36. Do not disturb…


There he goes.
Plodding slowly across the factory floor, his clothes stretched oddly over his spindly frame.
A sharp bone poking out here.
Shirt billowing emptily there.
Cadaverous skull with dusty, dry hair.
Death is going to the bog.
It won’t be his only visit.
He’ll go three, maybe four times a day.
He’s not going for a piss, not even going for a dump.
He’s going for a sit down and a read.
Death sits down all day anyway, but he can’t read his papers when he’s supposed to be working.
So he goes to the toilets, usually the same trap.
He’ll sit in there for forty minutes, sometimes more.
Sitting in the reek of a toilet used by forty or fifty men, a toilet that isn’t really cleaned properly.
Reading his papers.
The dry pages crackling as he turns them, echoing off the cold, wet tiles.
Dripping tap.
Sewer smell.
The lazy buzz of a bluebottle.
The door to the toilets is occasionally kicked open, and truck driver will hurry in. He’ll charge into a free trap, drop his jeans and take the noisiest, smelliest shit you’ve ever witnessed, the sort of shit that would make a pig puke.
A grunt of relief, a cursory wipe, a flush, and the trucker is on his way, leaving Death to his papers, the flies and the hideous stench filling his nostrils.

Don’t get me wrong.
I’m not averse to a visit to the bogs, just to get out of the way for five.
I’ve gone when I didn’t need to go.
I’ve found some nice, quiet toilets, tucked out of the way.
They have their pros and cons.
(See ‘The Bog Wanker’)
But Death seems to prefer the worst toilets in the factory.
What really disturbs me about him is that he has physically adapted to live on a toilet seat.
His back is all hunched, from resting his elbows on his knees.
He is as thin as a rake, to minimise stress on his arse to allow him to perch for long periods of time without his legs going dead.
His neck has developed a weird crick, like a vulture, to assist in broad sheet perusal.
His skin is like parchment, a strange yellow tan colour.
He never sees the sun.
He’s always at work.
He’s always in the bog.
I think the colour comes from absorbing particles of piss and shit from the atmosphere.
He actually chooses to lock himself away in a really horrible place, just so he can find out what is going on in the world.
The papers he reads, the pictures, the analysis, gossip and tragedy, truth and lies, are all absorbed by him in a tiny, dirty cubicle, beneath flickering fluorescent tubes, from on top of a smeared porcelain plinth.
It’s all he needs.
Papers and the pot.
He reminds me of a strange creature from a natural history programme, that has somehow adapted to live in hostile conditions.
You see shrimp and pale fish living around giant fumaroles deep beneath the sea that heat water to boiling temperatures and spout clouds of sulphur.
Birds that rarely land, sleeping, eating and breeding on the wing.
Bears that hibernate.
Insects that can stand being frozen solid.
And a print works supervisor who can spend hours of every day in a stinking, fetid toilet surrounded by shitting men and flies, reading newspaper after newspaper with his trousers around his scrawny ankles.
His biggest adaptation?
Death has managed to shed all dignity and self respect.

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