There’s been a lot of redundancies round here of late.
People who’ve been here seemingly forever suddenly gone, faces older than the factory itself disappearing discretely with a sagging cardboard box filled with their bits of old crap and a gold foil handshake that won’t last them six months.
It’s a damn shame.
I wander between the hulks of machines that once chattered like neighbours across fences, but are now quiet.
Polythene sheets designed to keep off paper dust look like body bags swaddling the corpses of iron giants.
The factory is still full of noise but it comes from one source, a gigantic print press that thunders like a polluted waterfall, spewing out reams of poor quality print by the kilometre – the quality control now run by accountants instead of skilled tradesmen, a production line dictated by the bottom line.
I don’t recognise people like I used to.
Where once there were characters there are now agency workers, bewildered looking people in ill-fitting boots and hi-viz tabards, timidly asking where the toilets are in broken English, the poor bastards.
Africans, Poles, Bulgarians, Lithuanians, Indians, Somalis, and…
A shambling mess of a man, limping along, his face like Quasimodo’s knacker sack.
I wonder what shore he’s washed up on, where’s he come from, where he’s going…
He sees me and he starts to grin. It’s horrible, I look away, embarrassed that he caught me staring…
He’s opening his mouth. He’s going to say something. I prepare to shrug, pretend I don’t understand before scuttling off to the dull grey safety of the office.
He says, “Now then Luci, you gawpin’ knob head! You gonna walk by without sayin’ fuck all then?”
I stop. Stare. Mentally unravel the puffy eyes, bent nose, swollen lips, chimpanzee shuffle.
It’s Fucking Amazing Dave.
I say, “Fucking Nora, Dave!! What happened?! What happened to your face??”
Fucking Amazing Dave sighs, clutches his hands to his chest and raises his bruised eyes towards the factory roof.
“It were a lass, mate. I came to look like this ‘coz of a lass.”
I frown. “You mean… a lass knocked seven shades of shit out of you?”
Fucking Amazing Dave looks outraged. “Fuck off, mate! I know how to handle meself, y’know! I wouldn’t be getting no twatting off no lass!”
I say, “What about that Nicola Adams? She’s from Leeds. I reckon she’d twat you in five seconds flat.”
Dave grins. “I’d let her n’all. I fancy her summat rotten. I envy the bloke who gets to go five rounds with her!”
“She’s a lesbian, Dave.”
Fucking Amazing Dave looks shocked, then a horrible leer creeps over his battered face and he rubs the thighs of his dusty trousers with both hands.
He says, “Oh Jesus, can you imagine…”
I say, “Let’s not go there Dave. Let’s talk about the girl who kicked your arse instead.”
Fucking Amazing Dave throws his hands up, exasperated. “How many times, man? I told you – a lass didn’t twat me! I look like this ‘coz of a lass, not ‘coz a lass did it to me!!”
I sigh. “Then who did do it to you?”
If a smashed face could ever look whimsical, them that’s how Dave’s face tries to appear.
He says, “Love, mate. That’s what fucked me up. It were love.”
I shake my head, mutter, “Fuck me…”
Dave grabs my sleeve. “No, man, it’s true! You can’t stop love when it ‘appens! It just ‘appens! It’s like that song by that bloke who first came across as a soppy knobhead but now everyone loves him ‘coz he smashes it on Twitter… what’s it called…”
I say, “Angels by Robbie Williams?”
“Oh, ok, then how about… I don’t know… Cliff Richards?”
Dave’s swollen eyes bulge. “Cliff? What the fuck are you on about?? Since When did Stiff Pilchards smash it on Twitter?? Besides, the only thing that walnut-faced nonce smashes on a regular basis is the arses of…”
“Steady on. Look, I don’t know who the fuck you’re talking about!”
Dave is getting agitated. “Yes you do!! That bloke who stopped world war three that time when her were a soldier! That singer who were a soldier!”
“Robson Green? Up on the Roof, wasn’t it?”
Dave turns purple. He shouts, “Robson Green weren’t a proper fucking soldier!! That was a telly show called Soldier Soldier AND it were shite AND that song were shite n’all!! No this bloke I’m on about, his name… it rhymes with Cunt…”
I say, “Ah! You’re on about James Blunt. The song was ‘You’re Beautiful’, I think.”
All the tension leaves Fucking Amazing Dave’s body all at once and he sags like a deflated lilo.
“Yes! Yes, that’s the lad. Well, that song, you know, he like sees a lass an’ falls in love an’ makes all these plans but she’s wi’ some bloke already so he just kind of naffs off somewhere else an’ has a bit of a cry about it. You know the song.”
I say, “Well, yes, but apparently the thing is that the James Blunt was off his tits on pills and kind of stared at this good looking lass on the Tube and it was a pretty creepy song, he says.”
