Lucian sat on the bench by the roadside. In front of him stood the two offices to which he had been given the keys. To the left, the Inkwell Translation Agency and to the right Kalam Language Services. It was long past nine o'clock and behind both closed doors, people were waiting for him and his expertise. This was his first day at work.

How had he come to be in possession of both keys? It's a very story; the story of a man who had never learnt to make a decision. Until this point in time, life had been easy. His birth and upbringing in the small Staffordshire town of Ashley, his schooldays during which his hatred of all things scientific and outstanding ability to express him in almost any language he turned his hand to. Yes, Lucian was a very talented young man, and would normally have received several offers at some of the country's leading universities. But his antipathy to Maths had meant his only just gaining a GCSE in the subject, and that at the third time of trying. This weakness actually played into Lucian's hands. For of the five he had actually applied to, four didn't have anything but a very basic language program, because in order to avoid having to make a decision, he'd opened his book at random and without looking stuck a pin in order to pick the names from the list. As a result he'd only received one firm offer, and had reached the age of 18 without ever having to take a major decision in life.

But now, he'd come to the end of his course and things were getting complicated. His speciality at university had been German and Russian and he'd also taken courses in Arabic, French and Italian. Not only that he'd been active in the school writer's group and had won several prizes for various pieces he wrote. So great had his success been, that a journalist had been dispatched to the university to interview him, and as a result two companies had contacted him about a job interview.

Kalam Language Services was the country's leading language specialist offering language services to those working in the Middle East and other Arabic countries. The local branch had recently taken on an import/export business dealing with both Middle East and Eastern Europe countries. After an informal introduction, they invited Lucian for an interview and he offered a contract without further ado. He would begin on Monday and take his first trip to Saudi Arabia the following week. Both Lucian and the local director were delighted. He did not know of Lucian's propensity for avoiding any kind of decision making.

This came to the fore when Lucian went the next day to be interviewed by the Inkwell Translation Agency a small family company with dreams of picking up trade from the emerging Eastern European markets. They were very impressed with Lucian's ability in Russian as well as his writing skills. They asked him for an interview but signed him up within five minutes of arrival. Again, he was to start work first thing Monday morning. Like, Kalam Language Services they'd already given him an office key, so he could come and go at will.

What was Lucian to do? It was the first time he'd ever had to ask himself that question and he felt tormented by it. For three days he'd agonised over what to do without coming to a conclusion. At first he'd hoped someone else would come to his aid. But there were no flashed of lightening and no genies appearing from nowhere with magic messages telling him exactly what he needed to do. Agnes had been no help either. She had also gotten a job in town, so he couldn't use her as an excuse and take a job where she went. Agnes was also something he'd stumbled into without really knowing how. They'd met at a blind date. Both Lucian and Agnes had been asked along to make up a foursome and when the two others vanished, they were left together. They'd stayed together since. That was almost six months ago, now. And Lucian always thanked his lucky stars that he'd got a girl without actually having to chose one.

Inspiration came early Sunday evening. Sally would help him and he quickly picked up the phone and dialled his sister's number.

"Hi Mark! It's Lucian here. Could I speak to Sally, please."

"What's it about this time, Lucian. Don't you think it's about time you decided to make your own way through life. You won't have Sally next to you all the time, you know."

Lucian tried to think when he had last called Sally. Of course, there'd been that question from the family's solicitor about his share of the inheritance. He hadn't wanted to do anything without her approval in case he impinged in any way on her share of the inheritance.

"Come on Mark, just let me speak to Sally okay. This is an emergency."

"But she's upstairs making music with the kids, I don't want to disturb her now. We don't have enough time together as it is."

"Well, just get her to phone me back when she can, will you."

Mark hung up with a promise, but Lucian somehow doubted she would ring back. He picked up the phone again and punched out her mobile number.

"Lucian, Mark told you I can't speak to you now. I'll call back this evening. Now, please leave in peace!"

It was almost ten o'clock before Sally did phone back. Lucian explained the situation, but how on earth could she help him? She asked him lots of questions to get him to try and compare the two offers: how much each employer was offering; the workers hours; how much travel would be involved in each; what additional benefits would there be. But Lucian knew nothing about any of these. Since he wasn't going to make a decision, he'd not even asked any of these questions. They just didn't interest him.

Some eight hours later Lucian arrived at the bus stop in front of the two offices. He looked over the road at the two buildings before him. It was only now that he noticed that they actually shared the same entrance. He would simply have to go in through the arched entrance and turn either right or left, once he got to the stairs. A simple decision really. But just imagine the consequences if he made a mistake. Lucian took the latest edition of Writer's Monthly and started to read. If he didn't get these thoughts of failure out of his head, he would have a massive panic attack. That was the last thing he needed, this morning. He was slowly calming down, when the town hall clock struck 7 o'clock. Just two more hours before he would be expected in one - no, in both - of these offices. And he still didn't have a clue which one to chose. As time passed, he realised that the only option open to him would be to toss a coin. He got out his wallet and searched for a coin. He found two. Which one should he use. They were different sizes, one being far bigger than the other. What if one of them falsified the results by coming down more often on heads than the other. He'd get it all wrong. No, he couldn't toss a coin.

He sat there on the bench and looked up. The two offices looked quite different, yet there was nothing in their aspect that made him favour the one over the other. At 8 o'clock lights started to appear in the various windows. Despite the spring coming early this year, it remained quite dark until 9 o'clock. Watching the lights coming on one after the other, he thought that would be his sign. He would examine the two offices carefully and see in whose windows lights would first come on. He only had another 5 minutes to wait. At 8.07 a secretary working for KLS flicked on the lights. Lucian had his sign. Unfortunately, he couldn't decide what the sign actually meant. Was he to chose that firm, or the other? The former seemed more conscientious as they arrived earlier. Would they work him too hard? Was Inkwell too lax, so that he wouldn't advance as he had hoped. How on earth was he to know?

So he remained seated on his bench. The clock struck nine and still he couldn't decide. Maybe, he should go home and try again tomorrow. Perhaps try phoning Sally again. Surely, something had to come up. 10 o'clock rang out. It woke him out of his lethargy. Now was the moment of decision. He got up and walked slowly across the road. He didn't run but he did step out determinedly. The time had come to make up his mind. For the first time in his life he would take a decision. He stepped past the few passers by and pushed open the big double door leading into the block. Left or right...? He still didn't know but kept on going down the passage towards the stairs. It was right now that he saw the advert that helped make up his mind. Arriving at the staircase he went neither left nor right. Instead he went down to the offices of the Castle Tower Job Agency. That's where he would go. They would find him his job.


This was a real cautionary tale to me, someone who also has trouble making decisions (thank God not as much trouble as poor Lucian!)

You built the suspense very well, and I found myself racing reading ever faster trying to find out what he would do. Well done!

10 November 2007 at 16:54  

i would imagine there is a name for this most profound form of mental illness.......

10 November 2007 at 18:30  

Nicely written display of indecisiveness. Right? Left?

11 November 2007 at 20:04  

Magnificently done! Such a compelling read. Poor Lucian, indeed.

12 November 2007 at 00:36  

It doesn't happen to me too often, but I hate it when I can't make a decision. This was very well written. Thank you!

12 November 2007 at 08:58  

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