14 September 2017

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 previous week.  Yet this was a necessary monthly ritual for Jo; something he must do in order to feed his family of ten - himself not included.

For years he's been telling the witch upstairs of his predicament; the morbid fear he has had to endure each time he comes face-to-face with that... that... that... beast - the same one he's again about to face off against.  In its den.

But, no, the old witch just wouldn't budge.  "It must be done this way", she'd always retort.  If it weren't for his burdensome familial commitments, Jo would have quit ages ago and plied his janitorial trade elsewhere just so he needn't endure 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 to turn to for help, Jo dare not step into the beast's den alone - much less confront what he fears could potentially prove to be his nemesis.  But his children's school fees are past due; so too the mortgage payments on his house that's been harbouring a leaking roof since baby Mina - his unplanned eighth and youngest child - was born a year ago.

Now, standing on the pavement - damp from the previous night's downpour - an unsettling mix of anxiety and desperation starts to creep through Jo, threatening to sap him of whatever little courage or composure he has left in him.  He feels his knees buckle.

Out of nowhere, a myriad of emotions suddenly overwhelms Jo 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 22-wheeler doing ninety on ice.  Pay attention, Jo, for the sake of your own future!

But just as he was back then, Jo remains stubbornly unconvinced by his teachers' words.  I'm only 36, 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 quick and definitive fashion made Jo feel better, calmer.  I can do this, he meekly convinces himself.

Clinging to that tiny fragment of new-found belief, he pushes open the den's heavy door, steps in and pauses momentarily.  It's freezing in here!

From his soiled, grey overalls, he slowly retrieves the piece of black and yellow magic plastic which he'll need to accomplish his mission.  Then from the corner of his eye, taking its usual place in that small, cold confine, Jo sees it.


Very apprehensively, he dawdles forward and stops two feet short of the beast.  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.

What Jo finds most disconcerting about the beast is the constantly-blinking symbols inside its huge, oblong-ish eye.  From experience, he knows he can get Cyclops to obey if only he could make out what it's trying to say through that darned eye; he's seen Shorty do it many times before.  Each time, however, the symbols - familiar yet alien - have proven to be beyond Jo's comprehension.  Not knowing what to do next, he stands there frozen, lonely.

A sense of foreboding - one of cold, stark realisation - overcomes Jo as he gets another flashback of Mrs Aalia and Mr Edi.  How right the both of you were.  I'm sorry.  Realising he could never get Cyclops to obey, he gives up - exasperated, mission un-accomplished.

Back at his workplace, Jo decides to confront Old Witch in Admin - determined to put an end to his monthly torment once and for all.  Irate, he bellows, "Listen Witch!  Tell stupid Boss I want my salary paid in cash and not through the bank, or I quit!  I'm not going anywhere near that bloody 'ATM' thing ever again!"

Hearing Jo's fiery outburst, "stupid Boss" steps out from his ivory tower.  The entire office falls deathly silent as he obligingly tells Old Witch to pay Jo - in cash - his employment severance payment.  Jo needn't worry about having to use the automated teller machine again.  Ever.

(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.

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