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Desktop Confessional

by The Dave 

Posted: 22 January 2004
Word Count: 2664
Summary: This is chapter 1 of my oh-so-clever, post-cynicism, media savvy novel. It's about Jack, who's world-weary misanthropy and unpleasant sex-drive are exacerbated when his girlfriend goes on Big Brother to reveal their most intimate secrets and gung-ho Americans buy up the accountancy firm he works at. Is he going to take it lying down? Probably. Will he moan like hell and fantasise about killing or f**king all concerned? Almost certainly...

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This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

My boss is doing press-ups again.

I watch him with narrow eyes over the top of my monitor; noting the way his maniacal, ‘ain’t this dandy’ grin devolves into a grimace of effort with each upstroke. It’s one of many things he thinks go unnoticed; at our last team meeting, he attempted to draw an inspirational parallel between our forthcoming quarterly sales figures and the recent chart success of a popular rock group, but got the track title wrong. I see all this and more - his body language points to a mass of insecurities, particularly regarding his weight (my bachelor’s degree in psychology tells me this).

Checking my watch, I see he’s been pressing for almost three minutes. This is unusual - he normally stops after two (these office workouts being measured by duration, rather than number of press ups completed). He must be getting stronger, a thought which disturbs me somewhat. I’m about to return to my work when I notice the department PA rise from her seat.

The office where I work is a crowded, open plan affair, the channels between the islands of desks annoyingly narrow. My boss’s prone, bobbing form is now blocking the aisle our PA needs to get to the photocopier. I watch her hesitate. If she timed it right she could simply step over him, although even a slight miscalculation could result in an awkward collision of head and bare, tanned thigh. An embarrassing trip would also be a possibility, although to my mind the chances of a significant fall are remote.

The alternative, and the option I would choose were I in her position, would be to simply wait. Already he’s starting to grunt slightly and he rarely pushes himself too far in these situations as he dislikes sweat in his Paul Smith shirts (I noticed the label when we were forced to change in each other’s presence prior to the raft building section of a motivational away day). The worst thing she can do is hesitate – he’s perfectly capable of inviting her to step over him if he notices her standing there. My grip tightens on my mouse, inadvertently depressing the right button and setting off a superfluous pop-up menu.

“Excuse me Chad, can I get to the photocopier?”

A third option. Clever.

“Almost… done… Jen...”

No-one calls her Jen. It’s Jennifer. And he’s almost sweating now. Why is he doing this?

After a couple more reps he finally springs to his feet with what he probably imagines to be feline grace. Jennifer quickly moves past, a long-suffering expression drifting across her thin, pretty face. I realise Chad has caught me looking over, I avert my gaze but it’s too late – he’s approaching my desk in order to simultaneously justify his impromptu workout and bond with me.

“No time for guys like us to hit the gym, huh Jack?”

I respond with a small smile intended to express my utter contempt for him and everything he stands for. I actually went to the gym only last week, where I spent twenty minutes on the treadmill before beginning a circuit-training programme of my own devising. Even though I had to leave before I reached my deltoids it'll still have done me more good than his flurry of press ups. There’s no point telling him this of course.

“Actually, I was in the gym yesterday. The trick is to make it part of your lifestyle.”

“Yeah, but sometimes you just need that endorphin hit in the middle of the day, don’t you Jack?”

He uses my name every time he addresses me, regardless of how far we are into a conversation or even whether there’s anyone else around. I know he’s talking to me. Who else is he talking to? There’s nobody else here. He must be talking to me.

“I guess.”

“Damn right. Damn right, Jack.”

He must’ve learnt it at a management seminar, ‘Always refer to your employees by name’. Although you’d think they’d also cover ‘Don’t do press-ups in the middle of the fucking office’. I don’t really know where to take the conversation next so I just look at him. He bangs himself in the stomach with a kind of muted roar before striding off.

Chad is, of course, American. He was bought in as head of our department a few months ago following the US buy out of our company. His wants to modernise our processes to bring us in line with the new corporate culture. Actually, I’m not sure if that’s true. It’s unlikely even Chad actually wants to modernise our processes to bring us in line with the new corporate culture, but he’s certainly willing to attempt it in return for his salary. Is that the same thing? When does simple motivation actually become desire? I muse on this briefly before abruptly deciding I don't care.

