Cover Image
Robert Garnham
Clown School On A North Sea Oil Rig

You could tell by the way she got off the helicopter that she wasn't having any funny business. Perhaps she'd heard about the chap who'd been sent over to get their chakras realigned. He was effing and blinding by the time he left. Even some of the more long-standing oil rig workers were shocked and surprised at the frequency, volume, and inventiveness of his language as he clambered back onto that helicopter. His chakras must have been so misaligned by the end that it's a wonder they didn't take someone's eye out.

     Katie, however, strutted across the helipad and immediately shook hands with the Operations Manager. Just how she knew he was the Operations Manager is anyone's guess, but she strolled right up to him and pumped his hand. They bent in close, and words were exchanged, he was probably welcoming her to the Shaldon Holdings Offshore Oil (SHOO) facility, but they couldn't be heard, what with the helicopter and the machinery and the constant pounding waves. She then strolled ahead of him. Yes indeed, no funny business,

     'What do you make of all this?' Jack asked Darren that lunchtime in the canteen. Darren was barely visible above a Mount Fuji of mashed potato. He looked like the sun in one of those Hokusai pictures.

     'It doesn't bode well', he replied.

     'She's already lasted longer than Chakra-boy.'

     'I was processing a blowback-mitigation assembly casing last night,' Darren said, through a mouthful of mashed spud, 'and I was just about to tighten the main valve auxiliary bolt when I thought, yeah, you know what? Maybe my chakras ought to be aligned'.


     The sweat was rolling down the side of Darren's face and dripping on top of his high-viz jacket. The sweat always rolled down the side of his face whenever he ate.

     'I'd like to floss, too.'

     'What, teeth?'

     'Nah,' he said, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand. 'The dance.'

<  2  >

     'Whatever for?'

     He shrugged his shoulders and said, 'I don't know,' without really pronouncing any of the consonants so that he sounded just like Scooby-Doo.

     'I can just imagine you flossing away there next to the main drill motor housing.'

     'Nice spud today,' he said. He wiped his forehead again. 'Sweating like a pig, though.'

     'I mean, we don't want to become stale, here'.

     'Like yesterday's potatoes.'

     'You know, get stuck in a rut, that sort of thing'.

     Jack looked over at the canteen queue. Katie was there, grim-faced. She was sniffing a peach. Jack had never seen someone so concentrated as they sniffed a peach. It probably wasn't fresh. Nothing here was fresh.

     'So you're going, then', Darren said, a fleck of mashed spud flying out of his mouth and landing on Jack's shoulder.

     'To be honest, it might be just the thing I need'.

     She was still sniffing the peach.


'We did all that training, so it was something of an anti-climax when we didn't have to ditch in the sea', Katie was saying. "Mind you, there's always the going back'.

     The Operations Manager looked at her, nonplussed.

     'I'm glad you enjoyed the ride'.

     'Endured, I should say. All that buoyancy gear and those flotation devices. We could have been bouncing around inside that thing, and it wouldn't have hurt in the slightest. So why do we even need seat belts?'

     'In the event of ditching . . .'.

     'Is that your wife?'

     She pointed at a photograph in a frame on his desk.

     'That's Marlene.'

<  3  >

     Katie picked up the framed picture and looked at it from several angles. She then sniffed it. And then she held it up next to her ear. She frowned for a bit as if it were the most confusing thing that she had ever seen.

     'Are you okay?'

     'Curious', Katie whispered.

     The Operations Manager let out a sigh.

     'So it's agreed, then. Four sessions over four days, and you say that we can halve our accident rate here at Platform SHOO?'

     Katie replaced the framed photograph on the desk and moved it ever so slightly as if it were a chess piece.

     'If I can teach them to fall, and fail, and tumble, and just get it out of their systems, and introduce some coping mechanisms that will dissipate the natural urge to topple over flat on one's arse, then indeed, you will see a marked improvement in your daily accident rate'.

     'So what are you saying?'

     'It's an in-built mode of survival that exists on a subconscious level, Mister Operations Manager. Most accidents aren't caused by over-exerting one's self. They're caused by the human's natural tendency to be stupid.'

     The Operations Manager looked at her and smiled.

     'Fine. You shall be allocated space and time to implement these workshops.'

