The debut novel by Clinicality founder and editor Stuart Bateman is set for publication later this year. More clinical than brutal, it’s called Grind: A Novel. This is the first excerpt from it to be published anywhere, ever.
It was after half past six on a Thursday night at the end of May, and Adam was still at his desk, and the tables, graphs and spreadsheets on his monitor were beginning to blur. All of the other workers had left, the last to leave the floor had been Neil Benson, a renowned workaholic and famously single and friendless, married to his job and his vintage car. mid-50s, he still lived with his ageing mother and the sort of man who maintained a precision-combed side parting and wore vests under his cheap white short-sleeved shirts from Asda. Only the cleaner, Terry Fuckshit – so nicknamed on account of the fact he constantly cursed under his breath as he worked, invariably alternating between ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ or various adaptations thereof – remained. Adam watched for a short time as the grouchy middle-aged man worked his way down the office, using the same dirty cloth to wipe the surface of each desk as well as the buttons and handsets of each telephone. His bald head shone under the yellow-hued overhead lights. Out of earshot, Adam couldn’t hear his angry, bitter cursing. He rubbed his eyes and returned his focus to the screen. He kept his pupils glued there as the thick-necked man in a blue tunic came closer, utterances of filth audible beneath his breath.
“Fucking bastards,” he snarled. “Fucking crumbs and shit everywhere… fucking leaving half-empty cups on desks… shit… shitters…. bleeding fuckers…”
Adam acted as though he couldn’t hear, that he was so immersed in his work as to be oblivious.
“Working late, eh?” Terry Fuckshit barked as he smeared his dirt-encrusted cloth over the first desk in the row before Adam’s.
“Yeah,” replied Adam drably, not wanting to engage any more than was strictly necessary. Something about Fuckshit made Adam feel uncomfortable.
“’Ard luck.,” the cleaner commiserated gruffly. “I work late every fuckin’ night, mind,” he added with a clear resentment as he wiped streaks of murky water across the surface of the next desk.
Adam didn’t reply.
Soon, the cleaner was at his desk. “Wannit cleanin’?” Fuckshit asked, hefting the cloth in his hand, the tattoos on his knuckles spelling ‘HATE’. The faded blue ink was fuzzy round the edges, and Adam couldn’t help wondering if he’d done the work himself – and if he’d had the work done in prison.
“Er, no, it’s ok thanks,” Adam said, as lightly as he could muster.
“Suit yersself,” Fuckshit growled and moved on to the next desk.
When he’d completed his round of cursory germ-spreading desk-wiping, Fuckshit began vacuum cleaning the stained, staple-dotted carpet, cursing all the while, and Adam decided it was time to leave.