Jennifer comes back from the photocopier and I attempt to catch her eye, wanting to exchange some eyebrow raising or perhaps a bemused expression regarding the recent drama. She returns to her desk without meeting my gaze though, prompting my neighbour to prod me in the ribs. I turn and am met with a knowing smirk.


“Tidy, eh?”


“Jennifer. I would.”


I know what he means, of course.

“You know. Shag her.”


“So I saw you checking her out.”

“I wasn’t looking at her, Dave.”

Now I’m doing it.

“Yeah you were. You couldn’t take your eyes off her.”

“I was... trying to catch her eye.”

“Yeah, right…”

I say nothing. Like most people David Price thinks he knows far more about me than he actually does.

I picture him walking home alone, probably slightly drunk. He heads down an alleyway and is followed in by three sinister looking men, he turns and sees them, a look of terror crossing his face before the first fist crashes into it. They’re beating him now, working him over with bats on the floor, dull thudding noises and Dave’s moans of pain (he doesn’t have the breath to scream) echoing around the alley. He’s pulled upright and pushed against a wall, a knife comes out. He’s clearly going to be killed, (they’re probably after his expensive new palm pilot, if only he’d been a little more discreet in his use of it). Suddenly I am there, scattering the thugs with a sweeping kick I learnt at Judo class when I was 14. A few rabbit punches later two of them are on the floor and the third one’s running. I don’t go after him, but help Dave to his feet instead. He looks at me with a mixture of disbelief and gratitude. I respond to his garbled thanks with a curt nod and stride off out of the alley, leaving him staring after me in puzzlement.

“What are you grinning at?”

I’m startled. Dave is talking. Again.


“That grin. Thinking about boning Jen were you?”


I return to my work, attempting to perceive some elegance in the figures I’m required to balance; revenue and expense become the positive and the negative, the yin and the yang, the dark and the light, each at once vying for dominance and utterly dependent on the other. I am the balancer, the seeker of equilibrium, deftly whisking figures from one column to the other. Bringing calm to my conflicted spreadsheet. By Christ I hate my job.

Dave’s tabloid is open on his desk, some bloated family of troglodytes are lifting glasses of champagne to their smug, self-satisfied lips. The screaming headline informs me that this hateful collection of ignorant pondscum (I’m not normally given to snap judgements but they are all wearing tracksuits) has won a record sum on the national lottery. Bastards. I begin to mentally assemble the lifestyle that win would have bought me. An escape from this place for a start, a bigger flat, obviously. A home gym so that I wouldn’t have to face those morons at Fitness Fans every other week. And not one of those TV-advertised multi-gyms either, an actual gym in my big new flat…

“Lucky bastards, eh?”

Dave has spotted me staring at his paper and has once again seized on the opportunity to interrupt my work day.


“The Wilsons of Aldershot. 35 million quid.”

“I hadn’t noticed.”

“What would you do with that kind of money?”

I promised myself a long time ago that I would never have a conversation with anyone about ‘what-I-would-do-if-I-won-the-lottery’ and I’m not about to make an exception now.

“I have no idea.”

“I’d buy this place… and then sack everyone!”

“What, including you?”

“Well, I’d have quit before that, obviously.”

“What makes you think they’d sell it to you?”

“I’d be paying so much they’d be daft not to.”

“And what would you do when you’d sacked everyone?”

“Close it down, I guess.”

I shake my head and turn away, but he won’t let it lie. I would’ve let it lie but he just won’t.

“So what would you do?”

“I don’t play the lottery. You’ve got more chance of being murdered than winning.”

“No reason not to have a go though, is it?”

“Actually, it is. Odds of over 15,000,000,000 to one is a very good reason not to waste money.”

I’m sounding like a snob which I hate as I actually come from quite a disadvantaged background. Thankfully Dave’s phone rings, effectively ending the exchange. As usual his boisterous phone manner means that I can’t help but hear his side of the conversation.

“Good morning, Blue Moon. How can I help you today?”

The hated required greeting imposed by the recent takeover. The new company name was a result of two months of intensely expensive management consultancy and was chosen for its associations with calm, peace and tranquillity. Ironically it never fails to inspire the opposite in me, especially on the frequent occasions when Dave follows it up with ‘You left me standing alone!’ in a tuneless baritone. Other shortlisted titles were ‘WhiteScape’, ‘Cerise Horizon’ and ‘Brown Hold’.

It’s especially galling as the only time we ever actually speak to members of the public is when they dial a wrong number. Irrelevant, according to Chad;

“We’re all in customer services Jack. Anyone we speak to is a customer making an investment of their time and attention. It’s up to us all to make sure they get good value and service from us.”