     He stood up, and they shook hands. Then, he sat back down again, missed his seat, and landed in a crumpled heap on the floor.

     'Dear god', Katie whispered to herself.


'You alright down there, Steve?', Darren said over the intercom. 'Over . .'.

     'Yeah, not bad'.

     'Can you give us a status update?'

     'There's loads of barnacles around 'ere'.

     Steve's voice was all high and squeaky due to the various gases that the divers had to consume to mitigate against the bends.

<  4  >

     Darren tried to stifle a laugh.

     'Can you see the temp flow regulation valve?' Darren asked.

     'Yeah, and it's a cracker', Steve said, his high squeaky voice fluting back from the speaker. "I thought to myself, Steve old chap, if that's not the temp flow regulating valve, then I don't know what is'.

     'What's the water like?'


     'You know what I mean'.

     'Murky. Can't tell your elbow from your arse daaahn' ere'.

     'Watch out for them barnacles'.

     Steve bounced across the floor surface. The legs of Platform SHOO stretched upwards into the briny murk. A very ugly fish floated past and gave him a kind of nonchalant sideways glance, then went on about its business. He liked it down here. The fish were non-judgemental. It got him away from the others. Darren especially. It felt like another world.

     He began thinking about his wife. She would never understand, he thought, what it was like to enter another world, although she had thought about it many times. He had tried to explain to her on numerous occasions about the different environmental pressures and the way that science was completely turned on its head, but she really wasn't interested. And she was a theoretical mathematician working at a stellar observatory. So the only worlds she cared about were the ones out in space.

     'Perhaps I'll phone her tonight', he thought. 'But she's probably too wrapped up in her work. The more she theorises, the less she understands that there's something completely alien right here . . '.

     And it was weird, but whenever he started thinking while he was on a dive, the voice in his head also had the same high, squeaky voice.

     He advanced on the temp flow regulation valve with the big spanner that they had given him.

<  5  >

     'You can keep your astrophysics', he said to himself. 'This is where the action is'.

     It was a whopper of a spanner, and he hoped that he wouldn't drop it because it would probably take him about half an hour to bend down and pick it up again.

     He didn't see the giant scaly suckered limb, thicker than the legs of the Platform itself, suddenly land in the sediment behind him.


Jack didn't really know what to expect. His line manager had told him to report to the corner of the gym where he and some of the other Category D workers had been asked to congregate wearing loose-fitting clothing. There were no other categories. You were either in Category D, or you weren't. The Category D workers were the ones who had a higher than average accident rate. Though as Jack had pointed out, the more people who joined Category D, the more average went down, so, therefore, the less number of people actually qualified for Category D.

     The Operations Manager had looked at him and said, 'I don't really follow the logic of that argument'.

     And then a framed poster of Platform SHOO had fallen off the wall and clobbered him around the head.

     Darren was there, of course. Darren hadn't got any loose-fitting clothing, but he did have a sausage roll. Last Thursday, Darren had slipped over in the canteen on a wet patch and skidded right to the end of the room, accidentally punching a hole in the plasterboard wall. Ben was also there. Ben, the trainee, had seen a rat, screamed, and fallen into a vat of yellow paint. He'd clambered out and staggered around the deck, completely covered, only to be seen by Tina from the office window. Tina had thought he was a ghost, and she'd also screamed, and fallen down a flight of stairs. Ben's yellow footprints were still visible on the exterior decking.

     And Jack? Jack had got himself trapped in a store cupboard with the emergency inflatable life-rafts when, in a freak of circumstances, a rat had chewed the inflation mechanism of one of them. This one duly inflated, and set about a chain reaction as all the rest of them inflated too, trapping Jack pinned to the wall of the cupboard. It was right next to the common room, where two old hands had been playing dominoes. He'd knocked, feebly, on the wall. The dominoes players had each accused the other of trying to put them off.

<  6  >

     Katie made an entrance.

     'Good morning, members off Category D', she had said.

     Darren lost his footing on the rubber exercise mat, and down he went. His sausage roll flew across the room and hit Tina. Tina punched Ben for no reason.

     Katie didn't look too happy.

     'The art of clowning . . .'.

     Someone opened a door, and it hit Jack in the face.

