‘Annual review’

‘Thanks for coming in Geoff. Have a seat.’ The boss clears her throat and leans forward on the leather-topped desk. ‘Now, you’ve been with us a long time, haven’t you?’ Her eyes fall down like a doll’s, in a way that makes Mr Winters suspect there is something heavy inside of her.

‘What is it?’ he asks.

‘Look, you do a great job. Doing the scenes for the Christmas cards. Operating in such difficult conditions. It’s a tough gig. And despite all of that, you turn up every day, 90 days in a row. There’s no denying your tenacity.’

‘Despite what everyone thinks of me.’

‘Indeed. Actually, I’m glad you mentioned that. It’s no surprise, is it, how the public feels towards you?’

‘Nah boss. I’m used to it.’

‘See, the thing is, the people are voting on all sorts at the moment – if you ask me they’re getting a wee bit carried away – but the result of this one, well, it has some very serious consequences for you.’

‘I don’t understand. What’s it got to do with them?’

‘Well, they had a good old think about what they like the best and it turned out people love the vibrancy of spring, the warmth of summer, the colours of autumn, and you came out bottom of the list.’

‘What?’

‘I know! I mean, we ran a campaign for you; for everyone…’

‘What about my stark beauty? Casseroles and nights in? Did they even think… about the snowmen…?’ His voice cracks.

‘See, they get a taste of that in autumn. Turns out that’s enough for most people. Maybe if you’d tried harder on the snow front -‘

‘What? Snow was never one of my KPIs! I’ll show them snow. Six feet deep. Avalanches. Icicles longer than javelins. I’ll -‘

The boss cuts him off. ‘I’m afraid you won’t, Geoff. The people have made their decision. We’ve terminated your contract.’

Mr Winter screws his pale features into a grimace: the expression he makes when dispatching weather.

‘Sorry. Your permissions have already been disabled. You’ll be escorted – ‘

The man before her is stiffening alarmingly. The colour is falling out of him, and his joints begin to crack. ‘Are you alright?’ she asks. It’s no use. He has broken into pieces and is becoming puddles on the carpet.

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