Thrust Upon Them
To move mountain ranges of expertise
is by no means easy. Ask Ramesses.
The wheels of the gears need grease.
He bounded over the desk by the window ledge like a springbok.
Well not really like a springbok - more like an ancient octopus that had been mouldering in a sea cave corner for several centuries, had replaced his limbs with prosthetic tentacles, and was in need of the cephalopoda valet service.
I say this because he became tangled in the furniture and cracked his chin painfully on hardwood stools.
This, however, did not daunt him one jot. He thrust out a hand.
“Kirk, Jim Kirk.” He looked expectantly at me as the name should mean something. It didn’t.
His hand was bleeding where it had cracked the edge of the stool, so he withdrew it and wiped it on his tunic. “Sorry. I’m Captain Kirk. Ah gee, OK, so you’re not a fan, then.”
I hadn’t a clue what he was talking about. “Is this the leadership course? The flyer said it was on floor 30, Horizon Heights Building.”
Jim Kirk gestured to a couple of seats. “Ah, leadership. The poisoned chalice. You have been offered a position? Uneasy rests the head that wears the crown? Come on, sit down, sit down. Rest your weary bones.” Kirk frowned as if remembering something important, then muttered. “Bones. Bones?” He shook his head as if to shake out an unpleasant thought.
“Where’s the rest of the class, then?” I sat on one of those cheap blue chairs. You know the sort? Some hefty arse has cracked the seat and your buttock flesh is frequently pinched by jagged plastic edges. Wincing, I used my feet to pull the chair nearer to the classroom table and leant forward.
Kirk remained standing. Sizing me up.
I hadn’t wanted to be any sort of leader, of course, I’d had enough of that malarkey. Middle management - the impossible job. Those above issue dictats to deliver miracles and those below whine, whinge, wail and gnash. And you know what? It’s that middle pay, too. Not quite enough to be comfortable, but slightly too much to turn down. Middle ground all the way. Bastards. No. I hadn’t wanted to be any sort of leader. What I wanted was out.
“Yes, like your advertisement said.” I adopted the tone I’d heard on the radio. A mid-western American drawl. “You’re exhausted with flaccid, middle leadership. You’re fed up with trying to please everybody and you please nobody, not even yourself. You suffer the tedium of endless meetings. You’re looking for the way out of the maze. You want to accelerate and fast? Well here at The Enterprise, we understand and we can help.”
“Ah, of course. Class.” Kirk whipped his hand down and behind to his back pocket, clutched a slim, cubed shaped object, snapped it open with a wrist flick and spoke into it. “Kirk, here. Lieutenant Sulu? Bring in some coffee.”
We waited. Some time passed and I looked at him. Boots, gaiters, tight trousers pinching together a paunch and an ill-fitting yellow tunic emblazoned with a shiny, plastic ‘A’ shaped badge. He looked like he’d escaped from the sixties and was that a wig? Surely not.
Jim Kirk shook his cube with irritation. “Sulu? Sulu!” He flung it down in front of me in disgust. “Seems not to be working,” he coughed. Which was hardly surprising – I’d seen more authentic looking communications devices down Stepney Market. “We’ll forget the coffee for now,” he continued. He sat down opposite me on a similar chair and winced as plastic teeth nipped at generous portions of backside. “What seems to be the trouble?”
“Well, Mr Kirk,” I began, “I do believe I’ve had enough of complaints, criticisms and trying to deliver the impossible.” I stopped. He wasn’t listening but was poking his cube in irritation.
“How am I expected to work under these circumstances?” he complained. “I mean; will you look at this? I don’t want to be critical of Starfleet Command, but I’ve seen better looking cell phones. They expect me to do comply with the prime directive using shit like this? Well, it’s impossible.”
“Well, exactly, Mr Kirk.” I offered.
Still he ignored me. He took the cube, flicked it open with his wrist and screamed into it. “Scotty! Scotty! Where in heck are you with my belloni sandwich? Scotty!”
“Yes, Captain?” The third voice did indeed have a Scottish burr to it, and Jim Kirk grinned at me.
“Ah!” he exclaimed, waving the cube in my face. “See? It does work!”
“Ah, no Captain, you were shouting so loud I could hear you downstairs.”