     'The art of clowning is the physical manifestation of deriving every aspect of comedy from a given situation'.

     A fluorescent light tube suddenly fell from the ceiling and landed with a smash on Darren's head.

     'It is the subconscious acceptance of the unsolicited pratful'.

     The door crashed open again, and a pig ran through the gym, followed by the oil rig's chef, with his meat cleaver held aloft.

     'Because . . '.

     Tina sneezed loudly. Ben slipped over on the sausage roll.

     'Because an affectation of dignity is the default human setting'.

     The pig came back again, followed by the chef. The door hit Jack squarely on the nose. The pig knocked over Darren. A ceiling tile fell from the ceiling and completely knocked out Tina.

     Katie let out a deep sigh.


'Did you think there was something weird going on in that clowning session?', Jack asked.

     They were playing cards in the common room. The rough seas of the North Atlantic were visible through a tiny window, either side of which were small, ineffectual curtains made from the same pattern as a tea towel.

     'You mean, the clowning session that was taking place on an oil rig hundreds of miles from land? No, of course, there was nothing unusual going on'.

<  7  >

     'I mean, I know there were benefits from what she was making us do. All that tumbling and physical tomfoolery. The way she was ever so enthusiastic demonstrating how to fall over and land flat on our backs with minimum physical pain . . .'.

     'Yeah, that's going to come in useful'.

     Jack wiped the crisp crumbs that Darren had just sprayed him with away from his face.

     'It's just . . .'.


     'It felt more like an audition'.

     Darren laughed so much that he began to choke. His face went bright red, and crisp crumbs sprayed in all directions. And when he finished choking, he calmed down a little bit.

     'You're having a laugh'.

     'There's something about this, Katie that I just don't trust'.

     'She seems alright to me'.

     'Yeah, because you were teacher's pet, weren't you? You should have seen the way her eyes lit up every time you ended flat on your arse. She said she'd never experience such natural buffoonery.'

     'Tis an oft-repeated remark from a number of people I've met'.


     'We've had these people come and do workshops. Happens every month. Remember the ikebana?'


     'The calligraphy? The origami?'

     'Yeah. Though the origami classes didn't really take off, did they? Folded after just a month'.

     'What I'm saying is that the Operations Manager is just trying to better us, isn't he?'

     'How could we possibly be any better than we already are?'

     'We've still got the highest accident rate in the whole company'.

<  8  >

     'I don't see what this has got to do with anything'.

     'The topiary was fun, though. The number of times we got Steve to bring up some seaweed for us to practise on. I swear, Steve's about the only person in this whole place who doesn't go arse over tit every now and then. Steady Steve, that's what I call him'.

     'I just think we shouldn't really . . . You know . . .necessarily trust Katie until we know what her intentions are'.

     'Maybe we should chat to Steve about her?'

     'Speaking of which, where is he?'

     Darren was silent for a couple of seconds.

     'Christ', he said. 'I knew there was something I had to do this afternoon'.


Steve was pinned against the North-East leg of the platform. He'd never seen an octopus so big. And he'd seen plenty of octopuses in his time. This one was a fucking monster. And there was a malevolent glare in its eye. You could tell that it meant business, the way it had wrapped one of its tentacles around Steven's body and the leg of the platform, while the other one kept slapping him around the face, or at least, his mask. It meant business, and it was mean.

     'Er, guys?' Steve said into his intercom.

     No reply.


     The octopus kind of raised him up a little bit, and now he was staring at his foe, eye to eye.

     'What do you want from me?', Steve asked, his voice somewhat resigned to his fate. 'If it's that calamari that I ate while on holiday in Italy, I tell you, I didn't know . . Not really . . I'm mostly a vegetarian, but I have occasional fish, every now and then. I suppose that makes us the same, eh? We both like a bit of fish.'

<  9  >

     Steve had never noticed octopuses have eyebrows before. This one seemed to lower one of its eyebrows. Perhaps it might have been lulled by the conciliatory tone to Steve's voice, were Steve's voice not made all high and squeaky by the various gases that he had to ingest.

     'Is there not a common bond between all living things?', he asked. 'Are we not all put on this planet for reasons unknown? There's a deeper philosophy at work here, isn't there?' Steve laughed. 'Deeper . . . I mean, this is about as deep as it gets, isn't it? Or at least, for a human'.

