One Morning in Victor Wicox's Life

Monday, January 13th, 1986. Victor Wilcox lies awake, in the dark bedroom, waiting for his quartz alarm clock to bleep. It is set to do this at 6.45. How long he has to wait he doesn't know. He could easily find out by groping for the clock, lifting it to his line of vision, and pressing the button that illuminates the digital display. But he would rather not know. He feels as if he is the only man awake in the entire world.

The alarm clock cheeps.

He presses the snooze button* on the clock with a practised fin­ger and falls effortlessly asleep. Five minutes later, the alarm wakes him again, cheeping insistently like a mechanical bird. Vie sighs, hits the Off button on the clock, switches on his bedside lamp, gets out of bed and paddles through the deep pile of the bedroom carpet to the en suite bathroom.

* A button one the alarm clock; pressing the snooze button during the alarm action sequences will temporarily terminate the sequences for 8 or 9 minutes, then the sequences will start over again. Snooze function can be repeated as many times as desired within the 1 hour 59 minutes alarm sequences.

He does not greatly care for the dark purplish suite but it had been one of the things that attracted Marjorie when they bought the house two years ago — the bathroom, with its kidney-shaped handbasin and goldplated taps and sunken bath and streamlined loo and bidet. And, above all, the fact that it was 'en suite'.

Vic flushes the toilet and steps on to the bathroom scales. Ten stone, two ounces. Quite enough for a man only five feet, five and a half inches tall. Vic frowns in the mirror above the handbasin, thinking again of last month's accounts, the annual review... He runs hot water into the dark purple bowl, lathers his face with shaving foam from an aerosol can, and begins to scrape his jaw with a safety razor.

Vic wipes the tidemark of foam from his cheeks and fingers the shaven flesh appraisingly. Dark brown eyes stare back at him. Who am I? He grips the washbasin, leans forward on locked arms, and scans the square face. You know who you are: it's all on file at Divi­sion*.

* Division file: a file containing the minimum of information about an employee (cf. "личное дело").

Wilcox: Victor Eugene. Date of Birth: 19 Oct. 1940. Place of Birth: Easton, Rummidge, England. Marital Status: married (to Marjorie Florence Coleman, 1964). Children: Raymond (b. 1966), Sandra (b. 1969), Gary (b. 1972). Present Position: Managing Direc­tor, J. Pringle & Sons Casting and General Engineering.

That's who I am.

Vic grimaces at his own reflection, as if to say: somebody has to earn a living in this family.

He shrugs on his dressing-gown, which hangs from a hook on the bathroom door, switches off the light, and softly re-enters the dimly lit bedroom. Marjorie has, however, been woken by the sound of plumbing.

'Is that you?' she says drowsily; then, without waiting for an an­swer, 'I'll be down in a minute.'

'Don't hurry,' says Vic. Don't bother would be more honest, for he prefers to have the kitchen to himself in the early morning, to prepare his own simple breakfast and enjoy the first cigarette of the day undisturbed.

He picks up the Business Section of the Times and takes it into the kitchen. While the kettle is boiling he scans the front page.

The kettle boils. Vic makes a pot of strong tea, puts two slices of white bread in the toaster, and opens the blinds on the kitchen win­dow to peer into the garden. A grey, blustery morning, with no frost. One morning not long ago he saw a fox walking past this same win­dow.

Vic has eaten his two slices of toast and is on his third cup of tea and first cigarette of the day when Marjorie shuffles into the kitchen in her dressing-gown and slippers. She carries the Daily Mail, whichhas just been delivered.

' Shall I do you a bit of bacon?' says Marjorie.

'No, I've finished.'

Vic takes the Daily Mail. The tempo of his actions begins to ac­celerate. He strides through the kitchen, where Marjorie is listlessly loading his soiled breakfast things into the dishwasher, and runs up the stairs. Back in the en suite bathroom, he briskly cleans his teeth and brushes his hair. He goes into the bedroom and puts on a clean white shirt and a suit. He has six business suits, which he wears in daily rotation. Today is the turn of the navy-blue pinstripe. He se­lects a tie diagonally striped in dark tones of red, blue and grey. He levers his feet into a pair of highly polished black calf Oxfords*.



* Walking shoes laced above the instep.

When he comes downstairs again, Marjorie helps him on with his camelhair overcoat. 'When will you be home?' she inquires.

'I don't know. You'd better keep my dinner warm.'

She closes her eyes and tilts her face towards him. He brushes her lips with his.

Vic passes through the glazed porch and out into the open air. The cold wind ruffles his hair and makes him flinch for a moment. As he approaches the garage door it swings open as if by magic — in fact by electricity, activated by a remote-control device in Vic's pocket. He backs the car out, shutting the garage door with another touch on the remote control. Vic puts the automatic gear level into Drive, and glides away.

Now begins the best half-an-hour of the day, the drive to work. Vic swings on to the motorway, going north-west, and for a few miles gives the Jaguar its head, moving smoothly up the outside lane at 90.

Vic is very near his factory now. He turns down Coney Lane and reaches the main entrance. The barrier is raised and he drives to his personal parking space.

Vic pushes through the swing doors to the reception lobby.

'Good morning, Vic.' His secretary, Shirley, smirks from be­hind her desk.

'Morning, Shirley. Make us a cup of coffee, will you?'

He hangs up his camelhair coat in the anteroom, shrugs off the, jacket of his suit and drapes it over the back of a chair. He sits down at his desk and opens his diary. He leafs through the file of corre­spondence in his Intray. He lights a cigarette, inhales deeply, and blows two plumes of smoke through his nostrils. Through walls and windows comes a muffled compound noise of machinery and traf­fic, the soothing, satisfying sound of men at work.

(Extract from "Nice Work" by David Lodge. Abridged)

Discussion points.

1. Vic grimaces at his own reflection. What kind of grimace can it be? Can you imitate it and show it to the class?

2. Vic prefers to remain alone in the morning. What about you?

3. What kind of person is Vic? Prove your point.

4. Imagine what else Vic will do on this day. How will his day end?

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