I first began reading short stories by Brian Kirk in March of 2013. This will be the ninth time he has been featured on The Reading Life. Only writers for whom I have great regard, from any era, are given such treatment. (In the link to the Q and A session you can find links to his stories.) I urge anyone interested in the short story to read his Q and A session.
Like others of his stories "Urgent and Important" is set in a contemporary office. The narrator is a middle aged mid level civil service employee. Here is how he introduces us to his professional circumstances.
"I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will never be rich, never be what people call a successful man like my manager, Andrew Farrington. It doesn’t really bother me. There are other compensations, and one of those is to take a certain amount of pride in the work I do. Certain people think Civil Servants are lazy and over paid – and to be honest I have known some who have spent their days watching the clock – but in the main we are a diligent bunch who do important work under difficult circumstances without much thanks.
The department in which I work is constantly in the news and never for good reasons. Some of my more senior colleagues have developed the harried expressions of hunted animals in recent years. We started out young with ideas of career progressions that would see us end our days heading up departments or running divisions, retiring into a golden age of respectable ease. Perhaps an appointment to the board of one or more state bodies might be the only interruption to our leisure after a lifetime of service.
But the reality has been quite different. Here I sit, mid-career, at a tiny desk loaded with files in the middle of an anonymous open plan office in an ugly building in the centre of town. But I don’t complain. My role is clear. I have found my level and it is very much in the middle of things; I possess little power and therefore have little responsibility. Others carry that burden, those with more ability, more ambition, those who are not afraid to lead. People like my boss, Andrew."
I do not wish to tell the intriguing story line but anyone into office politics will relate. The story is funny, poignant, and very accurate in its depictions of interoffice relationships.
I look forward to following Brian Kirk for many years, to follow him and watch to see what paths he will take.