I walked through platemaking, but there wan’t a platemaker to be seen. You’d usually find Weasel in his corner, mug of tea in his bony fist, crouched over the Racing Post with a greasy stub of pencil, making notes in his beautiful copperplate handwriting. He’d have his knackered radio with it’s coat-hanger arial turned down low, listening to the mutterings of racecourse pundits like he was communing with the dead.
But he wasn’t there.
I fired up the plate machine, punched some keys and set it to making a set of plates for the print press.
Through the hissing of it’s vacuum pumps and the soft chugging of the motor I didn’t hear his approach.
“What the fuck are you playing at?”
I jumped, nearly knocking Weasel over. “Shit! Where did you come from?? I didn’t know you were here, Weasel, otherwise I’d have got you to make these plates… Bloody Hell! What happened to your face?”
He turned away, hiding the black eye that spread from his eyebrow down to his scrubby moustache. “Just leave it, Luci. I don’t want to fucking talk about it.” He limped away to his corner and plonked himself down in his tatty chair.
He looked like shit. While the machine made plates I made Weasel a brew. He needed it.
He took it grudgingly, wincing as he sipped through swollen lips.
“No problem, Weasel. Now, what the fuck happened to you? That looks like a job for the coppers, mate.”
He shook his head. “I don’t want no fuss. More trouble than it’s worth.”
“Who did it? They must have been pretty pissed of to do that!”
Weasel sighed. “Take a good look. This is what you get for trying to do a good turn! You go out of your way to help out, and this happens.” He touched his eye, half closed with the swelling.
“Come on, Weasel. You’ve got to tell me what happened! I’ll keep it to myself. Honest I will!”
He looked at me with suspicion in his one good eye, then sighed again.
“Alright, as long as you promise to keep it to yersen.”
“Fair enough then. Well, I finished up yesterday at four and went up to the bus stop, but one bus was just pulling out so I thought I’d walk on to the next stop, to kill some time and smoke a fag. So I goes up the road, and there’s this field on the left with sheeps in. So I’m looking at all these sheeps when I sees this one over by the fence. A big sheep, with these bloody big horns. Anyway, it’s got it’s horns caught up in the barbed wire fence, well and truly stuck he is. Bleating and baaing and making a right fuss and all the other sheeps are all bothered and that. So I thinks to mesen, ‘I reckon I can free that poor thing.’ So I climb over the fence into the field.”
“Big hearted of you, Weasel. Not sure what I’d do in the same situation.”
“Yeah, well, if you take my advice you’d walk on and leave the fucking thing to starve or break it’s fucking neck. So I goes in the field and I walk up to this ‘ere sheep, and they’re bigger than you think, close up, sheeps. I take a good look at the situation, weighing it up, like, and I take a pull on me fag. I reckoned the best thing to do was to just grab it and pull it to the left, where it’s horn could get free. So I grabs it, and it panics and starts to fight, but I got hold of it really firm and starts to yank it, pulling it as hard as I could. This ‘ere sheep starts bleating like fuck, and that sets all the sheeps bleating like fuck, so I’m saying stuff like, ‘steady now, love’ and trying to sooth it, you know? So I’m pulling and pulling and I’m feeling pretty knackered now and I’m all out of breath so I’m panting but the sheep’s nearly got his horn free and I starts shouting, ‘YES YES! GO ON GIRL! NEARLY THERE!’ to encourage it, like, but then the fucking farmer turns up and says, ‘What the fucking Hell are you doing to my sheep, you dirty bastard?”
“Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus Christ.”
“Are you fucking laughing, Luci?”
“No. No I’m not.”
“Right, well, this ‘ere farmer wouldn’t listen. He just marches over and kicks fuck out of me. Then he tells me to fuck off or next time he’ll phone the police and the newspapers.”
I have to look away. “Rotten luck, Weasel. You were just trying to do a good turn.”
“Aye, I know. Do us a favour, Luci. Don’t say nowt. It hurts enough without every cunt in the factory hearing about it.”
I grabbed my plates from the end of the machine and headed for the print presses.
“Don’t worry, mate. I’ll keep it quiet.”
I left Weasel to his tea and bruises.
I couldn’t wait to tell the lads this one.
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The stories I hear.
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