By Clyde Liffey
Everyone in our department fears the ugly man. Smart, humorless, he rose to his position, a way station we’ve been told, not so much by politicking but by a kind of relentless intelligence and impatience that meshed somehow with our founders’ culture. We long-timers – the firm began in 19--; a few of us have been here nearly that long – noticed that as he rose his wardrobe became not better but more expensive. Some days he looks almost dapper in his tailored ill-chosen clothes; other days his physique and facial features are accentuated.
His wife came in one day. She was homely too but her features were somehow better masked.
Our boss was in an ill mood after she left. No one dared approach him till Charlie, manila folder in hand, whispered a tease into his hairy ear. The boss straightened up, reddened a little. We quaked but the ugly man smiled and suddenly he seemed – almost decent.
Clyde Liffey lives near the water.