Nancy, Please

Steve Boseley

Story image for Nancy, Please by

I hoped that things would improve when I got myself some education; some of the shop floor women are as thick as two short planks. Most, if I’m honest. The most exciting thing that ever happens to them is when Mandy or Rita or Susie or whoever gets to tell a story about when Gary from HR fingered them down stock aisle six. How do I know this? Well, they aren’t very secretive about it.

I tried to fit in. I talked about periods with the other women; I told the odd story about men that I had been with; I listened to the other women bitching about the men that had mistreated them. And about Gary, of course. I even took up smoking so I could join in the odd ciggie break, out the back through one of the fire exits, though it’s been so long since I lit up now my last half pack of fags are probably tubes of sawdust.

I suppose you could say there was the potential for some kind of camaraderie among us, but it was never enough for me. I had my sights set on something more.

Anyway, if my maths is correct – and I’m in the accounts department now, so it bloody well better be – most of the women over in B section have had their way with good old Gary, one way or another. He’s not even that much of a catch: twenty years old, not shaved yet, living-with-mum as he is.

But still, when your greatest achievement is telling your workmates that you sucked a man off behind the filter press, I guess the only way is up.

Orbit-sml ><

N ow here I am, sitting in my office. Out of the single window in the far wall, I can see those same women on the shop floor spread out below me. I’ve got the radio on, tuned to something classical. I can almost close my eyes and be transported somewhere else in the world. Italy, I think; somewhere with water. I can imagine men singing on gondolas. I’m unsure if that’s what they do, but it’s my imagination so they sing. I say almost because the noise from beyond my office makes it impossible to truly imagine myself there; I can hear inane chatter and hyena-like laughter floating up from the women below. Some muttered words make their way to my ears, followed by a ripple of laughter – probably a joke at my expense. I told you, that’s what they’re like.

As if things weren’t bad enough already, the PA system crackles into life.

Having a public address system in a large factory isn’t particularly noteworthy. The problem with this particular PA system is that it’s shi–bad. What makes it bad are several equally bad things. The first is the quality; whenever somebody makes a call on the PA, it sounds like the person talking has a clarinet in their mouth, or one of those other reed instruments; it buzzes. The second is my boss. If there was ever a bigger prick than Gary’s – pardon my Italian – it’s Mark. Mark Belshaw. His voice is usually the one that comes over the PA. And third is that every time it’s my name that echoes across the factory floor: “Nancy, please could you come to reception”; “Nancy, please could you go to Mr Belshaw’s office”; “Nancy, please pick up line one”. And every time, the bloody women on the shop floor’ll chime in with a chorus of “Nancy, please!” as I make my way across the shop floor or the catwalk from my office to Belshaw’s.

Only it isn’t just that. Bad as that is, they insist on pronouncing it Narn-seee. It’s their twisted attempt at humour, poking fun at my upbringing, as if I act like I’m someone better than them. If not getting pregnant in my teens and not sleeping around makes me better than them, then I guess I am.

Nancy, please could you take this month’s sales figures to Mr Belshaw’s office?” The PA crackles again. “Nancy, please could you take the sales figures to Mr Belshaw’s office as soon as possible?”

The thing is, I’ve got a phone. It’s sitting on the edge of my desk. I can touch it without even leaning forward in my seat. The ringer was working earlier today. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be working now. Why Belshaw insists on using the bloody PA system is beyond me. It was out of date when I was a girl; half the time I can’t hear what’s being said because of the crackling, or because some of the words get missed out; the other half it sounds like I am being spoken to through a drain pipe.

Nancy, please could you—”

“I’m coming!” I set the chair spinning as I stand, stuff the paperwork into a foolscap folder, and pull the door handle harder than I would like. The door crashes against my office wall, rattling the glass in its tiny window. I bet the girls on the floor below heard that and are having a good laugh about it.

As I walk out onto the metal walkway above the shop floor, all the muttering and laughter stops. The factory is silent, save for the constant drone of the machines. I can hear every one of my footsteps clanging on the metal between my office and Belshaw’s.

Rising from below me, I can hear the beginnings of that fu–damned chant. It starts with one of the women whispering, followed by a round of schoolgirl tittering. Then two, then five, then all of them.