Fucking Amazing Dave looks alarmed. “Really? That’s not the direction I was wanting this to go in. Makes him a bit cooler that he’s a pill head though. Respect.”
“I’m not sure I’d describe James Blunt as a pill head, mate,” I say, “but I kind of get your drift about that song. So go on then, tell us what happened.”
Fucking Amazing Dave wets his split lip with his tongue. “Right, so it were a couple of days back. A lovely sunny day, y’know, crisp, Autumnal, yeah? And I’m on my way through Headingley. Just been to Ronnie Maccers So I got myself a cheeky cheeseburger in one hand an’ a roll up on the go, y’know? I know smokin’ an’ eatin’ is a filthy habit, man, but it’s how I roll. So I’m going along, mindin’ me own business, checkin’ out all the student totty kickin’ about, an’ that’s when I see her.”
I say, “See who?”
“Her,” he says. “I see Her. She’s walkin’ with another lass, but I don’t really see her, I only got eyes for Her, y’know? It were like the world got all small but all big at the same time, yeah? Like we were the only ones in it but that were the only thing important any more, d’y’get me? An’ when I see her, she sees me. Right at the same moment! Our eyes just… locked.”
Dave slowly points two fingers at my eyes, then slowly points them at his own eyes. I feel a bit weird and uncomfortable.
He says, “I just take a pull on my rollie, an’ through the smoke I keep lookin’ at her an’ she’s perfection, man, just perfection, an’ she smiles at me, but not that smile a lass gives when she sees you step in dog shit, it were a smile meant for me, man, a smile just for me, for us. It were fuckin’ magical. An’ as I’m passin’ on one side o’ the road an’ she’s passin’ on the other, we never stop lookin’ at each other, our gaze is fuckin’ LOCKED, man! All we can see is each other. An’ at that moment, I know I’m in love. I love her, man! But the thing is, I knew she were goin’ in one direction an’ I were goin’ in the other. She were a student, got it all to come, an education, a great job, travel, a family, kids, but I weren’t for her, I knew that. She deserved better than some fuckin’ numpty that worked in a shit hole factory, so I had to let her go, man, I had to let her pass, but I kept lookin’ as she walked away, an she kept lookin’ at me, an’ that smile faded on her beautiful, perfect face, it became somethin’ sad. I think she knew it weren’t gonna happen, y’know, that I weren’t gonna turn round an talk to her, I were lettin’ her go. An’ as she went, I saw her raise a hand, wave at me, an’ I did the same, waved at her, an’ that’s when it hit me.”
Breathlessly, I say, “What… what hit you?”
He sighs. “A large chocolate milkshake.”
I blink. “Wait, what?? A chocolate milkshake? How did that fuck your face up?”
“Nah, man. It weren’t the chocolate milkshake that fucked me up, it were the windscreen that did that when I drove into the back o’ the parked car at forty mile an hour. But the first thing that hit me were the milkshake that I had in me cup holder, then the windscreen. Ironically they reckon the milkshake saved me life. Cushioned the blow a bit, y’know?”
I open and close my mouth a few times, then I say, “Wait, wait a minute, you were DRIVING all this time? You were smoking, eating a cheeseburger and falling in love, all the while driving a car?”
Dave shrugs. “It’s not just lasses that can multi task.”
“You cannot multi task, Dave. Your fucking face is evidence enough of that! You’re lucky you didn’t get killed! You’re lucky you didn’t kill anyone! Wait, did you kill anyone?”
Dave looks slightly offended. “Nah, man! Those two lads were fine! Bit shaken, like, but they were ok.”
“Which two lads??”
“The lads in the parked car, o’course. The two Pakistani lads who were illegally parked, eating a KFC. I mean, their car were pretty fucked up but it were still drivable, so it was alright. The thing is, they were illegally parked an’ they had no insurance anyway, so once we got the two cars pulled apart we all scarpered pretty sharpish before the rozzers turned up.”
I shake my head. “Only you, Dave. This could only happen to one person – you. How the fuck do you manage it? So tell me, what’s the extent of the injuries?”
Dave ticks them off on his hand. “Broken nose, fag burn on my forehead, fractured cheekbone, lost three front teeth, whiplash, and third degree burns on my arsehole.”
I say, “That all sounds pretty horrible… wait, what? Third degree burns on your arsehole?? Did the car catch fire or something?”
Dave shakes his head and winces. “Nah man. When my bonce hit the windscreen the McDonald’s apple pie I’d had balanced between my legs fell onto the seat. When I sat back down I squashed it, firing molten apple lava right between my arse cheeks. I’m takin’ McDonald’s to court, man. It’s a one off case. My solicitor reckons I’m bound to win. I should get enough of a payout for a new motor, to get my gnashers fixed and have a decent little wedge left over. But I tell you what that payout can’t fix though.”
Dave starts to shamble away. He says over his shoulder, “A broken heart, man. A broken heart.”
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