Fire Retardi

‘Pass me the file, son,’ said Uncle Flash.

‘This one?’ asked Sparks.

‘No, the other one, the one on the left.’

Sparks passed the manilla-bound sheaf of papers across to his uncle who slowly opened it and studied it for a few minutes in silence.

Sparks waited politely for him to finish. It was his first week so he did not want to cause what his mother would refer to as ‘a conniption.’

Flash read through several pages and then sighed heavily.

‘I was worried about this,’ he said. ‘They were supposed to reference the 32 B report in here and it looks like they have missed it. This is going to have to go back to the authors for redrafting yet again.’

‘Are you sure I gave you the right file?’ asked Sparks. ‘There seem to be quite a few here with the number 32 on them.’

‘Quite sure,’ his uncle replied. This is file 64, not 32, but it is supposed to reference files 32, 32 A and 32 B. There has been a mistake, it will have to be redone. Don’t stress out about it though,’ he added, ‘it happens all the time.’ His arm traced a slow arc as he tossed the file back onto the desk.

‘How long have Tardigrades been running this office, uncle?’

‘Oh a good while now. I have been here all my life, that is for sure.’

‘And how long is that, Uncle Flash?’ asks Sparks.

Uncle Flash thought for a bit.

‘Not sure,’ he replied, ‘quite a time. I am pretty sure the dinosaurs were still about when I started here.’

‘Dinosaurs used to work in this office?’ said Sparks.

‘Don’t be insane, Sparks, of course dinosaurs did not work in this office, bloody great big hulking things – imagine the mess. Plus,’ he added, ‘their filing skills are atrocious.’

‘So where were the dinosaurs? asked Sparks.

‘Not surprising, really,’ continued his uncle, ‘I mean when you name begins with PT but the P is silent, there is kind of a big clue right there as to how good they are with the alphabet.’

‘So you have always been in the office. Have the Tardigrades always run this office?’

‘We make good office workers, said Uncle Flash, ‘patient, methodical and with the ability to withstand extreme temperatures. Pass me that stapler, son.’

Sparks handed him the stapler.

‘Now watch carefully,’ said his uncle as he slid another pile of papers off his desk then used the stapler to fix them together, returning the stapler to the desk before turning to face Sparks. He tapped the now stapled sheaf once, then once again.

‘This report here is the report on the previous report I mentioned.’

‘Number 64?’ said Sparks. His uncle rolled his eyes.

‘Slow down, kid. No, not number 64. This report is on report number 32. So we label this as Metareport 32.’

‘Right,’ said Sparks, ‘Got it.’

Flash held up a tiny paw to stop him.

‘Goddammit kid, was your mother a sloth? Stop trying to go so fast. This is the  second metareport 32, so what do you think we call it?’

‘Umm, Metametareport 32?’ tried Flash.

‘Nice try,’ said his Uncle, ‘but unsustainable. So we assign a version number, making it  metareport 32.1.’

‘Got it,’ said Sparks.

‘Are you sure?’ said his uncle, ‘Because not all people get it the first time. Even though it is the second version, we add .1, because the first version is technically version 0, although the zero is silent.’

‘Like the P in pterodactyl.’ said Flash.

The bell rang for morning tea.

‘Thank God,’ said Flash, ‘it has been quite a morning. Right, any questions before we go?’

‘Yeah,’ said Sparks, ‘You mentioned before about our ability to withstand extreme temperatures. If that is the case, how come we are office workers and not fire fighters?’

‘Fire?’ said his uncle, ‘Fire? Are you mad? Look at all the papers. This place would go up in flames in a second. The insurance claim alone would be horrendous, and the paperwork…’ He shuddered slightly. ‘Put that thought right out of your head, young man.’

‘Yes sir,’ said Sparks.

‘Right, follow me.’ said his uncle as he ambled away towards the door. ‘I think it is custard creams this morning. There could be a rush on.”





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