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The Great Emotional Payoff
by M. J. Nicholls

Julianne was prone to frequent outbursts of weepiness. The slightest sentimental sight – a dead wasp, a smirking teddy bear on a card, a forlorn child on a charity poster – would send her galloping into the bathroom, her eyes spurting wellfuls of liquid distress.

This was a problem. She had, that week, been appointed Head of Water Management for Chiswick Southeast. It was her responsibility to make sure that the residents of Chiswick Southeast had access to clean hot and cold running water at all times, otherwise she was redundant. The thought of being redundant, in fact, made her well up a little…

No. She wasn’t going to weep. This was her first week going straight. She had spent months undergoing Dr. Remi Francis’s therapeutic emotional galvanisation. For weeks, she had trained herself to watch videos of atrocities, X Factor contestants, and cute puppies being bludgeoned without shedding one tear. She would enter that boardroom for her first meeting a calm, strong and tearless hunk of management womanliness.

As she entered Chiswick’s Senior Boardroom – that palace of power – she stubbed her toe on the table. Tears shot up from her ducts like excitable hosepipes and she scrunched up her eyes to dam the blubs. She could feel the tears sluicing up into her eyeballs: they knew the route so well. Not now. Not before Chiswick’s Senior Board. No…

It was useless. The dam of weepiness had burst through her eyes – now fully closed – and three months of backed-up sorrow escaped from her lovely and professional face.

“I… am appalled at the quality of water preservation in the Chiswick area! What are we doing here? I mean, if we can’t keep the water pure and fresh for our children, then what’s the point? What’s the sodding point?” she improved, the carpet below sodden.

There was a silence. Then an extension of this silence. Then a moment when it sounded like someone was about to speak, but it was just a chair creaking. Then more silence. Then, from nowhere, a sudden rapturous applause, standing ovation, and four whoops.

“What a passionate performance!” one exec crowed.

“What a remarkably eccentric and powerful opening speech!” a second cooed.

“Give this woman a raise!” a third whooped.

“You are exactly what Chiswick Water needs!” the more important exec chipped in at the end there.

This was all very nice, and she was pleased to still have her job, but she badly wanted a tissue. Why was no one offering her a tissue?