swivel chair in dirty office near old photocopier

Happiness slouches at the reception desk, legs akimbo. The phone rings and her eyes roll. She monotones “Goodmorninghowcanihelp?” into the receiver before saying “no Dr Mohammed’s not here now, call back later” and jams the phone down. She rocks gently in the swivel chair, a nasal inhaler dangling from one nostril. Dr Mohammed is standing in front of her, patiently waiting to give her some scanning.

She gestures to him to add it to the overflowing tray on her desk. And he sheepishly protests that it is pretty urgent. “I’m busy right now” she retorts definitively and the doctor retreats to the safety of his office after placing the letter in an inviting “please scan me soon” position in the middle of her desk. Happiness snorts and puts her feet up on it.

Then she returns to her main occupation: clicking between the emails in her inbox. Up click. Down click. Clicketyclicketyclick. Her fat hand repeats the movements braced in a wrist-support that supposedly originates from the GP but looks like ones on sale at the chemist on the corner. This theatrical display of illness usually means she’ll be off sick tomorrow, for several weeks, but today she is on form.

Happiness has already gnawed loudly upon all the half-eaten foodstuffs she stows in several desk drawers, left a part-licked yoghurt spoon in Sarafina’s out-tray, and put a semi-slurped mug of milky tea on the temp’s desk. It gets knocked by her elbow and spilled to her muffled curses. Happiness chuckles to herself as she watches. She resumes rocking and clicking whilst singing Marvin Gaye and getting the words wrong.

After the fifth chorus of “Oooo I’m hot just like an oven, I need some shoving-” the atmosphere in the office is more acerbic than usual.

Then, the phone rings. And rings. And rings. But Happiness will finish her song first.

“You’re my medicine, open up and let me sin-“

“Aren’t you going to answer that?” The temp cuts her off.

“You answer it. I’ve got too much to do.” She hadn’t. “And you haven’t done any work all day.” She had. “And you don’t speak to me like that.” Ut-oh.

Sarafina caves and picks up the reception phone, but Happiness doesn’t stop her righteous indignation. The temp appeals to reason “I’m sorry. I didn’t realise you were busy. Look, we both have to work together” but fairness has left the building. And Happiness gears up for the sucker punch, “Well, we are all counting the days-.”

Tears. Slammed doors. Handfuls of loo-roll bunched in fists. A blown nose and smeared mascara tentatively hidden. A desperate run up the stairwell, a knock at the manager’s door and the temp is on the phone to her agency lining up some other work, any other work but this.

And from the reception desk there’s a familiar swinging. “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands”. Clap clap.

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