     The octopus loosened its grip, just a little bit.

     'There are so many injustices in this world. You and me, Fish-Breath. We can make a difference, can't we? Show the world that it needs to change its ways. I don't know what it's like in the octopus community, but up above there, where the humans are running the show, it's a right balls-up. In fact . . . I would ask you to take me away from all this'.

     If the octopus had had shoulders, then this is the moment when they might have slumped.

     'That's it, big fella. Just think. You and me, forging a new way ahead that will teach future generations . . Future generations . . To love'.

     A tear might very well have fallen from the eye of the great beast. It was hard to tell what with all the saltwater around.

     'This planet needs to change', Steve whispered.


From the clowning session, Katie had gone to the canteen and had shepherd's pie for dinner and had sat on her own in the corner next to the fizzy drinks vending machine, in whose neon glow she felt at least a small degree of homely warmth. Everything was different out here, and the workshop she had undertaken with the Category D workers had instilled in her a promise that this would be a fruitful expedition. The shepherd's pie, though, had been crap.

<  10  >

     She went for a wander as the sun began to set, around the decking, tracing Ben's yellow boot prints. She leaned against the railing and watched the sun disappear below the horizon, setting the mad ocean afire with flames and a crimson red sky which matched the neon from the fizzy drinks vending machine. She watched as a couple of oil rig workers, Jack and Darren from her workshop that afternoon, were frantically shouting into an intercom and a cable and air hose set up, obviously to a diver who was still busy beavering away below the waves. Darren was just trying to start work with a winch when a seagull suddenly appeared from nowhere and flew straight into his head. The handle of the winch flew off and dropped down, down into the sea.

     'Perfect', she said to herself. 'Absolutely perfect'.

     'Darren, you nob!', Jack had called. 'The winch handle!'

     Which must have upset the seagull because it defecated, sloppily and funnily, all over Jack's head.

     'Absolutely first class!'

     Katie watched for a few more seconds as the two workers now fell and slipped around on the seagull excrement, which was all over the small platform on which they were both standing, and then she got fed up with it and went back inside.

     It was good of the company to give her her own room and not have to share with any of the others. Her cabin had just about enough space for a bed and a small desk, with an incredibly tiny bathroom in the corner.

     She sat at the desk and took out her laptop. She turned it on and pondered for a few seconds, then began composing an email.

     'Hi there, Bingo', she wrote. "You wouldn't believe how this is working out. I do believe that soon all of our problems will be solved. . .'.


'Well, what are we going to do without a winch?', Jack asked.

<  11  >

     They were back inside now. Jack was bent over a sink, washing the seagull droppings out of his hair. Darren was fondling a Mars.

     'And more to the point, what the hell have these gulls been eating?'

     'We need to think about this', Darren said.

     'We could go down and rescue him . .'.

     'Neither of us know how to dive'.

     'How hard can it be? Steve does it all the time'.

     'Steve', Darren pointed out, 'Has a different . . Physique to either of us. His body can take that kind of deep pressure environment. He's a pure physical specimen'.

     Darren unwrapped his Mars and began eating it.

     Jack dried his hair with a towel. They walked from the bathroom along a corridor to the common room.

     'We need to think about this. The Operations Manager is going to be ever so mardy when he discovers that we've got the only platform diver trapped on the seabed.'

     Darren held his finger up in the air. Jack waited for him to finish chewing.

     'Steve is ever so keen on sushi'.


     'Well, he's not going to starve, then, is he?'

     'For goodness sake!'

     'What else do we know about him?'

     'His wife is an astrophysicist'.

     'That's not helping'.

     'Another game of cards?'

     The little window in the common room looked out on the deep red sky. It was getting dark.

     'Things always seem better after a good night's sleep', Jack said. The towel was still around his neck. He padded his damp hair a couple of times.

<  12  >

The second clowning session was first thing in the morning. Katie had slept well, lulled to sleep by the pounding of the waves against the legs of the platform. She could feel it shudder as deep swells thrashed and crashed, hinting at the various rhythms which underpin existence itself.

     'There are many methods', she explained, 'for the correct physical reaction to the humble custard pie. Philosophers have debated for many years the underlying basis of their existentialist application throughout physical comedy. See them as punctuation, the perfect narrative taking the audience from A to B, from pompous to deflated, in one smart manoeuvre'.

