better. I consider it best not to guess what he might mean by that. Shall we begin, he says. Management meeting, Monday the fourth, he says. Present are myself, Bob, Anne, Philida, Greg, Robbie, Tania, Bryony, Phillipa, Tyrone, Anjan, Ainsley and the Man in the Hat. Item one is the ongoing refurbishment of the management suite. We were told this would be completed in a week, and it’s been a week and a half now.

Ouch. This is how every Monday should start.


 – That figure is incorrect, I venture. Two weeks is what we’ve been working to –

 – Can you speak up, says Mike. Can’t hear a word you’re saying.

 – The timescale for the refurbishments works–

 – I still can’t hear you, says Mike. The counter’s in the way. It’s muffling you. Can’t you stand up and speak? You’re tall enough.

 – With respect, there’s no need to refer to my height, I say, feeling a surge of adrenaline make the pain in my neck pound.

 – Stand up, if you want to say something.

I’m committed, now. Standing, noticing that everyone else has averted their gaze, I repeat, there’s no call for referring to my height.

 – How about I decided what there’s call for? he says, going the shade of crimson which anyone who’s worked in the company for any length of time knows only too well. If I say there’s call for something, there’s call for it. I say there’s call for us to be back in the management suite, for instance, instead of stuck out here in the fucking canteen. A week, you said–

 – Two.

 – Don’t fucking interrupt me. Who do you think you fucking are, interrupting me?

 – Sorry.

 – I said shut up! Stop fucking talking and listen. You said one week. I heard you say one week. I’m sorry you’ve got such a poor memory that you can’t remember. Maybe it would help if you stopped dressing up like a lanky fucking Dick Tracey and started remembering what you’ve said.


First minute, I tell my wife on the phone, later that day.


I’m at the pub, come tea-time, rehearsing ways to tell that tin-pot little tyrant where to stick his job, when a skinhead in his forties sidles into my peripheral vision. He raises his eyebrows at me. I look away.

Strangers catching your eye is normal, at the jump, of course, but he doesn’t leave it there. He drifts closer.


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Sentinel Literary Quarterly is Published by Sentinel Poetry Movement | Editor: Nnorom Azuonye

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