Narn-seee, please!”

I stop, grab the handrail and squeeze it until my knuckles turn white. Everyone has their faces turned up towards me. Whoever spoke first is now silent, as is the rest of the floor; quite some feat for three hundred women to coordinate themselves like that. I hold that stare for thirty seconds or more before I continue on my way.

Narn-seee, please!” Louder this time, and with more laughter.

I’m not turning again. It will serve no purpose. I know exactly what I’ll find: just a bunch of vapid faces staring up at me.

Orbit-sml ><

M r Belshaw, my boss, wants to know if I have some figures for him. He barely lifts his eyes to acknowledge my entrance.

“Mark, can you not do that?” I say, as I perch on the seat across from him. He doesn’t like it when I call him Mark. Mr Belshaw is his preferred address. Do I care? No.

Mr Belshaw, Mark, is a big man. Fat, if you like. His favourite food is McDonald’s. He’s in his thirties, but his weight makes him look much older, perhaps in his fifties. His cheeks are cobwebbed with blood vessels and push his face up, turning his eyes into dark slits. The buttons on his striped shirt are doing far too much work.

He finally looks up and realises that I am sitting at his desk and wants to know what it is that he shouldn’t do. Well, at least he heard that.

“Call me on the PA. I hate that. I’ve got a phone.” Belshaw knows well enough that I have a phone. I think he does it because he knows it pis–annoys me.

He makes some lame excuse, saying that I could have been on the shop floor. I register his gaze dropping to my legs. I’m wearing a reasonable-length skirt, below the knee, but sitting down has made it ride up a bit. Not much, but I imagine his brain has filled in the blanks.

“You know I’m only going down there if I have to.” I’ve made several complaints about those women on the shop floor, but I’m not sure how much he cares. He probably thinks I’m still friends with them all.

“Did you even try the phone? Do you think you could try that first next time? Is that fair?” He’s still looking at my legs, which is becoming a bit uncomfortable. I pull the hem of my skirt towards my knees.

With considerable effort, Belshaw drags his gaze back up to my face. He has the nerve to ask me if I would go out to dinner. With him, he adds, to remove any confusion I may have.

“We’ve had this discussion before, Mark. I don’t think it would be appropriate.” That’s what I say, but what I think is that I can’t imagine a world in which I say yes to that question.

He tells me it’s just dinner, and his gaze drops back to my legs.

“Here are the figures you wanted.” I slap the foolscap folder onto his desk and stand up. “Please remember the phone next time. I’ll be in my office.”

After an awkward silence, he repeats his dinner invitation. He’s not going to drop it, is he? His stupid fat face looks up at me, eyes glittering, almost ready to drop a tear.

I want to tell him to, to eff-off, but he gives me a wage packet every month and I’m not sure it would go down too well. Instead, I give him my best I’m flattered but it’s never going to happen smile as I leave.

He mutters something about my backside under his breath as I close the door. I’m not going to look back.

Orbit-sml ><

A ll along the raised walkway I can see the women below from the corner of my eye. A few have their faces turned towards me, following my path along the walkway. I can’t hear it, but I have no doubt they’re whispering about me, probably something spiteful, bitchy.

Why they can’t just be happy for me is beyond me. I’m the only female member of the management team, something I worked hard for. It took two years on the shop floor and two more years of night school too to attain my qualifications before I made it into the offices. It’s a role that was never previously considered suitable for a woman. Women’s roles tended to be restricted to the shop floor, plus the cleaners and the kitchen staff. Perhaps, because I started on the shop floor, they’re all jealous of me.

Well, I say to hell with them. I put up with the crude jokes and lecherous eyes of fat Belshaw to get where I am today. Nothing is stopping any of them from doing the same. Perhaps, if there is, it’s because they don’t have a single brain cell between them.

I walk back a little faster than I should and slam my office door a little firmer than I would have liked, rattling the glass again. I flop down into the comforting leather embrace of my office chair and worry about the repercussions of rejecting another of Belshaw’s advances. And there will be repercussions: having to work late; coming in on the weekends; spending time on the shop floor; all things he knows I don’t enjoy; but I think I would enjoy a dinner date with Belshaw even less. I’m prepared to put up with most things to avoid dinner with Belshaw.

