My Big Brother: I

Fiction By Tahlia Grant // 4/29/2012

“William Charles Maxwell the Third, will you get your feet off the table and listen for once!”
“I am listening. I just don't look like it.”
“Prove it.”
“How?”
“Tell me what I said when I first came in.”
“You were snapping at the doorman.”
“To you.”
“You dropped a stack of papers on my desk, waited for a few seconds, then said 'Put that Slinky away -these papers need filing.' Then you paused. 'William,' you said, and paused again. 'William, pay attention,' you said, louder. After that you slammed your fist down.”
“For some reason that didn't have much effect.”
“Maybe you should stop doing it so often.”
“I wish that would work with the worms in my spaghetti. I've put Tohlie onto researching ways to get you back for that.”
I gave her a thumbs up and continued sending the Slinky from one hand to the other.
“William!”
I tucked the Slinky into a jacket pocket.
“They don't really taste that different, do they? Once they're covered in sauce -”
“That's not the point.”
“What is the point, Shelly?”
“It's Chel Ania. Just file those papers.”
She hadn't been out of the room three seconds when Stenny poked his spiky black head in.
“Hey, Trax, Dinji's goggles cracked and y' need to order a replacement.”
I nodded, and waved him away.
All in all, being the secretary of an Evil Overlord could be better, but it could be worse. Contrary to what most people believed, I wasn't here because Joe -or Endenternioth, as he preferred to be called -did it as a favor to our late parents. (He's an Evil Overlord. What do you think?) Rather, it was so he could keep his eye on me, to make sure my pranks didn't go beyond worms in the spaghetti. So my rooms -all of them -were bugged. I just pretended I didn't know my bedroom was bugged, so he wouldn't get suspicious. And so that's the only recording he would listen to.
Maybe I should add that I was also the test subject of various new devices he had created.
“Statistics analysis, sir.” A few papers held together by a paper clip appeared on the desk in front of me. A person I hadn't seen enter the room was leaving. In fact, in the three years she'd been working for me, I'd never seen her enter the room.
“Anything interesting, Tohlie?”
She paused at the doorway, then turned to give me the only expression that ever appeared on her face: a raised eyebrow.
“Please define 'interesting', sir.”
“Not normal.”
“Yes, sir.” She turned to go. Tohlie only ever gave you the information you specifically asked for.
“Wait -what? What is it? I need to act intelligent when I give my report at the end of the week, and I never read these things.”
“There is a perfect storm for Endenternioth, sir.”
“You can call him Joe around me.”
She ignored me. “The precise conditions for the formulation of a hero, companion, mentor, intelligent guide, and skilled warrior have been reached.”
I blinked. Tohlie took this as a signal to leave.
“No -wait. Who's who? What's going on?”
“A young man in the army, sir, has the lofty goal of dethroning Endenternioth. He is receiving counsel from an old hermit, and a fellow soldier is training him in weaponry.”
“What about the other two?”
“You and me, sir.”
I froze, and Tohlie again attempted an exit.
“Wait -wait.”
If Tohlie ever had a desire to punch someone, it must be now and it must be me. But you can't deny my honest astonishment and curiosity.
Tohlie showed no signs of any violent behavior -she never showed signs of any behavior aside from dutiful efficiency -so I motioned her back into the room.
“Sit down. Explain.”
Since I was her boss, she had to listen to me, but I couldn't tell whether she had a particular wish to. Really -I couldn't tell anything about her.
“How do you and I get caught up in this mess?”
“I'm still running the data, sir.”
“What about the other three? What will happen to them?”
“When you give the report, sir, Endenternioth will have them executed.”
“And what about us?” Not to sound callous ...but I was worried about myself a bit more than them.
“We will be executed, sir.” Her dark brown eyes stared straight into mine without a flicker of emotion.
“What if I lie?” As I said, my office was bugged ...but Joe considered that to be the least of his concerns. And if need be, Tohlie could replace the recordings.
“Endenternioth expects something of the sort soon, sir. Your deception would be discovered quickly.”
“What if you redid the data reports?”
“I would be discovered, sir, shortly before my slow and painful death.” She looked and sounded as if she couldn't care less.
“And what if I'm the one who puts you up to it?”
“We would both die slow and painful deaths, sir.”
“Why do you have such an implicit trust in your own demise?”
“Why shouldn't I, sir?”
“We could get away.”
I still couldn't read her face, and I really wanted to right now. She could be thinking 'What a wonderful idea!' or 'What are you thinking, you idiot? I'm going to report you as soon as possible' or anything in between.
“What do you think?”
“I'll run the calculations, sir.”
“That's not thinking. What do you think?”
“I'm not paid to tell you what I think, sir. I'm only paid to provide the facts.”
“Look, if you don't like it -here, we can bring the others. I don't like executions any more than anyone else.”
It wasn't a question, so Tohlie didn't answer.
“What are you thinking? Tell me.”

Comments

I like this :)

It's quite funny :D I'd love to read more!

Laura Elizabeth | Tue, 05/01/2012

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The best stories are those that are focused, unassuming, and self-confident enough to trust the reader to figure things out. --

http://lauraeandrews.blogspot.com/2014/05/dont-tell-me-hes-smart.html

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