It’s a bleak morning in Mission Control. Even the Boss’s normal expression of guilty ignorance is replaced by one that could almost be mistaken for loss...
"Dead?" he asks quietly.
"I'm afraid so," I respond.
"But... he was doing so well."
"He was, but then that dodgy life support machine switched itself off."
"I thought they replaced that?"
"They did, but the new one turned itself off too."
"I know, but I thought they replaced that one too?"
"They did, but the third one had the same problem. And the fourth."
"And when did it... happen?"
"Last night," I say. "Apparently someone turned his TV on and he... passed on... the moment the Coronation Street theme tune started. You'll be going to the funeral of course?"
"Well I just assumed - you know, an employee killed in the workplace by an unreported workplace hazard. Might look a little... cold... if someone from the company didn't show. I assume you've spoken to his relatives about compensation already?"
"Compensation?" the Director blurts.
"Ah," I say "So you're after the FRONT page of some seamy tabloid as opposed to page 7."
"I don't understand."
"You know, 'Widow shafted by cruel company' - that sort of thing."
"Simon wasn't married!"
"Yes, I'm sure the tabloids will report that correctly," I say unconvincingly.
"So what do you suggest?"
"That one of you talks to the next of kin while the other goes to the funeral."
"I'll do the next of kin," the Director blurts hastily. "Philip - you can take the funeral."
. . . Two days later . . .
“I suppose we’d better be going then,” the Boss mutters quietly, adjusting the Windsor on his grey tie from ½ mast to ¾ windpipe. "Well, I suppose we have to move on.”
“Indeed,” I say, glancing up at the clock. “The service is at 10.”
The drive to the church was punctuated only by the occasional sniff from the Boss – no doubt more concerned about the possibility of a lynching thatn the departed.
. . . Later. . .
"It's surprising and humbling when you realise how little you know about people," the Boss says as we're driving to the graveside while the rest of the masses indulge in canapés at the after-match function. "I mean, who'd have guessed that Simon had a Doctorate in Applied Linguistics? And his annual pilgrimage to Nepal - I thought he just went to Oktoberfest. It just shows you..."
What it shows you is that a sad by-product of the one-upmanship of a group of geeks is that each tries to outdo the others at eulogy time. Luckily the speakers ran out before anyone could mention his presidency-for-life of MENSA, his tireless work on the cancellation of third world debt and his selfless patronage of the arts.
"It certainly does," I agree as we pull up at the cemetery. "But I guess time moves on and we have to make plans for the future. Speaking of which - what are we doing about Simon's replacement?"
"Oh I've put out some feelers," the Boss says as we trundle over to the graveside ahead of the hearse. "I've got a couple of pals in the industry who have a couple of prospects that they think might fit in quite well."
"Really?" I say. "So you weren't thinking of... appointing from within."
"Gosh, no," the Boss says with characteristic tact.
. . . Half an hour later . . .
"Thought I might pop along after all," the Director says, sidling up to the grave after the mourners have departed. "I was talking to one of his friends after the funeral - Did you know Simon was considered for the Nobel peace prize for some poetry that he wrote?"
"I know," I say "He was an inspiration to us all."
"I would have thought Philip would have turned up though?"
"He said he'd be here but he had to go see a travel agent about something."
"So he's not hiding behind the tractor for fear of his life then?"
"It's a Backhoe, not a tractor."
"What's the difference?"
"To you? One goes chugga chugga chugga and the other goes brrrm brrrm brrrm."
"I see," the Director says, not impressed, picking up a handful of dirt.
"Anyway," I say, "time moves on and we have to make plans for the future. Speaking of which - what are we doing about Simon's replacement?"
"I've rung a few people - and I think I might have found an ideal candidate. An old school chum who was quite high up in Apple for a time. I thought I'd give him a call later and see if he wants to pop in for an interv..."
> Thud <
>BRRMMMM< >BRRRMMM< >BRMMMMM<