It irritated me beyond measure every time Clement asked me the time.

His false chirpiness led me to fantasise ever more elaborate torture sessions: pliers twisting on his meaty tongue; cigarettes jammed – lit end first – into his big meaty mouth, melting his cheek; his head wedged beneath my bicycle tyre, ripping at his ear lobe.

“What time is it?” he said, every day. Every bloody day.

“It’s ten past nine, sir.”

“Okay. You do know you’re supposed to start at nine, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir.”

Clement always had that grin on his face, too, like he was looking at some incompetent dullard.

The worst thing about it was that part of me knew that Clement was right. I mean, why couldn’t I get to work on time? I didn’t consider myself a dullard, but I couldn’t argue that it was nine when he already knew perfectly well that it was ten past. Nor could I argue that I was competent when I demonstrated the reverse every day.

So, I made a plan.

I resolved to buy an alarm clock.