I think he took my open-mouthed shock as acceptance.

“Hey, baby!”

Not a business call then. Dave has a number of girls that call him at work – I’m lucky enough to be privy to the details of his relationship with all of them. There’s one recent addition I’ve learnt to dread; Angela. Angela likes to talk dirty.

“Well… I’m wearing the Donald Duck tie.”

Oh no. Oh Christ no.

“And the black trousers, yeah the tight ones.”

He looks up and shoots me a conspiratorial smile, mouthing ‘It’s Angela’.

“Mmm. You can see every curve of my arse. You know why?”

He’s barely even whispering. Why can’t he whisper?

“Cos I’m wearing the thong.”

For fuck’s sake!

“Actually I don’t really notice it after a while…”

I decide I need coffee.

At what point a kitchen becomes a kitchenette I couldn’t say, but the six-by-two slot that houses our floor’s sink, kettle and various cupboards is definitely on the ‘ette’ side of whatever dividing line may exist. As I draw near there’s a familiar gentle whistle. A woman’s whistle. Jennifer is in the kitchenette.

I slow down, undecided. If Jennifer drew a similar conclusion to Dave from my earlier attempts to catch her eye she might see this simultaneous coffee procurement as premeditated, a complication I can – quite frankly - do without right now. It’s not that Jennifer isn’t perfectly attractive – she’s a good height and certainly not fat, with a cute sort of face – but everyone knows office relationships are a bad idea and I’ve got quite enough on my plate in that area already. Steelnig myself, I stroll casually into the kitchenette. Jennifer looks up from stirring her coffee.

“Hello Jack.”

“Hello Jen.”

If she’s suspicious about our simultaneous presence it doesn’t show. She returns to her stirring, reaching for some sugar.

“What about Chad, eh?”

She looks up, confused.

“What about him?”

“All those press-ups, making you wait for him to finish..…”

“Well, that’s Chad.”

She looks at me expectantly, I realise some response is called for.

“Typical American.”

She’s still looking at me, like she’s waiting for something. I cast about for a concluding statement.

“Bunch of cunts.”

“Excuse me, can I…”

I realise I’m blocking her exit from the kitchenette and hurriedly move aside.


She slips past and heads back down towards the office. I lean against the wall of the kitchenette and curse my lack of spatial awareness.

Okay, so I’m not perfect. A lot of people think I have an exaggerated view of my own intelligence or personality or worth but that’s not true; I make mistakes just like everyone, I just try and learn from them. Referring to Americans as a ‘bunch of cunts’ in front of Jennifer – who is, after all, barely a year in this country after being born and raised in California – was not something I would have done if I’d had time to think. That’s the problem. Nobody gives me time to think.

Back at my desk Dave has finished his phone call but the numbers are still waiting for me, insisting that I make sense of them. I look at the clock, it’s four thirty. Dave is tapping my arm.

“I’m seeing Angela tonight.”

This is superfluous information. I already feel like I know the girl intimately.

“Have a good time.”

By which I mean, of course, I don’t give a fuck about you and I don’t give a (what’s less than a fuck?) a handjob about Angela.

“She’s bringing a friend. I said I would too.”


Dave rolls his eyes like he’s trying to teach a child which shape goes in the round hole.

“Why don’t you come along? Her friend’s really nice.”

“By your standards?”

“Come on! It’ll be good for you.”

He pauses. I can tell what he’s going to say next and I can tell that he’s wondering whether or not he should say it. I clench my fists and will for him not to. He does.

“Help you forget about the whole Rebecca thing…”

I turn my eyes inwards to oversee the gathering of all my internal resources. My heart, mind and ego all collaborate on the high speed construction of a towering retort that will turn Dave Price into a quivering mass of nervous tension, that will leave him unable to set foot outside his bedroom for days, that will set off psychosomatic, aversion-therapy-style electric shocks if he even thinks of looking me in the eye again…

“Let’s rap Jack!”

It’s Chad. I have a personal development meeting with him at 4:30.

“We’re in meeting room four Jack. I’m just gonna grab some water and I’ll see you up there.”

Chad heads off towards the kitchenette. I retrieve my Personal Development Folder from the larger of my three desk drawers. I stand up and look Dave in the eye.

“Where are we meeting them?”


