"Possession" by Karen Lethlean

His first big mistake was telling me. You gotta love over-sharing in the office. Left himself wide open, Gaz did. Never let a chance go by, one of my life rules.

So many things to get even for. I am sure Garry is the one who nicks food from the lunchroom fridge, even though clearly labelled. I even use recognisable containers, seen nesting in Garry’s waste bin, empty of course. Once I pulled them out, but Garry kept right on working, said nothing.

Fancy trying to read The Exorcist on the train, what was he thinking? Then complaining about being so engrossed he missed his station.

‘Bloody had to cross the line; wait for the next service…’ Garry announced.

Change of scenery, more time to read, I thought.

On the inward journey, Garry arrived at work in a lather of nervous tension, sweaty, with a face like a rabbit stuck in the headlights. ‘Latest stock figures?’ I’d reminded. Eventually, the book-induced haze lifted and he grasped an employment-induced haze, somewhere around his second tour through the kitchen and fridge check. Still, Gary insisted on reading The Exorcist, on the train too, no matter how much I tried to tell him, ‘not a good plan, mate.’

‘Can’t read it alone in my flat, at night.’

Garry used to sneak about during break time; change screen saver images, alter file names, I’d think, on to you - you sicko. Especially when a semi-clad sports model image came up on my screen next time I logged on.

Then I heard him saying, ‘So she fronts up to me and says…Sir, you left your book… fucken Good Samaritan. I actually tried to leave the bloody thing on the train.’ At the time I wondered why he might force a random stranger to be a victim of the dry-mouthed panic and skin-crawling repulsion those pages evoked?

‘Was I wrong? No one reads on the train, anymore.’ Garry continued.

I, for one, am so sick of hearing Garry’s opinions for his fellow travelers, ‘Everyone is so intent on screens…’

Never could get Garry to notice how many of us, who also caught trains and relished quiet journey moments. So, Gazza, if everyone commuting is in their own screen-bubble, how do you explain one of your fellow passengers noticed your attempts to leave The Exorcist behind?

Not to be deterred, Garry tried again to jettison the book. This time left where he thought no one would notice, shoved down between slats of the waiting room bench.

‘I figured no one would see it until I was at least three stations away.’

But still, a well-meaning school student, morning fresh faced in pristine, checked pinafore tapped him on the shoulder just short of vanishing in the exit gate crowd, ‘Sir, you left your book.’ A see-young-people-do-the-right-thing expression on her metal chained, soon to be straight teeth, hardly a whisker of embarrassed blush to fill out gaps between fresh crops of cheek pimples.

‘I looked down into that face and just couldn’t tell her, don’t want it, you keep it… So sure, I’d be able to leave the damn thing behind. By doing one of those set-the-book free things’, Garry continued. Am I the only one who notices Garry scratching his balls, in public? ‘Let someone else fall under its spell. Didn’t figure on a school kid.’

‘Can’t take it anymore, this book is truly evil.’ Gary told the whole office, over and over, often while he stared at the cover as if contemplating how to bring the government fiscal balance into surplus. Yet he kept reading.

His piece-de-resistance was taking the book out one lunch time. Walked down as far as the bridge. You’d think hurling the volume out mid Sydney Harbour Bridge into the swirling azure below was enough to condemn The Exorcist to the deep. Bragged big time about finally getting rid of his nightmare. Amazing to hear this recount. If true, this is THE most exercise Gaz ever took.

As I already said, his first big mistake is telling us stuff.

Took myself off to the bookshop, brought another copy. Wasn’t too hard to find. The book seller gave me a creepy grin as he took my money. But my ruse needs more. So I ran the book under a tap. Bear with me, there is a reason for all this - even though putting any book through this type of torture seems sacrilegious. Who the hell ruins a brand-new book with tap water? Then I dried The Exorcist off overnight, but only mostly. A little moisture is essential. I caught an early train to be in the office before anyone else. Then I located his top-drawer key where he always left it – under the cookie jar, from which Gary never, ever shares.

Then I left the reincarnated, risen from the deep, The Exorcist hidden in plain sight.

Well, the sight of his face, pale isn’t good enough, deathly pallor, might be closer. Hewn from alabaster, yes, that’s it. Of course, I made sure to maximize the audience concept. Letting everyone know I planned to ask for bull-dog clips which I knew Garry kept in his top drawer. He’s like Gollum, clips – my precious.

He began to gobble for words, office spaces rife with stifled giggles. The book fell from his grip as Garry’s hands shook. He still thinks The Exorcist has power. No one has told him the truth, yet.

You need to remember this man responsible for hiding all the rolls of paper hand towels. Yes, he removed them, not only from the toilets, but also from the tea-room. Fair’s fair I say. He’s not even twigged, I am responsible. Just to add to the impact I posted a potted version of this tale on Facebook.

Such a classic: hasn’t stopped Garry’s over-sharing.

How many times have I said The Exorcist… Brings on a twinge, like saying Voldermort or Beetlejuice too often?




Karen Lethlean is a trying to be retired English teacher at a Senior College. Ever Present Predator is being published by Pareidolia Volume 2 Wanderkammer as part of their memoir section. San Antonio Review will publish In Isolation. She has won awards for her writing, Bum Joke was awarded a comedy writing award. She is currently writing of military services 1972-76. In another life she is a triathlete and has competed at Hawaii Ironman world championships twice.