Ken McClure

The Trojan boy



Avedissian lay in bed and looked up at the chink of light that appeared in the vee of the curtains. Another day was dawning, another pointless, mindless day when he would go out and try to persuade people to buy products that they did not want and that he did not believe in anyway. What was the point of it all? he wondered, but he had wondered that every morning for the past two years. His next thought was to consider how many gins he had downed the previous evening, and then to feel depressed when he remembered. He got up and padded to the bathroom.

The milk he poured over his cornflakes was a little sour but he pretended not to notice until his palate threatened action if he were to go on with the charade. He emptied the contents of the plate into the bin and settled for coffee. Why didn't he have a system, he asked himself, a system for buying groceries? It wouldn't take much effort to compose a shopping list; after all, he lived alone and his tastes were simple enough.

Apathy was the problem, he admitted, but how did you escape from that? Didn't you have to care first? And what had he got to care about? His career had gone, his wife had gone, so why should he care about mere details? If the milk went sour he would buy more. If the bread ran out he would buy more. The system was adequate. He donned his overcoat, picked up his brief-case and left for the office.

The woman looked up from her desk as he entered and glanced at her watch before saying, 'Mr Firbush wants to see you.'


'Right away,’ she replied with some satisfaction.

Avedissian hesitated before knocking on the door but knew that he was only delaying the inevitable. He rapped softly with one knuckle.


'You wanted to see me?'

'I did indeed,’ said Firbush. 'Come in. Sit down.’

Avedissian felt rankled at being spoken to like a schoolboy but his face remained impassive. He sat down.

Firbush adjusted his metal-framed, blue-tinted glasses and said, 'I want you to tell me why sales in your area have dropped by fifteen per cent in the past two months.’

Avedissian shrugged his shoulders and admitted to himself that the question was not entirely unexpected, but coming from a little toad like Firbush it was hard to take. He said, 'Maxim Health Products have introduced a new range. They compete directly with ours.'

'So… what?'

‘Their stuff is better.’

There was a deathly silence in the room before Firbush snapped the pencil that he had been holding.

Avedissian realised that Firbush had broken it deliberately for effect and had probably seen it done in a film once. He wondered if the man practised his interrogation techniques in front of the mirror.

Firbush spoke in a hoarse whisper, 'Avedissian, don't you realise it is your job to convince the medical profession otherwise?' His voice rose as he added, 'It's your sole function in life!'

The thought appealed to Avedissian like horizontal sleet but he controlled himself and said, 'Of course.’

‘Then why don't you do it? You are a doctor, damn it, at least, you were once, so why can't you do it? You must know how.’

'As a doctor…’


'As an ex-doctor, as you’ve so kindly pointed out, I find it impossible to recommend something that I know to be inferior.'

The calmness of Avedissian's reply seemed to annoy Firbush even more than the answer. Firbush lost his temper and his face went deathly pale behind the blue-tinted glasses. He leaned over the desk and clenched his fingers into tight fists. 'Now let me tell you something, Avedissian,’ he hissed. ‘The real trouble with you is that you think you're too good for this job. You're just a toffee-nosed medic who doesn't want to soil his hands with a bit of honest work!'

'I'd question the honest.'

'You're not a doctor any more, Avedissian!' gloated Firbush. ‘They took your name off that magic list and there is no way that you're ever going to get back on. They don't forget about murder after a couple of years!'

'It wasn't murder!' said Avedissian, more forcibly than he had meant to and immediately regretting it, knowing that he had swallowed the bait that Firbush had put out for him.

Firbush smelled blood. 'Oh yes it was,’ he said slowly. ‘That's what the court called it. That's what it was.’

Avedissian had no defence to offer. He remained silent.

Firbush moved in for the kill. He said, 'You're all washed up as a doctor and you're all washed up with this company. You're sacked!' He waited for some kind of appeal but none was forthcoming.

Avedissian shrugged and got up to go to the door. He was about to open it when he heard Firbush mutter, 'Your wife had the right idea, poor sod.’

The comment pushed him over the edge. He turned and crossed the floor in three strides to grip Firbush by the lapels.

Panic appeared on the smaller man's face as he realised that he had gone too far. This had never been in the plan. Avedissian should have left with his tail between his legs and he, Cyril Firbush, should have gone home to tell his wife how he had been forced to sack a doctor… most unfortunate, but someone in the company had to make the tough decisions and, after all, he was the man at the top… But now, as he was transported from executive leather, like a missile leaving its silo, to be dragged across his own desk, scattering papers with his trailing Oxfords, something had gone desperately wrong.

Avedissian pinned Firbush to the wall like a butterfly. 'How dare you!' he hissed.

'She killed herself, didn't she?' squealed Firbush in a desperate attempt to salvage dignity but the look on Avedissian's face turned his bowels to water.

'Understand this! I did not murder that child. What I did do was to end his suffering in a world where the law dictated that he be allowed to go through hell for another month or so. I was struck off for it but I do not regret it. As for my wife…' Avedissian increased the tightness of his grip. 'Linda took her own life after what the newspapers and the poison pen letters and the myriads of sanctimonious little farts like you did to us in the name of… Christian values.'

'Now see here…'

'What gives you so much pleasure in other people's pain, Firbush?' demanded Avedissian.

'This is outrageous!'

'For two pins I'd…' Avedissian teetered on the brink of violence but kept his balance. He pushed Firbush away from him and sent him tumbling to the floor. Firbush scrambled to his knees and clawed at the buttons on his intercom. 'Miss Carlisle… Miss Carlisle!'

Avedissian brushed past Firbush's secretary on the way out. 'Coffee for one,' he said.

It was after eleven in the evening before Avedissian got home to the dreary flat that he had called home since Linda's death. He had had so much to drink that he encountered trouble with the lock and had to make three attempts before the tumblers were satisfied. The door swung back to let the musty cold of the hall engulf him and surround him with loneliness. This was the moment he dreaded most each day, the one when he would come home and know that he was totally alone in the world.

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