O’Reilly’s is a vile Irish theme pub ten minutes walk from our office. I have sworn on the lives of all I hold dear never to set foot in there.

“What time?”

“Eight O’clock.”

“I’ll see you there.”

I nod in a purposeful manner and stride away. I manage three steps before stopping and turning back to Dave.

“What’s her name?”

He looks at me dumbly.


“The other one.”

“Oh. Rachel.”

I nod once more and commence the long walk to my Personal Development Meeting.

***If you're moved to read more, the story continues at www.desktopconfessional.com. Thanks for your interest***

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Comments by other Members

word`s worth at 21:47 on 22 January 2004  Report this post
Hello David,

Really enjoyed this - easy to read, raises a smile and a knowing nod. I couldn't quite believe the similarities in some areas to my first novel - completed but being reworked to an inch of its life. Will certainly be reading more on your website. Welcome to WW - hope you have a great time here.


dr_mandrill at 22:47 on 22 January 2004  Report this post
This guy cracks me up.


Jumbo at 23:55 on 22 January 2004  Report this post

Enjoyed this. You have a laid back style of writing which carries the reader along.

However, I got lost in some of the longer dialogue exchanges. I had to backtrack to find out who was talking at one point. And one small typo in His wants to modernise our processes...

In that same paragraph, do you need the repeat of the phrase modernise our processes to bring us in line with the new corporate culture , or was that an intentional thing. If it was, sorry, it was lost on me!

Best of luck with this


Jubbly at 09:57 on 23 January 2004  Report this post
I agare with the above, I really enjoyed reading this it flowed beautifully. I hope you won't be offended if I refer to it as 'Lad Lit', which if you are I'll never say again. It is very funny and I think you've tapped into extremely commercial territory. I'll catch up with the rest as soon as I can.




Oh Christ, excuse my typo, should read 'agree'.

Terry Edge at 17:07 on 23 January 2004  Report this post

This is very well written and very funny in places. The central character is an interesting mess of good and bad, and knows it. Obviously, there is plenty of scope for changes in him during the course of the story.

I don't know what kind of novel this is, however. Someone mentioned 'lads' lit' but I've not read any of that. So it's quite possible this kind of roll-along style is fine for that genre. But if looked at in more conventional terms, I feel there needs to be an early marker as to the plot arc (if there is one), some sort of intimation about the way the main story is going to go. At present, we just have a series of observations with little added value, which reads more like a short story than a novel.

I also feel that the secondary characters, Dave and Chad, are rather two-dimensional so far. They come across rather like sitcom-type foils for the main character. If this is intentional, and we will see eventually that the 2D nature of them is more down to Jack's cynical and narrow judgement than the actuality, then fine. But if not, you may risk the story shallowing-out before it's had time to peak.

But overall, this is very professional and the reader feels secure that the author knows what he is doing.


ShayBoston at 20:53 on 24 January 2004  Report this post
Hi David,

Got to agree with Jubbly about this being very commercial, by that I mean it should be on the book stands NOW. Very funny and I will be looking at your website soon.

Disagree with Terry about Chad and Dave, I think they are fine as they are and I'm sure they both develop.

This is in the mould of John McCabe/James Hawes and they've both done OK.

Regards, Shay

The Dave at 21:15 on 25 January 2004  Report this post
Thanks for the feedback everyone. Much appreciated.

In particular I'd like to give a big shout out to the doc and all my homies in lockdown. Word.

Jumbo: I take your point about some of the longer dialogue exchanges, thing is I decided early on that I would never use 'Said Jack' or 'Chad said' or even 'Dave continued' as I think this distracts from the intimacy of the first person narrative. I agree that this sometimes makes for confusing dialogue - the device of Chad using Jack's name every time he speaks to him is one of a few techniques I'm trying to minimise this confusion but I've clearly got a ways to go yet.

Jubbly: No problem at all with the 'lad lit' tag - if it proves to be half as lucrative as chick lit I'll buy you a pony.

Shay: I love James Hawes! With this comparison you are really spoiling us.

I know people are encouraged towards constructive criticism round these parts and I appreciate it, but if anyone does fancy ripping the hell out of this then I won't take it at all personally. It's the only way I'll learn.

Thanks again for the feedback, hope you enjoy the rest of it too - suffice to say it takes some very dark turns as things go on.

PS: Oh, and if any agents are reading this and share the 'commercial' views expressed above, the e-mail address is dave@desktopconfessional.com.


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