‘Frank. Frank Talk.’
The man held out his hand.
‘Nice to put a face to the email address, Frank,’ said the second man. ‘I’m Ernest Discussion.’
‘Look, Ernest, I hope you don’t mind me beating around the bush here, but I’d like to get straight to the business at hand.’
‘Please do so. “Candid” is my middle name, after all.’
‘Truthfully. “Ernest” is my first name, after all.’
‘Right, then let’s get started.’
‘Yes, let’s. “Discussion” is my last name, after all.’
Frank narrowed his eyes.
‘The fact is, Ernest, that you’ve been late to submit the last few drafts of your manuscript papers. I’d like to know why this is the case, in order to determine whether there is sufficient justification to defend your position when I speak later with my boss.’
As Ernest opened his mouth to respond, the rehearsed excuses surging from his brain skidded to an abrupt halt at the very tip of his tongue. He had, until just a moment before, thought of his lateness as pardonable. Because, well, work commitments, et cetera. It was only as he attempted to form that vague, comfortable defence into an articulated argument that he tasted its bitter falseness. A vision came to him of the flock of unfinished origami cranes in his office bin, and he blushed. His mind had not ignored the opportunities for productivity to devote itself to another, more important task; it had simply wandered off towards something shiny.
He sighed inwardly, deciding that there was no other option but to throw himself at the mercy of his stone-faced companion. Before he could begin though, a surprised yell came from behind the two men.
Ernest swivelled in his seat to view the interrupter.
‘Molly!’ he replied, recognising the face as belonging to a former university colleague. He felt a familiar twinge of inexplicable discomfort meeting her after this many years.
‘Frank,’ he said. ‘This is Mollifying Jargon. We did our undergrad together.’
‘Please, call me Molly,’ she said, leaning over the table to shake Frank’s outstretched hand. ‘Don’t let me interrupt this strategic consultation. Nothing so productive for laying the building blocks for a synergistic relationship as some good, old-fashioned face time. Especially for Creatives like y’selves. What did I always used to say about social currency, Ern? Communicate, innovate and propagate.’
Molly smiled, glowing with humble wisdom, then gave a little wave to her blank-faced audience and tottered off towards the café counter.
There was a pause while the two men tried to remember the lives they had each led, before being changed by such sage advice.
Finally, Frank said, ‘Jargon, hey? What an interesting last name.’
‘I believe it’s foreign,’ replied Ernest.
‘Ah,’ said Frank, raising his eyebrows then nodding sympathetically.
A minute or so later, Ernest spotted another acquaintance hovering nearby, and suggested they leave before he was recognised.
‘An old neighbour – Hal Itosis,’ said Ernest to Frank quietly, by way of explanation.
Outside the cafe, the two men peeled away from each other awkwardly, both equally aware of the unfinished status of their conversation.
Frank went away to sit and frown.
Ernest went away to attempt another origami crane.