6.07 / London Calling

Adrian Dumpleton

Adrian Dumpleton, oh my God. Adrian Dumpleton, oh my God. I could grate cheese on his abs, if he were to develop some, and then use the cheese to make him the world’s most amorous sandwich. Adrian Dumpleton would devour the sandwich and then we would fly to Paris. Doubtless he is the kind of man to make reckless decisions like that. Every time I glance over at his desk, he inspires me to edit screenplays in my head, re-writing film roles so they will suit him better. Adrian Dumpleton in Kes, jutting out his full bottom lip while seductively tearing a kestrel in half. Adrian Dumpleton doing keepie-ups in Castaway. Adrian Dumpleton in Cocktail, his tight proud gut packaged in a sparkly shirt, stood behind a bar mixing endless snakebites, black and tans, Vimto and mild.

He is an administrative assistant, like Kelly and I, in Sheffield. I wish you could see him. To look upon his gigantic superhero-style chin is to instantaneously develop a chin fetish, and treat chinless men with the same mixture of pity and disgust as one treats sick infants. He hasn’t been here for about a week, actually. He’s probably on holiday. After his lunch break he smells like Marlie Lights and cream of tomato and makes me wish I were cigarettes, wish I were soup.

Kelly doesn’t seem to see it.

‘What do you reckon of him, then?’ I asked her, a week after he had started here at Blunt-Palmer. I can’t remember the exact details-it was three years ago-but it’s almost a certainty that we were sat in the break room drinking muddy vending-machine coffee, and it was pissing it down outside.

‘Bit weird-looking, int he?’ said Kelly.

‘Yeah, but, you know. Alright, like.’

‘Ah, I dunno. Thought he’d got a fat lip when he first come in. That or a bee stung it.’

‘I spose. He’s shy an all.’

‘Too right he’s bloody shy! He’s said about two bloody words to us since he started.’

‘Aw, I know. Bless. Little lamb.’

Kelly snorted. ‘Little dickhead more like.’

That settled it, then. We were going to compete for Adrian Dumpleton. Of course-it was inevitable that we would share Dumpletonian dreams, clashing over them while he sat in his corner of the office next to the radiator, silent and sexual as a bangable houseplant. I wondered which of us would be victorious. Would it be Kelly who would get to ride on Adrian Dumpleton’s back through the supermarket, as though it were normal, and have people grow tired and irritable looking at them? She is all skin and bones, and still had her bob back then. Surely it ought to be I, who could only look resplendent as Napoleon crossing the Alps, folding my arms over Adrian Dumpleton’s gorgeously avian chest and directing him to the frozen food aisle?

None of that happened, as it turns out. Adrian Dumpleton sits perfectly silently in his corner and has said perhaps seventeen sentences to either Kelly or I in the entirety of his time at Blunt-Palmer, nearly all of them regarding the borrowing of a stapler. I have only had one real conversation with him, about a year ago. Naturally, it was electric.

He had been gone all morning. When Kelly and I came back from the break room after lunch he had appeared at his desk, brand new and smouldering. He wore a full suit, the shirt conscientiously untucked, and a fine yellow stubble was dusting that titanic jaw of his. He was different. The Adrian Dumpleton who silently swanned into work half a day late in his best clothes was a man that I knew would speak, laugh, take me to restaurants, win at blackjack, save the world from an improbable evil. I mentally edited the screenplay of that Romeo and Juliet with him from Titanic in it, paring it down to five minutes of Adrian Dumpleton shooting everyone in Juliet’s family, followed by an hour and a half of shagging on the beach. I sat down at my desk and Adrian Dumpleton walked over to me, looking me dead in the eyes.

‘Ehm-do you have the spreadsheet saved about April’s figures?’

‘Oh, uh, yeah. Hang about.’ I could scarcely type, of course, but I coped. ‘There you go. I’ve emailed em to you.’

‘Cheers,’ he said, turning around.

‘Are you alright, then?’ I asked.