     Tina banged her head on an overhanging pipe.

     Things seemed different this morning. Category D were more . . What was the word?

     'Conscientious', she whispered to herself.

     'What was that, Miss?' Ben asked.

     'Concentrate', she replied. 'I really need you all to concentrate today. You've all been making some marvellous progress, but . . .'.

     Neither Jack nor Darren could concentrate, however. Not even when Katie announced a sudden quiz halfway through the session for them to demonstrate what they had learned about custard pies, their invention, their use in the silent movie industry, and various other modern developments such as the non-dairy alternative for vegan clowns.

     'No, no, no!'

     Katie was clearly exasperated.

     'The cherry on top is merely the artistic call-back to the red nose of the clown into whose face the pie is aimed! So yes, it is entirely necessary for there to be a cherry! Haven't you been listening at all?'

     Ben slipped over on a banana skin. This seemed to cheer her up a bit.

     'What are we going to do?', Jack asked, during a quiet moment.

     'I'm thinking. Believe me, I'm thinking'.

<  13  >

     'How much air do you think he's got down there?'

     'Maybe four hours'.

     'He must be pretty hungry'.

     'I told you, he likes sushi".

     'Could you two please stop talking. We are here for some serious business! Don't you understand the ramifications?'

     Her voice barked across the gym. At the sound of it, Jack fell down, flat on his bum. But she didn't laugh. She could tell that he was faking it.

     Katie turned on a CD player. The traditional circus music echoed around the gym.

     'I want this', she said, 'to become the soundtrack to your lives'.

     Darren imagined Steve, down there on the ocean floor, his life slipping away from him, oh, the tragedy beneath the clown's smile. The air slowly running out. The music got louder, frantic, faster. Bright trumpets, primary colours, the whirl and thrill of the circus. And Steve slowly starved of his natural gases.

     'Now; she said. 'I want you all to fall over . . On cue'.

     But none of them could. For some reason, none of them could.


'Oh, Calamari', Steve said.

     The octopus was still there, looking right at him. They had spent the night in this very position.

     'So we shall fight to the death, eh? Is that what you want? Last man left standing? Or are you the patient sort, intent on just hanging on, watching me fade from existence?'

     The octopus looked decidedly grumpy.

     And why wouldn't it?, he thought. And then he thought of the mysteries of the universe. His wife would be in her observatory right now, her eye trained on the heavens. She would be watching the stars and the planets in their eternal dance, cosmic reverberations, the universe in all its splendour. Yet, what would she actually understand about life? There's only so much you can predict, he told himself.

<  14  >

     He thought of their wedding day. They'd got married in a planetarium, right next to a giant plastic model of Jupiter. He'd hidden the ring on the Moon Io. That had seemed such a long time ago. He'd charged her, those first few months, with tales of life on the ocean floor, and she understood that in is own way, he, too, was an explorer. But then she had got into gravity wave fluctuations, and he had landed the job with Platform SHOO. They'd drifted apart. He and his wife, like planets in diverse orbits, had drifted apart.

     'Oh, Calamari', he sighed.

     The octopus looked at him, wearily.

     'You know, I won't be very tasty . . .'.

     Gravity wave fluctuations. Didn't she once say to him that gravity can act in such a manner as to bend time itself? He knew how it felt. Spending time on this very platform, with those jokers Darren and Jack, he had felt time itself elongate as if it had been sucked into a black hole. Even Ben. Ben was a bigger idiot than the pair of them.

     'You're just a deep-sea creature', he said, 'And I'm a highly trained underwater welding operative. Yet are we so very different? I've got my hopes and dreams, and you've got . . Well, tentacles.'

     The water was still very murky, but he could tell that night had passed and that it was now the morning.

     'Let me go', he whispered. 'Just let me go, Calamari. And we shall go our separate ways and pretend that this never happened. What do you say?'

     Amazingly, the octopus looked at him, and he felt it loosen its grip.

     'The kinship', he whispered, 'Of all living things'.

