Feeney hole-punched papers all day long. He’d take them from his in in-tray ten at a time and tap them gently on his desk. Once aligned, he’d place them in the jaws of the device
‘Finally’, he muttered.
The crunch of metal on paper. The gentle flutter of papery rain.
‘Bollocks’. One of the holes had come out square again. How did this keep on happening?
Feeney sighed as he shredded the pages into squealing worms. He dumped the debris in the hamster cage in the corner of the room.
Patterson was in his wheel, as usual, dead to the world.
‘Feeney!’ That was Mulligan. ‘What the hell’s going on in there, Feeney? Have you killed another one?’
‘What’s all this commotion?’ Halloran’s face appeared at the corner of the door. ‘Is that you in there, Feeney, surrounded by all that ash and bone? You’re for it now my boy, now you’re for it!’
Feeney closed his eyes and tried his best to melt into his chair. His brain was on fire.
‘Are you chewing gum, Feeney?’ Mulligan had an incredible way of making Feeney’s name extend far beyond its usual cadence.
‘Feeney you swine, you’re chewing gum! Crowther, pass me the litterbin. We’ll have it out of him, Crowther, oh yes, right out!’
Feeney wasn’t chewing gum, of course, but what was he supposed to say? He’d already broken the hole-punch and almost certainly killed Patterson. He swallowed dramatically in an effort to convince his baying arbiters.
‘Disgusting! Putrid! Foul!’ Mulligan slapped Feeney hard around the ears between each word, causing them to ring terribly.
There was an interminable pause. Feeney was mouldering into dust.
‘Sick it up’.
Literally no one expected this. Not even Mulligan.
‘Sick it up’, Mulligan repeated. ‘Come on my boy, there’s rules for this sort of caper. This filth. This carnage’.
Crowther clasped his hands together and winked at Mulligan. ‘You swine, Feeney, you rag, you trumpet, you devil!’
The pair joined hands and clothes-lined poor Feeney off his perch. Crowther sat down again quickly, covering his erection with an open briefcase.
‘Halloran!’ That was Mulligan. ‘Fetch me the litterbin, Halloran. We’ll have it out of him yet!’
Feeney felt his body lurch forward. Mulligan stood over him, waiting for the deluge of gum, splurge and ash.
Feeney opened his eyes and blinked into the bin. This was absurd, horrifying stuff. He composed himself; could he actually do this? Could he vomit something he never even swallowed?
He began retching, terribly.