Outside I can hear muted laughter and chatter from the shop floor, maybe even the odd Narn-seee please, but that’s okay. I’m in here now and have the perfect solution for days like today, stored in the bottom drawer of my desk. I pull out the bottle of gin that’s been in there since Christmas. Company gift – probably picked by Belshaw in an attempt to get me drunk. I’ve never actually opened it. I keep it in there because… well, because you never know.

Now more than ever, I want to open it and take a drink. I spin the bottle around so I can read the label. Getting caught drinking on the job could end my career before it’s even started, but would a swallow really hurt? Just one mouthful?

Nancy.” I jump and almost piss myself as the speaker crackles, and I knock the bottle over. It’s a damn good job I hadn’t opened it, there’d have been gin all over the desk and the floor. “Nancy, please could you collect some post from Mr Belshaw’s office?”

That pr–rrrrr. I only spoke to him ten minutes ago, explicitly asking him to use my phone. I pick it up and I can hear the dial tone; there’s nothing wrong with it.

Maybe if I’d agreed to dinner, or pulled my skirt a bit tighter, or higher up my thighs, that would have helped. Or maybe he’s just… a… prick.

Nancy, please come to Mr Belshaw’s office.”

I give the bottle one last look. I know what will be waiting for me.

I’m not disappointed. I step back out onto the walkway and this time the call is not whispered – the shop floor is bouncing with the call of “Narn-seee please!”

I grab the safety rail with both fists, the faces looking up at me smiling and laughing, and I want to scream at them, I want to hawk up the biggest lugie I can muster and spit it down on them, but what I do instead is shout down at them, “I don’t even talk like that!”

The shop floor erupts with raucous laughter.

“Give it a rest, why don’t you?” My voice is edging towards a scream, but if it’s possible to hear me over the laughing and the sound of the machines they give no sign, and another round of “Narn-seee please!” springs up again.

I bang the door of Belshaw’s office against the wall, sending a chip of paint into the air. “What?” I snap, no intention of sitting down and exposing my thighs for him again.

He raises his eyebrows and asks who I think I’m speaking to.

I’ve no wish to lose my job, not even for this idiot. “Sorry,” I manage. “It’s them bloody women.”

He assures me it’s all done in jest, and chuckles as he speaks. He holds out a folder containing proofs of the new flyer, and asks if I could let him know my thoughts. He can’t wipe the smirk off his face. He knows what he’s doing.

“You couldn’t have given me this ten minutes ago?” I snatch the folder from his hand. I hope he gets a paper cut.

He asks me if I’ve had a chance to consider his dinner offer.

I try to hide my shudder. “In the last ten minutes? Yes, Mark, I have. And I still think it’s inappropriate.” This time I close his office door carefully, deliberately, in the hopes that it will worry him, although he’s probably just looking at my ass again.

I can’t be bothered with all that shop floor shit this time, so I run along the walkway, shoes clanging off the metal as I do, and slam my office door behind me. The gin is standing where I left it. I drop into my seat and open the folder that Belshaw has just given me.

It’s exactly what he said: a flyer. Nothing more than an A5 piece of copy paper with our company logo on it and some drivel about what we do. I’m not even sure what thoughts he thinks I could possibly have about it beyond exactly that: it’s drivel.

The flyer didn’t need looking at. Belshaw just wanted to embarrass me. I snatch up the gin. I’m bloody well going to, aren’t I? One will be okay, won’t it? Yes, I think it will, so I crack the cap, spin it so hard if goes flying, and since I don’t have a glass I take a drink straight from the bottle, the liquid searing my throat as it goes down. And as soon as I swallow, oh, the regret! If someone smells this on my breath…

I take another slug. Shit.

I go and find the cap, and once it’s back on I sit for some considerable time just cradling the bottle in my lap, time enough for the shadows in my office to lengthen. The flyer sits on the desk, ready for my assessment. It sucks. That’s my assessment. It’s a waste of time and money. I hope Belshaw got a good laugh out of running me across the factory on another bogus errand.

As if on cue, the PA system crackles into life.

Mr Belshaw’s office if you would, Nancy, please.”

