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Friday short story time: "Ruiners"

Another Friday story this week. Last week’s effort, by the way, was read out to my creative writing MA class on Wednesday and went over pretty well, which was nice.

And today’s is possibly the closest I come to “proper” blogging at the moment, too. This is basically a heavily fictionalised version of something that happened to me on Monday, in that one of the things here really took place.

The rest of it didn’t, admittedly. It also has a back-and-forth-in-time structure, because I like those.


By Nick Bryan


Everyone likes to think there was no better feeling than a job well done, but it still feels even better when you both do a good job and get it acknowledged by your damn superiors.

So when Andrew had gotten an email from his boss saying “Good work, Andrew – you’ve really done a job here”, he couldn’t pretend he didn’t love it. After skipping around the office for a while, trying not to boast to his co-workers or knock anything off their desks, he’d settled back down and announced it to his few hundred followers on Twitter.

He’d made a cup of coffee and it had worked out beautifully. Aromatic, flavoursome, it left his throat feeling like it had been gently stimulated with velvet. This could, he thought, be his best day in years, and he’d had some bad ones in the past.

In fact, he was so overjoyed, not to mentioned determined to put off returning to work for another twenty minutes, Andrew called his girlfriend Jenny, both to share the good news and say that, yes, they should have dinner with her parents this evening. Why not? Things were going so well.

Not to mention, he got on well with the not-yet-in-laws anyway. They even regularly commented on each other’s Facebook statuses – his friends thought it was sickening. So this was nothing to be scared of.


Among the orange mood lighting, at a table that appeared to have been stolen from a rustic farmhouse, an awkward silence had descended before the starter even arrived.

‘So, Andy,’ her father began, despite the fact even Jenny called him “Andrew”, ‘did you see the game last night? Pretty good, eh?’

‘Oh, yes, good. We played well.’ He trailed off.

Giving Andrew a look that suggested intense disappointment, not-Dad returned to his soup without further comment. Even Jenny, who didn’t like football and was always bored by the two of them discussing it, glared.

‘So, Victoria,’ trying to pull something back, he turned to the mother, ‘how’s the business? Sell many socks lately?’

It didn’t take him long to realise this had been an error. ‘Actually, Andrew,’ her voice was shooting up the octaves now, ‘you might remember that the business went under last month.’

‘Oh.’ He reached for the right response. ‘Sorry to hear that.’

‘You already knew that, Andy, what’s the matter with you?’ Jenny looked genuinely scared that her father was about to put his fist through Andrew’s jawbone. She stood up, rattling all the cutlery, and tugged on her boyfriend’s shoulder. ‘Andrew, do you want to come with me while we wait for the starters and look at the… wines?’

No-one bothered to point out that they had a wine list on the table, had all ordered drinks already and their starters were just coming over now.

Before he really knew what was happening, Andrew was on the other side of the room, failing to justify himself.

‘What on earth?’ To her credit, she was just about appearing concerned rather than angry. ‘What’s wrong? Did something happen this afternoon? Did you have one of your bad moods?’


With amazing work success in the morning, and a nice dinner to look forward to that evening, Andrew was relaxing in the office. The second half of the day was slipping pleasantly away from him, on a tide of light work and occasional checking of Twitter.

He’d just made his fourth hot drink of the day, traditionally the last one, so the end was nigh. He zipped off another email, proofed his latest spreadsheet, and then took another quick social media break. “OH MY GOD,” said one internet acquaintance, “what the hell is this? Can’t believe some people.”

Andrew paused for a second before clicking on it. As Jenny kept telling him, he was a sensitive soul. Best not to look at anything too horrific, but no-one had said anything about this being really disturbing.

So he went for it, the web page opened, and the strangled gurgle that emerged from Andrew’s throat drew the attention of a few nearby colleagues. Some news story about a cat being killed and left on someone’s doorstep to make some cheap political point. He didn’t get the details, because he closed it as soon as he realised it came with a picture.

And then he just stared, before fleeing his office to pace the corridors. There was a pounding rising in his ears and a gurgling in his stomach. The day was ruined, wasn’t it?

And there we have it. It was the thing with the dead cat webpage, if you didn’t realise, and then I was slightly down for the rest of the day. Luckily, unlike poor Andrew, I had no important event that evening, but nonetheless, beware the internet. There’s some bad stuff out there, and not all of it is horse porn.

Sorry. There won’t be a moral at the end of every story now, I promise. Copyright me 2012, please don’t steal, email me if you want it for anything, have a lovely week, etc.


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