Work, Rest and Play | Steve Ashton

All they want is for you to be a good company man.


Work, Rest & Play

By Steve Ashton

For The Get Your Ass To Mars Award


“We’re sending you to Mars,” Derek says. “What seven essentials would you like?”
Derek’s my boss at Belper, Fescue & Dreep solicitors, so it’s best to humour him. “I dunno… a donkey?”
He taps on his iPad. “Intriguing choice.”
“Mars is a desert, right?” I say. “Sand? Donkey rides?”
Derek licks his fingertip as though it’s a pencil point. “Next?”
“Solar-powered Kindle? Not fussed what’s on it, but no Larkin poetry – too depressing.”
“Man hands on misery to man,” he quotes.
Tiring of the prank, I rattle off a few at random. “An apple pie, a Frisbee… No, skip that. No atmosphere to speak of. It would be like throwing a manhole cover.”
“Should work a treat inside the biodome,” Derek says. “Lower gravity and all.”
“OK, and, ah… a septic tank and a supply of triple quilted velvet toilet paper.”
Derek curls his tongue over his lip as he completes the list. “One final item. Choose wisely.”
“A Mars bar?” Quite witty, I think.
“Just the one?”
“How long will I be there?”
“Ah, forgot to mention – the rocket’s only fuelled one-way.”
“Better make it a donkey load, then.”
Over Derek’s shoulder, I see two security guards frogmarch Pamela Greenhall towards the foyer. This is a very elaborate prank.
Derek sees my frown. “Pamela’s volunteered as well.”
“Why us?”
“I’d like BFD to have a foothold once the litigations kick off.”
“And until then?”
“Make a start breeding the first generation of Martians.” He watches a black people-carrier with tinted windows draw up outside. “Assuming Pamela is up for it.”
He flips the iPad closed. “Good. Well, have fun – blast off is scheduled for Monday 0700 hours EST, Cape Canaveral.”
I hear a muffled scream. A door slams.
Then the security guards come back for me.