Orbit-sml ><

A lmost before the crackle-hiss dies away, I’m out of my seat and ripping open the door.

Don’t say it!” I scream at no one in particular. I lean over the walkway railing and point at the women below. “Don’t you fucking say anything!”

I run my finger over their distant upturned faces. At that moment, if the machines weren’t running, you could’ve heard a pin drop. I hold their gaze for several seconds before looking away. I can’t express quite how satisfying it is to hear the silence behind me. It’s as if all my lottery numbers came up. My heart skips a beat, and I battle the urge to whistle as I stalk towards Belshaw’s office.

These sorts of women only respond to being spoken to like that. They probably have husbands and boyfriends at home who shout “cook my dinner” and “clean the kitchen” and “don’t you fucking say anything” at them every day. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them got a smack too. If that’s all they understand then perhaps that’s how I’ll have to treat them.

I’m almost to the office door when someone calls out, “Narn-seee, please!”

There’s a round of laughter and seconds later they’re all chanting, it’s like something you’d hear at a football match, “Narn-seee-please, Narn-seee-please!”

Fuck off!” I yell back at them and offer my middle finger as punctuation.

I don’t give Belshaw a chance to speak as I tear open his office door. “Can you hear that?” I demand, pointing back towards the braying harpies behind me. The fat fuck is trying not to smile, but like everything else, he’s not very good at it and his lips twitch. “If it keeps happening, I’m going to make a formal complaint.”

His smile is gone in an instant, and he asks who I would make a complaint against.

“Against them women.” He looks over my shoulder, pretending to not be entirely sure who I’m referring to. “Against you.” He places a hand on his chest in a you surely can’t mean me gesture. “Yes, you. I’ve asked you not to call me on that system, but you keep doing it.”

He informs me that’s the way it’s always been done. He says I shouldn’t expect special treatment just because I have my own office now. He tells me he needs me to stay late tonight. Apparently he wants to look at some figures. To sweeten the deal, he says he has a bottle of wine, and we can even order in Chinese food.

Looking at the thin smile on his fat face turns my stomach. I can imagine the figure he wants to look at. I feel my shoulders slump and my cheeks begin to burn.

“I can’t tonight, Mark,” I say. “I’ve got a thing with a friend that I can’t get out of.”

He brushes past my excuse, telling me not to worry, tomorrow night will be just fine, but this is important work stuff, Nancy, and so he’s going to have to insist. Some business won’t wait.

He may as well say, Dinner, whether you like it or not.

He winks at me and gets back to shuffling papers on his desk. I guess that’s me dismissed. I walk to the door, expecting him to call me back at any moment, and instead he tells me I look good from behind.

I look back, and I’m shaking, but he’s already got his head down. Hard at work.

Before I pull the door closed behind me, I take the key from the lock, and then I put it in and turn it from the outside, sealing him in his office, with his wine and his paperwork and his fat little daydreams of me.

I go back to my office and collect my coat, my bag, and my bottle of gin, and then I close the door behind me and I hop down the steps to the shop floor, all accompanied by the usual chorus. The laughter stutters when I reach the floor and I pick my way between them and their machines, looking this one in the eye, then that one, then those. It picks up when I’ve passed them, but I’m not bothered, they can laugh all they want. I need to get moving, because some business won’t wait.

There’s storage in the back. Aisles of shelves with replacement parts surround the machines on the shop floor. If a machine goes down, the knock-on effect on the rest of the production line can be catastrophic, and these machines break a lot. But I’m not interested in productivity, I’m interested in getting away from the voices behind me, getting on with what needs doing.

The aisles seem to go on forever, and I smile despite the situation. I wonder if Gary from HR had any of the girls down here. There is a reasonable chance he did. The deeper I get into the factory, the more the noise behind me recedes. I can still hear the constant drone of the machines, but thankfully the women’s endless prattle is gone.

I count the aisle numbers because I know exactly where to find what I need. I see them now. Damn, there’s only three. I’d like four, but I think I can make it work. I give a final look around to make sure I’m alone down here then I pick up the three big chains and throw them over my shoulder. The padlocks are here too, and I grab them as well.The first emergency exit is three aisles over. It takes me seconds to reach it.