‘Oh, well. Yeah, I spose. Thanks for asking.’ He walked back to his desk and sat down. I typed aimlessly for five minutes and left for the break room, Kelly following.

‘Ay?’ I yelped, when we were there.

‘What?’ she said.

‘What do you reckon that was?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Kelly. ‘What do you mean?’

‘All that with him!’

‘All what? I dunno where he was, if that’s what you’re on about. I came to get a Kit-Kat.’

‘Nah, listen a sec. He’s giving me the eye!’ I paced back and forth, a bag of nervous energy. Kelly yawned, and leaned against the chocolate machine, presumably eaten with jealousy.

‘He int.’

‘He is!’

‘Oh,’ mused Kelly. ‘Do you have fifty pee?’

I gave her the coin and she fed it to the machine, which did nothing.

‘I think he’s funny-looking,’ said Kelly, smacking the glass with the palm of her hand. ‘What do you reckon? Fancy him then?’

‘Um. Well. He’s alright, I spose.’

‘Ah, I spose. You don’t have another fifty pee do you?’

‘It’ll just-no, I-‘

‘I’ll go get one off him,’ she said, and left before I could stop her. I slumped into one of the coffee-stained chairs. He had dressed up for me, then. Had he been building up to this for years? Had he been seized by inspiration this morning? Where was he taking me for dinner tonight? What would our first non-conventional sex position be? If our firstborn was a girl, should we still call it Adrian, or wait for a boy?

Kelly came in and began to renegotiate with the Kit-Kat.

‘He worn’t giving you the eye, by the way.’


‘Nah, it was his mum’s funeral this morning.’

‘Um. Ohhh.


‘Oh. Do you reckon he’d still-‘

‘Probably not.’

‘Ah, you’re right.’

‘Yeah,’ said Kelly sympathetically, smugly, and right away I wanted her to perish in the most humiliating way possible. Anyone who says ‘yeah’ like that to a friend ought to be guillotined by a clown. Silly sound effects need to be provided for when the blade falls. Her stupid ‘yeah’ing head should hit the head-basket with fresh warm blood in its cheeks, before the clown plucks it out and uses it to juggle with. Forgive and forget, though.

Adrian Dumpleton, oh my God. I swear there’s never been a better man. I would kiss him on the forehead and make him dinner every day for the rest of his life. I would wallpaper a room with pictures of his genitals. I would take that fine skull of his, keep it on my desk, and open bottles of his favourite beer on that goddamned fantastic chin. He isn’t coming back. Today, Kelly told me that Adrian Dumpleton got married, and transferred to Blunt-Palmer’s Mansfield branch.

‘Married?’ I asked.


‘Um. Who to?’

‘D’you know Danielle Fosby?’

‘I dunno, do I?’

‘She works down the Ship and Pelican on weekends.’

‘Nah, I don’t.’

‘Oh. Well, they’ve moved to Mansfield an all. Bought an ouse.’

‘Poor sods.’

‘Yeah. Fancy a coffee?’

‘Ah, alright. I’ll just get this stuff done.’

I shuffled the morning’s paperwork into a neat pile, feeling hollow, editing screenplays in my head. Me in The Graduate, breaking into the church and smuggling Adrian Dumpleton onto a minibus. Me in Pet Sematary, smooshing Danielle Fosby with a lorry, the radio blasting. Me in Superman 2, or Superman 3, the one where Lois Lane’s falling, you know the one, she’s falling from one of them skyscrapers. I can’t remember why she’s falling, but she is. And Superman’s about to catch her, he flies up from underneath her and she’s alright. Gets her in his arms. It might be Superman 1. Adrian Dumpleton flying from beneath me, iron arms at the ready, rushing up at me faster than the speed of sound. And me, falling. Anyway. I searched through the drawers in my desk, and I’m pretty sure he’s nicked my stapler.

Jack Nicholls studies English at the University of Exeter. He recently completed a year of studying abroad at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, where he developed various addictions to curious American soft drinks, and also wrote this story. It is his first published work. He can be contacted at jacknichollswrites@gmail.com for any reason at all.