“Bollocks. Fucking tat.” Kirk flung the cube on the floor and petulantly booted it several times around the room where it smashed into furniture and splintered into a thousand plastic shards. “Sorry. Look, don’t worry, I’ve got another one somewhere.”
“So what is your line of work? Communications officer? Photon torpedo loader? Red shirt security guard? That sort of thing?”
“I’m a teacher.”
Kirk sat back down, adjusted his feet and pulled his tunic over his belly. “Teacher, huh? Of course. No wonder you want out. Your pay’s gone down, your workload is impractical, your buildings are dilapidated, all those shit meetings…and when was the last time you had a decent fist fight with a Klingon then phasered him to death?”
“I don’t want out, Mr Kirk, I want acceleration and fast. Like you promised. I’m fed up with being a middle manager.”
Jim Kirk looked at me sceptically. “Really? Have you ever dipped your chop stick in the sweet and sour sauce?”
“Let me tell you a story, my friend.” Kirk leaned forward, conspiratorially. His face creased as though he was about to impart great wisdom. His drawl softened slightly. “When I was a young man, my daddy, Poppa Kirk, took me into the gentlemen’s convenience. It was a store in downtown Brooklyn. You understand?”
I pretended too.
“Good. So this was an important occasion. For four years now I had to sit. On the john. The john?”
Again, I hadn’t a clue. My face must have betrayed me.
“My pants around my ankles, being helped to poop, the paper torn for me, being shown how to shake. But this time, Poppa Kirk said, I was ready. Ready to use the standing fixtures. I was greatly excited.”
I tried not to picture the scene but it was almost impossible.
“Picture the scene, man. Poppa Kirk on my left, a tower of a man. Wee Jimmy Kirk by his side. Our Mr Winkies popped out and ready to shoot. But, boy oh boy…” Jim Kirk shuddered and his face creased, “I lost my nerve at the last minute, missed my aim and pissed all over the stranger on my right…and I couldn’t stop it. I just couldn’t stop it.” Kirk was shaking. He rose and walked bitterly around until he was behind me. “Poppa Kirk was apologising, he’s down on his knees and using his neckerchief to clean up my mess off the guy’s trousers and shoes…”
“That must have been terrible for you, Mr Kirk,” I muttered, stifling the urge to laugh.
“It was, man, it was.”
“But what has it to do with middle management?” I asked.
“Who knows? I just thought I’d share. To unburden myself from this terrible weight I have carried all these years. Sharing is caring, you know?”
“Do you want me to share now, Mr Kirk?” I asked, searching around for a story involving myself pissing randomly on somebody’s shoes.
“Hell, no. I don’t give a hoot about that. Where you swing your cock is your business, man.” He was now by the window. He picked up a couple of cuboid communicators and threw one at me which I caught. Kirk flicked his open and gestured at me to do the same. He fiddled with a plastic button on his so I followed suit.
“So, Mister.” snapped Kirk, “You’re ready?”
I shrugged, realising I’d been wasting my time. “Sure, Mr Kirk.”
Kirk hefted his considerable weight onto the window sill. He now dangled his legs out of the window, thirty floors above concrete below, gazing downwards towards the crawling traffic of vehicles and population. It was a terrible drop.
I looked shocked, of course. Was he intending to throw himself down? But Kirk raised an ironic eyebrow at me. “I sure hope Spock is ready, Mister.” He grimaced. “Now, you follow me, right? Practise this.”
Kirk had the cube at his mouth. “Beam me up, Scotty. Beam me up,” he said, loudly. Then looked one last time. “You got that? You sure?”
I nodded but moved forwards quickly and clung on to the thin yellow tunic. “Yes, Mr Kirk, ‘beam me up, Scotty’,” I said, “but surely you don’t intend to…”
“Listen, Mister. Leadership is all about the big chair. The difficult decisions, taking risks, leaping into the unknown. It ain’t about meetings, moaning and taking courses in people skills. You want acceleration? Then try this.”
And Kirk jumped.
There was a fistful of yellow tunic in my hand where it ripped.
A screaming cry of, “beam me up, Scotty.”
For a moment I stared below - thirty floors from the top of Horizon Heights Buildings. Thirty floors into the past. Behind me, the room was empty. Just some cheap plastic chairs, a few dilapidated desks and the opened door to the stairwell sat in mocking silence.