     The winch that the jokers had dropped the night before must have landed on some ledge higher up. A freak wave washed it from its temporary resting place, and it descended down into the depths of the ocean. He watched it appear from above, out of the gloom, and bounce with a noticeable clonk from the cranium of his captor. The octopus kind of staggered back a little bit, before losing consciousness and collapsing onto the ocean floor.

<  15  >

     'Well', Steve said to himself. 'That was an unexpected turn of events'.


They tried everything, the pair of them. Every spare implement that could possibly be fashioned as a makeshift winch, from the giant spool of a shark-proof fishing reel to the fire hose from the platform kitchens. Yet nothing worked. They spent a lot of time standing next to where the winch had been, scratching their heads in a quizzical manner which the observing Katie translated as a fine comment on the human condition worthy of Beckett at his most philosophical.

     'Lads', she said. 'I've been watching you'.

     'Shit', Darren whispered.

     'And I've never been more impressed. The sheer physicality and dramatic tension you display in your work is the finest example of theatrical clowning I have seen in many a year'.

     Jack was leaning against the railing, looking down at the white-topped waves breaking and crashing around the lower parts of the platform. Katie's voice could hardly be heard in the wind.

     'Now, if you could just describe what you're doing . . '.

     'We can't', Jack said.

     'Ah! For to know the truth, the motivations of the actor would surely spoil the effect that you are creating with your constant hapless efforts'.

     'Yes, that's it, exactly', Darren replied.

     'And this winch, here. Looks suspiciously like the handle of the mangle from the platform laundry'.

     'Ha ha, yes. That's just a coincidence. This is, in fact, a highly sensitive and beautifully calibrating machine'.

     'Excellent', she replied. 'You have such a sense of comedy timing! I see there is more to you than pratfalls and tumbling, good sirs. And yet, this scares me. It deeply, deeply scares me'.

     'How do you mean?'

     'There is more going on than you can possibly imagine'.

<  16  >

     And with that, she left them at it.

     'What do you suppose all that was about?', Darren asked.


Steve could feel the darkness penetrating. He had never felt so cold. It was enveloping him, from every angle. He could feel his brain functioning in a manner that he had never noticed before. Circus music. He could hear circus music. It seemed to echo across the ocean floor, beyond the stunned body of the collapsed octopus, echoing from the bumps and reefs and shipwrecks of the North Sea bringing with it - what, exactly? Like a distant signal sent from a gravity wave somewhere out in deep space, or a flickering pulsing light from a dying star, this music, this enforced jolly upbeat music, seemed to be drawing him away from the conscious world.

     'It's not a bad way to go', he whispered.

     And the octopus. He could see that it was coming to, waking up from it's concussion. The tentacle around his body slowly began to tighten.

     'As if things could not get any worse . .'.

     The circus music continued. The octopus lifted him away from the leg of the platform, very much like a clown with a . . With . . His brain wasn't working. Of course, the squirty flower on the lapel of a clown . . Wouldn't work . . . Underwater . . . The octopus was a clown . . And he was a custard pie . . He could feel the darkness reaching out its fingers towards him, the cold, deep nothingness of space . . He thought of his wife in the observatory . . Another supernova in the heavens.


Katie opened her laptop and began another email.

     'Bingo', she wrote. 'Things are moving at a fantastic speed'.


It was late afternoon and time for the last of the clowning workshops. The Operations Manager himself had come along to the gym to check on their progress. Darren, Jack, Ben and Tina, lined up in their loose-fitting garments in a tight line, as if soldiers on the marching ground, as Katie emerged from the opposite door. She stood in front of them.

<  17  >

     'Boo!', she suddenly shouted.

     None of them fell over.

     She blew up a paper bag and then popped it.

     None of them fell over.

     'Bravo!', the Operations Manager whispered.

     She walked around Category D. She inspected them from every angle. She got right up into Darren's face and stared at him. She then raised her arms and squawked like a crow. Nothing. He didn't even stumble.

     'Absolutely amazing', the Operations Manager whispered.

     She picked up a bucket and went to throw its contents over Ben. Of course, the bucket was empty. Ben did not flinch.

     'Astounding', the Operations Manager said.

     'Mister Operations Manager', she said. 'I have, as you see, transformed Category D into the most sensible and conscientious group of workers on your platform. Through various schemes and procedures, I have removed the inbuilt human need to be stupid from them. Over the next few weeks, you will find that your accident rate will decrease, and this whole operation will become a harmonious and professional environment'.

