It was Tuesday. We loved Tuesday.
For me, it meant Games Period at school. For Jacko, it was a break from homework. Mommy though, liked it because no pubs would open. I didn’t know why that mattered to her.
We were back from school. Jacko was taking a bath, I was playing with the snow-globe. Mr. Matthew was taking awfully long to earn it, I had realised. It was the middle of day. I didn’t expect daddy to come home then.
But in he came, at 2:46, five hours before his scheduled release at the company. I was delighted. But for some weird reason, nobody else seemed to be.
“Honey, I’m hooome.” He sang out from the door. There was no response. I ran out and jumped into his arms, “Daddy! You’re home early!”
“Yeah… The company gave me an early release today. They have been doing it for some time now. Funny people. Always complaining of a short staff and then giving these breaks and off-days so often.”
“Must be a reward, daddy.” I said.
“I don’t know… nothing big been happening lately… can’t say…” He mumbled to himself.
“Hey! You guys are home now. What do you say- wanna see daddy at work?” He cried out, suddenly.
I was thrilled. I had always wanted to visit daddy at the company.
“I got this break. I might just show you guys around. Probably sell some in front of you- let you see daddy at the job, eh?”
I wasted no time. “Three minuted daddyyy!” I screamed, running up the stairs to tell Jacko.
“Jackooo!” I came in singing. “Jacko, daddy’s taking us to the company in three, come out quick!”
I didn’t wait for his response and ran down to my own room, and checked myself in the mirror. I got to look neat. Must not set off daddy’s boss. I pulled up my socks, stuffed my shirt in proper in the dungarees, ran my hands through my hair. My hair never really needed tending, they always just fell down to my chin and rarely ever were even tousled. I was ready.
I ran back to Jacko’s room, and cried, “Jacko! Don’t get us late! Daddy’s only just got a limited break!”
“Oh calm down, will ya?” He was buttoning up his shirt. “What are you shouting about, anyway?”
“Daddy’s come home. And he ‘s taking us to the company, to see him at work.” I said in one breath.
“Oh..um.. we going now?” He fell quiet suddenly.
“Yeah. One minute. You do want to go right?”
“Yeah.. Okay, I’ll come.” He shrugged.
“Okay great. Come down when you’re done.” As I passed his door, I heard him draw breath in quickly. Jacko acted strange sometimes. But I liked it.
Daddy walked ahead of us.
Jacko and I followed. I was skipping beside him, and he was walking very quietly.
It was hot. But daddy was shielding us from the sun. With all the direct sunlight he was blocking, they also formed a thin golden outline around his frame. A dark mass with a golden lining… like an angel. That’s what daddy was for me, right then.
Jacko missed all of that. He looked sideways or down constantly, and wouldn’t listen when I told him to look at daddy. I gave up soon. He must be nervous.
We walked around some houses, some corners turned, and I didn’t even realize we had covered the distance when daddy stopped in front of a white, two-storey building and motioned. “Watch and learn.”
I zipped up. As still as Jacko. Like robots, we followed daddy inside the wide, white building. The man at the gate knew daddy. “Hey Tom! Ain’t you got a break just now?”
“Ya, come back to show my kids around. Wanted to see their daddy at the job, these little ones.”
He waved, and we entered. The cool air and the white lights… the people at their desks… the hussle with the papers… the cardboard cut outs of company logos and schemes… the white board filled with deadlines and projects…
It was a marvel. Daddy’s office was a better, bigger, and white-r version of our school’s Teachers’ Room. I loved it.
Daddy worked at the insurance company. He went to the office every morning to collect his office material and then out in the city, to sell some insurance. He told me that a month ago, when I had to write a page on ‘My dad’ as homework.
“This is where the desk-guys sit. See, not more than five will be up from their chairs at the same time, but it seems like the whole HALL is buzzing with movement. That’s because of the files and papers and phones. Hell, this floor itself employs six peons!” Daddy whispered to us.
As we passed through the mesh of cubicles, hardly anyone looked up to see the two kids walking past. In the center of the room however, a tall, pot-bellied man stood idly, and watched everyone with squinted eyes. And when daddy reached close, he turned those squinted eyes to us. To me.
“Hey Tom. What you doing over here?” he said, in a heavy, dull voice.
“Hey Terry. Just got the kids to see the place.”
Terry nodded. “Make sure they don’t touch anything.”
And he turned away. He was scary. The hair in his ears stuck out and I wanted to run away from him.
When we were some distance away, Daddy explained. “Terry Fisherman. He’s head of them desk-guys. Doesn’t do much. Just stands and signs papers and things.” I wondered if one of those ‘things’ was to scare his department to work.
“And now, you’ll see where we guys sit. The real players.”
At the end of the hall, was a glass division. On the other side of the glass wall hung long orange strips of plastic curtain, which was probably the only colour in the white hall. Somewhere in the glass must have been a door, and it’s handle which daddy pulled and we went inside. And then we stopped.
In a tiny one-room, on three sofas, sat about nine men, while seven stood and talked. Besides the glass wall, all three were coloured pale yellow. Some lockers lined one wall, not unlike our school lockers and that was about all the furnishing in the room. A better contrast with the White Hall could not have been possible.
“This, kids, is where I work. That’s my stuff right there in the first locker. Cosy, huh?” Daddy smiled.
“Small.” I whispered.
“What’s that?” Daddy asked, frowning.
“It’s too small.”
“Yeah- but none of us sit along much. We just drink coffee and report for meetings… we’re out all the time.” Daddy said.
Jacko, I knew, was thinking the same thing. This wasn’t much fun. We wished daddy was a desk-guy. He would have had his own desk.
“Come on, there’s more…” he grumbled.
We willingly walked out of the room and didn’t say anything. We didn’t want to see daddy’s office anymore.