There’s a part of me that knows what I’m doing is wrong, but it feels like that part is not connected to the rest of me. I loop one of the chains through the push-bar handles and snap a padlock in place. It’s just a short trip around the wall until I reach the second. This one is easier than the first, my brain barely registering a protest as I wind the chain into place. The third is easier still.

When I reach the final exit, I look around before removing my cardigan. One of the forklift trucks moves backwards and forwards down one of the aisles. The driver is engaged in an animated conversation with someone I can’t see. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is he’s not looking at me.

I spread my cardie on the floor, fish the bottle from my bag, and I pour half the gin over it. The aisles here are loaded with tarpaulins, some fresh, some used and grimy with oil; the rest of the booze I slosh onto the nearest of them. In the bag I find my last old pack of fags and, yes, there’s the disposable lighter stashed inside. It’s almost empty, just a corner drip of fluid at the bottom of the translucent yellow plastic.

I thumb the wheel.



I light the dusty cigarettes one by one and flick them at the tarpaulins, then touch the flame to my cardie and the gin-stinking material catches light with a puff. I kick the smouldering bundle and it slides under a wooden pallet holding several large cardboard boxes.

I wait until I see the first wisps of smoke, then push through the final emergency exit into the bright sunlight.

Orbit-sml ><

I t takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the brightness of the afternoon, then I spot my car in the car park. I want to run, but resist the urge. I don’t want to attract any attention, and besides, it will be several minutes for a real blaze to take hold.

I’m reaching for my keys as the fire alarm sounds. Fire drills have been run in this factory before – not many – and I can imagine most of the office staff cursing lost time. They’ll be gathering their things, finishing off their cups of tea, pulling on jackets and trudging towards the exits. The women on the shop floor, however, will be glad of a chance to get away from the hot machines and out into the sunlight, so I can imagine them being quite excited.

Climbing into my car dulls the noise of the building alarm. As I start the engine, I can see people begin to emerge from the front entrance. Some look mildly irritated, none particularly panicked. That will change when they realise the women on the shop floor can’t get out because the emergency exits are blocked. All but one, anyway.

I pull out of my parking space and drive towards that remaining exit. The doors are still closed when I get there, so I nudge my car towards them, stopping just before my bumper makes contact.

I turn off the engine. Soon I’ll have to run, but I’m going to sit here for a moment, just to make sure. The people coming out through the front are showing a bit more urgency now. Shirts and ties and smart business attire: management and admin staff, no shop floor people. I can’t see Belshaw, but unless he smashed his window and jumped out, he’ll still be wondering why his office door won’t open.

I wonder what that fat face will look like as it melts. Or perhaps he’ll get out, perhaps there’s a second key. I’ve no way of knowing. I can only hope that he hasn’t. The thought of his face as he tries the handle will keep me smiling for a long time. If nothing else, he won’t have to worry about this month’s sales figures for much longer.

There’s a dull whump as something explodes. I wind down the window and look up: dark, oily smoke is drifting from the vents in the factory roof. I can hear screams from inside.

Right in front of my bonnet, the twin doors of the emergency exit pop open – by about ten centimetres, until they hit my bumper with a satisfying clunk. I can hear people rattling the door in front of me, but I don’t think they’ll push my car out of the way in a hurry.

I open the driver’s side door and step out.

Arms, hands, and fingers reach through the gap between the exit doors, wide-eyed faces peering past them with desperation. I know those faces, and they know me.

“Nancy!” calls a familiar voice, and for once they say it right. “Nancy, please!”

Soon it’s a veritable chorus.


Thanks for reading - but we’d love feedback! Let us know what you think of Nancy, Please on Facebook.

Steve Boseley

Author image of Steve Boseley Steve Boseley is a writer from Nottingham, UK, living with Multiple Sclerosis and typing with his one good finger. His short fiction generally falls into the horror genre and has been included in several online magazines, most recently Schlock! Horror and Creepy Podcast.

© Steve Boseley 2023 All Rights Reserved.

The title picture was created using Creative Commons images - many thanks to the following creators: arty and Pexels.

Mythaxis is forever free to read, but if you'd like to support us you can do so here (but only if you really want to!)