     'How can I ever thank you?'

     'Also, as an interesting side note, I have eradicated all comedy from the premises. I don't know how this has happened. The bucket that I aimed at Ben was, of course, empty. Before my arrival, don't ask me how, but it would have had something in it. It's almost supernatural, the way that comedic happenings have now been made null and void within the confines of this oil rig.'

     'Katie, you have worked wonders'.

     Jack wanted to point out. He wanted to say that there were other things going on, matters that worked more than her workshops. A dark cloud had hung over himself and Darren for the last couple of days. It had made them more conscientious, more concentrated on their jobs. And as soon as this was over, they would go back to trying to solve the problem of Steve and his watery prison. Yet, he also wondered if there was a truth to what she was saying. He hadn't once banged his head for hours. And earlier, a mop had fallen over right in front of him, and he'd stopped, picked it up, and put it out of harm's way. You know, almost like a normal person. But the darkness, oh, the darkness, it weighed on his soul.

<  18  >

     Plus, he couldn't get that damn circus music out of his head.

     'But it's come at a cost', she sighed. She sat down on the upturned bucket. 'I must admit, I had other reasons for coming here. Yes, I work in business training and team building, but I am an employee of Bingo's Circus. And it was part of my brief arriving here to be on the lookout for clowns. You see, Bingo works his clowns hard, and they invariably leave. He needed new clowns, and that's why he sent me here. I must admit, from what I saw when I first arrived, there seemed to be plenty of candidates, and I was particularly taken with both Jack and Darren. Yet after a conversation I had with them last night, in which they displayed the most amazing professionalism and attention to detail in the operation of a humble winch, I knew that there was a heart of seriousness that could never be eradicated. And this is what I built on this afternoon, allowing this inner professional to subsume all clowning instincts.'

     'How can I ever thank you?'

     'So you see, in one sense, it has been a complete success, and I am glad to have been of service to your organisation. Yet, in another sense, this whole expedition has been a complete failure. I did not find my clown'.

     'Such sacrifices have to be made for the safety we need here to operate without our appalling accident rate', the Operations Manager said.


     'So you say that nothing . . . Dare I say it . . Comedic . . Will ever happen again here?'

     'Unless there's another member of staff that you've been hiding from me, then I can say, quite positively, that I have eradicated all humour from this workplace'.

     The Operations Manager held out his hand, and Katie shook it.

     'Thank you so much for everything that you have done'.

<  19  >

     It was at this moment that a giant suckered limb crashed through the flimsy wall of the gym, depositing Steve on the cushioned mats right in front of them. He struggled to his feet and removed his divers helmet as the suckered limb withdrew back through the suddenly gaping hole, and in his high squeaky voice, he said, 'Bloody hell, you wouldn't believe what's happened to me'.


The helicopter was getting ready to depart. Katie shook hands with the Operation Manager again.

     'Thanks for everything!', he yelled above the noise of the rotors.

     'You ready?', she yelled.

     'Try and stop me!' Steve shouted back.

     The two of them ran towards the waiting helicopter and climbed on board.


Jack and Darren sat in the common room, playing cards.

     'We've got someone coming next week to teach us how to make bird boxes', Jack said.

     'That's going to be handy, out here in the middle of nowhere', Darren replied.

     He opened a packet of crisps and spread them on the formica tabletop.

     'Help yourself'.

     'It's been an odd week', Jack sighed.

     The sun was going down again, a slight orange tinge to the sky over the rough seas. A cupboard door on the wall suddenly came off its hinges and crashed to the ground right next to the pair of them.

     'That almost hit me', Darren said.

     'That would have been nasty', Jack replied. 'We'd better fix it, just in case it happens again'.

If you liked this story, please share it with others:
- Printable Version
- iPhone App
- Teaching Materials
- Mark This Story Read
- More Stories By This Author
- View Comments
- Printable Version
- iPhone App
- Teaching Materials
- Mark This Story Read
- More Stories By This Author


- View Comments
- Printable Version
- iPhone App
- Teaching Materials
- Mark This Story Read
- More Stories By This Author
Rate This Story

View And Add Comments
Related Stories: