21 January 2014

Carry on, Jo: Jo confronts his greatest fear

Damn, Jo thought to himself.  Why on earth can't they just do it the simple way?  He'd been dreading this moment since the week previous.  Yet this was a necessary monthly ritual for Jo; something he had to do in order to feed his family of ten - himself not included.

For years he's been telling the witch upstairs of his predicament and the morbid fear he's had to endure each time he comes face-to-face with that... that... that... thing which he's again about to face off with.  But, no, the old witch just wouldn't budge; Boss's instructions, she'd invariably retort.  If it weren't for his heavy familial commitments, Jo would've quit ages ago and, despite jobs being hard to come by these days, tried his luck elsewhere just so he needn't go though this enforced torment every month.

Jo's unease escalates.  The shorty who works here isn't going to help me anymore; he's made that clear the last time.  With no one else to turn to for help (he's too proud to do that anyway), Jo daren't even step into the place, much less confront what he fears could potentially prove to be his nemesis.  But his children's school fees are past due; likewise the mortgage payment on his house that's been harbouring a leaking roof since baby Mina - his unplanned eighth and youngest - was born a year ago.  Fortunately, he needn't worry anymore about payments on the bike he bought four months ago; it's since been repossessed.

Now standing on the pavement, damp from the previous night's downpour, an unsettling combination of anxiety and desperation starts to creep through Jo, threatening to sap him of whatever little composure he had left in him.  More worryingly, he feels his knees buckle.

Then from out of nowhere, a myriad of emotions overwhelms Jo and he feels a sharp - albeit brief - pang of regret as flashbacks of Mrs Aalia and Mr Edi, his third grade language teachers at the elementary school from which he'd dropped out, hit him like a Kenworth doing ninety on ice.

Pay attention, Jo!  Learning to read and write is important for your future.  But just as he was back then, Jo remains unconvinced by his teachers' words.  I'm only 33, he thought.  I have a house and, like Dad, two wives and eight kids.  I'm superhuman!  A wry, derisive smile finds its way across his acne-scarred face, accentuating his thin d'Artagnan moustache.

Somehow, dispelling the ghosts of his teachers in such definitive fashion made Jo feel better, calmer.  I can do this, he convinces himself.  With that fragment of new-found belief, he pushes the heavy door open, steps in and pauses momentarily.  Good... there's no one around.  From the back pocket of his soiled grey overalls, he retrieves the piece of yellow and black magic plastic which Shorty had told him many times before he'll need to accomplish his mission.  Then from the corner of his eye and taking its usual place in that small, cold confine, Jo sees it.  Cyclops.

Apprehensively, he dawdles forward and stops two feet short of the thing.  Say something, dammit!  As usual, Cyclops stays mum.  The only sound it makes is a dull, constant burr from its belly.  It must be hungry.  But what irritates Jo most about the thing is its huge, constantly-blinking eye.  From experience, he knows he can get Cyclops to obey if only he can make out what it's trying to say through that darned eye; he's seen Shorty do it many times before.  But alas the signs within - familiar yet alien - were beyond Jo's comprehension.

He stands there frozen, lonely.... not knowing what to do next.  A heavy, foreboding feeling - one of stark self-realisation - takes over as he gets another flashback of Mrs Aalia and Mr Edi; only this time, it brought a lump to his throat.  How right the both of you were.  Jo realises he's getting nowhere; he simply doesn't know how to make Cyclops obey.  Exasperated and confused, he gives up and leaves Cyclops' den - mission un-accomplished.

Now back at his workplace and determined to end his monthly torment once and for all, Jo storms the two flights up to Accounts to confront Old Witch.  "Listen, woman!  Tell Boss I want my salary paid in cash and not through the bank, or I quit!  Do you understand me?!  I'm not going anywhere near that stupid 'ATM' thing again!".  Needless to say, Jo, well.... let's just say, apart from Mom, baby Mina now has another full-time minder.

(This dramatisation is, sadly, inspired by events and things I witness all too often in bank lobbies across this country)

Are you phobic of cash machines?  If so, why?  Or if you've overcome that fear, please tell us how you did it.


  1. Very very good Vincent. This brought back memories me of my own parents who would never go anywhere near an ATM. Just didn't understand them at all. Look forward to your next " Short Story"

  2. Love it! I look forward to the published collection.

    1. Thank you so much, Sara. As a teenager, I actually aspired to be a writer but utterly lacked (and still lack) the creativity and literary flair to pursue that dream. So here I am small-time writing and trying my best.