by D. M. Kerr
The hallway that led from the print room was unnaturally narrow and long, part of Darwit and Lee, Lawyers’ drive to maximize useful office space. From where he stood, Eng Chun could see Eunice approaching well before she was close enough for him to say hello. Today she wore a tartan kilt, in a kind of Japanese style, with a frilly hem so wide it almost touched each side of the hallway. Her black-strapped pumps made a clicking sound on the linoleum floor, and between the pumps and the fray of the kilt stretched a pair of very shapely calves—to which Eng Chun tried to keep his eyes from returning, this being an office. She wore a cream silk blouse, with a triplet of pleats on each side of the buttons, and, above a short, frilled collar, a bemused smile.
Eng Chun tapped the edge of his photocopied white paper on the palm of his hand. He had, that morning, chosen a pair of navy Ted Baker dress trousers, even though they were a bit tight due to the fact that, since the Marine One kerfuffle, he hadn’t had any chance to work out in his condo’s gym. But, like the condo, the Ted Bakers had been a punishing investment, and he couldn’t let them just hang in his closet.
Above the trousers, as if to complement them, he wore his standard white shirt, off the discount rack at John Little. Others in the legal firm were into designer dark solids, but Eng Chun wasn’t willing to push the boundaries of prudency that far.
As she approached, Eunice’s smile broadened into a full grin. Eng Chun grinned back, and the width of their grins grew as they approached each other as a kind of proximity signal. By the time she was near enough to greet, Eng Chun’s jaws had begun to ache.
“You went and broke it.” Eunice spoke first, jutting her small, molded chin toward the photocopier room. She had a slightly childish accent, sloppy in its vowels, but undergirded by a musk of adult huskiness.
“I broke what?” Eng Chun’s voice, today, was surprisingly tenor, like the wisp of a fan.
“No, lah! It’s working fine.”
Eunice came to a halt close enough that Eng Chun caught a whiff of something like orchid. She peered into the print room, where the massive copier squatted in its sterile enclosure, humming and grunting to itself like the polar bear at the zoo.
Eunice was a good ten cm shorter than Eng Chun, even with the half-heels of her pumps. The fluffy porcupine explosion of her black hair, the source of the orchid scent, came almost to his chin. He remembered how, when he had first seen her, he had considered the hairstyle low class. Now, he assured himself, I only look at the inside.
She turned her face sideways. “You messy lawyer. You left paper all over the floor.”
“Not me! Some other ah beng did that.”
“I don’t know about you boys. How did you get to be lawyers and never learn to clean?”
“I keep my flat very tidy.” That was only technically true: he’d cleaned his micro unit the week before, and it had yet to relapse into squalor.
Eunice clicked her teeth and rubbed the tip of her short, stubby nose with one finger. She turned back to Eng Chun and smiled, and, as part of the same motion, raised her lanyard. The door of the room slid open obediently. Eng Chun stepped in behind her: the Marine One redraft wasn’t due for another four hours yet.
“You’ll make someone a good husband,” she cooed over the photocopier, as she tapped her lanyard against the reader. “Women like men who clean up after themselves.”
“What about you?” Yes, it was forward, but it fit in with the kind of jokey, nonsensical tone that had colored their conversation for the last week.
Eunice giggled something like hiccups. She kicked backward with her bare calves, and bent her head slightly closer to the dashboard of the copier. “I don’t like lawyers,” she said. “Anyway. I was talking to the photocopier, not you.”
D. M. Kerr is the writing name of a Canadian writer currently living and working in Singapore, where he teaches game design and business. His work has been published in over thirty journals, including The Timberline Review and the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library’s So It Goes journal. He’d rather be a lawyer than a photocopier.