The man opposite pressed his hands together
as if commencing prayer
reviewing not for publication thoughts
candour jostled with doubt. Candour won.
He said applicants like me were invariably troublemakers
not intentionally, not maliciously
the job was to blame – menial
unchallenging begat boredom, begat mischief.
Civilians working on a military base
for some, it was like being an atheist in a monastery –
all those opportunities
to take the piss.
The pattern was simple and predictable
three months of compliance, anarchy by Christmas.
Being intelligent wasn’t always good
and here, it was bad.
History had very good form
he should not be telling me this …. but
sooner or later an opportunity to be a wise guy
would prove irresistible – a guarantee.
The Navy didn’t have a sense of humour
in fact, a lot didn’t make sense. That was the problem.
Antarctica, the adventure
and the money
the door is closing, soon it will be locked
a foot jams against it
full muscularity pushes back.
I said I understood his concern, folklore was well travelled
but this a once in life chance
future financial security more important than one upmanship.
A solemn vow not to satirise – ever.
Eyes lock. Fingers tent at the bridge of his nose
neutral irises already visualising next applicant, flicker alight
The mathematics of scepticism figures the odds
and places a bet
a rookie thinks the house can be beaten – a challenge.
For seven years, I polish stainless steel already gleaming
vacuum carpet, with a cleaner without vacuum
wash dishes nobody has used
make sandwiches that are never eaten
and keep the pledge not to lampoon, or be disrespectful.
one Thanksgiving, a football game – civilian versus military – The Ice Bowl
the field to be marked out with Kool-Aid.
I am instructed to prepare 20 gallons
subversion cannot resist – “ should I add sugar? ”