Pantry Prose: Skid Marks by Wayne Dean-Richards

All the time thinking, he paced back-and-forth-back-and- forth-back-and-forth. Was determined to find who was doing it. The same thing every fucking day! The first skid mark always saying, Fuck, the second always saying, you, the third always saying, Fitton.

His old man had warned him that he should get used to people trying to get at him because they were jealous of what he’d accomplished. His old man it was who’d set him on the path to success in the first place. Sending him to a lesser-known public school but hammering home that the odds were massively against playing football ever paying off, whereas the right accent would pretty much guarantee him a top job.

Fitton had a voice that would cut glass. Though he steadfastly believed his sheer relentlessness was what had endowed him with the wherewithal to become a CEO.

When PQC Logistics appointed him, he’d wasted no time in making his relentlessness clear. Axing a hundred jobs during his first month in post surely some kind of record. Early mornings had prowled. Sometimes slowing to stare out of windows when blue inched up from the horizon but only genuinely moved by the fear on the faces of those who arrived to find him already there. Thought of his early starts as an act of will rather than a by-product of insomnia. Strode through empty offices shutting desk drawers that hadn’t been properly shut and straightening items of stationery left skewed on desks whilst deciding who should stay and who should go…

The final week of his third month in post was when he saw what – nothing accidental or unconsidered about it he was certain – had been left for him in the second cubicle from the left in the toilets on the first floor…

That the cleaners were to blame was his first thought. Insulting him as an act of revenge. Lowered rates of pay and a raised commitment to productivity things he’d forced their contractor to sign up to.

Deciding that if he discovered skid marks at the end of one of their shifts, they were all for the chop, Monday through to Friday he arrived between midnight and 3.45AM…

But there were never any skid marks left during those hours. Meaning the cleaners were in the clear. Why – alone in his office – Fitton gulped Gaviscon as if it was going out of style and re-configured his approach.

A fortnight of surreptitious checks narrowed the time frame of the deposit to between 3.45AM and 9.15AM. Nor did it matter whether it was one, two or three skid marks, he told himself at this point. The message was still unequivocally the same: Fuck you Fitton. Believed the fact that the message was never in the same toilet or cubicle two days running was indisputable proof that whomever it was, was intent on taunting him, teasing him, humiliating him – and promptly put the night-time security man in the frame. Harold Lever someone who smiled agreeably at all and sundry.

Fitton didn’t trust any man who smiled. With a clear view of the lobby, each night sat across from PQC Logistics in his Mercedes E Class Saloon and watched Lever make his rounds on the hour. Always waited ’til the security man’s shift was almost over before he strode in.

Seeing that all the porcelain was spic and span, Fitton chewed his bottom lip till he drew blood. Whilst doing so latched onto the idea that the day-time security woman was responsible, so following her hourly patrols relentlessly checked and re-checked the toilets on all floors.


Meaning that like Harold Lever, Sheila Parkes was off the hook. Meaning it wasn’t a contract cleaner or contracted site security. Meaning it had to be one of PQC Logistics’ own staff who was each day leaving him a message in shit!

Claiming that it was part of an efficiency drive, ever more desperate to find who was responsible Fitton ordered state of the art CCTV. Cameras installed everywhere. Including the entrance to the toilets on all floors. Would have had a camera in each toilet cubicle if he hadn’t anticipated the reaction of PQC Logistics board of directors to such a directive.

Throughout the installation Fitton lost weight and cultivated dark smudges beneath his eyes. Shook when he signed the release confirming completion, then spun to face the monitors occupying an entire wall of his top floor office.

With the necessary means for discovery in place process became everything. Having first patrolled to make sure all the toilets in the building were spotless he’d study the monitors scrupulously and make a dash every time he saw a worker exit a toilet –

It sounded straightforward but wasn’t since sometimes workers on different floors simultaneously left their workstations and headed for the toilets on their floor – PQC Logistics eight storeys high.

Fitton needed to be as quick as he’d been as a boy with a football at his feet and to facilitate this took to wearing lightweight Nikes rather than hand-made leather shoes.

No one mentioned his suited sprints. No one dared, though the fear of his staff no longer comforted him.

Discomforted, Fitton estimated that it’d already been several weeks since the installation of CCTV and still skid marks appeared like clockwork: Fuck you Fitton…Fuck you Fitton…Fuck you Fitton…

Well fuck you right back, I won’t give up, he assured himself relentlessly. Wouldn’t give up. Couldn’t give up. Wouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t! Why after gulping more Gaviscon – all the time thinking – he resumed pacing back-and-forth- back-and-forth-back-and-forth…

Wayne Dean-Richards has worked as an industrial cleaner and an actor. Currently he works as a teacher. He says, like Bukowski, ‘These words I write keep me from total madness.’ Over a hundred stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies. The Arts Council funded a collection of his stories – At the Edge – and a novel – Breakpoints. Cuts – a second collection of stories – is available from Amazon as an eBook, as is a collection with his youngest son: A Box of Porn.


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