42. The Wander.


It was a boring day.
In the print industry, work can be seasonal.
Sometimes you’re running round like Bernie Clifton on MDMA, and other days you make Stephen Hawking look hyperactive.
This was a Stephen Hawking day.
I looked round the room.
Genuflect was reading a sci fi novel.
Soulless Boss was locked in his office.
Sytex was missing, God only knows where.
Zulu was grinning quietly to himself.
He kept going in to the store room.
He’d come out grinning.
I knew what he as doing.
He was torturing spiders in there.
He liked to press them down onto stick tape, and watch them starve to death over days, sometimes weeks.
A grown man.
Torturing spiders.
I had to get out.
“I’m off for a wander.”
I went for a wander.
One of the print presses was clattering away, seemingly unattended.
Looking around, I saw that the operator was Superman.
He was fond of betting on the dogs, was Superman.
He was hidden under a desk, his nose in the racing post, picking the pooches.
I took a glance at what he was printing.
It was a travel brochure.
The print press had run out of yellow ink.
It had run out of yellow ink about half an hour ago.
The entire run was fucked, but Superman hadn’t noticed.
I didn’t tell him.
Fuck it.
I walked on.
I got near the envelope department.
I knew I had to be careful.
There was some weird types round there.
Somebody jumped out.
It was Slugsy. He’d found a massive cardboard disk, five feet high, the type used to protect the sides of print reels.
He’d drawn a woman’s body on it, and cut arm holes out, and he was wearing it, dancing like a loon.
“Blibbleibbleibbleibbleibble!”
“Hi Slugsy. That’s a good look on you. I’d keep it up.”
“Ta very much! Blibbleibbleibbleibble!”
He turned around and danced away. Other than the cardboard disk, he was totally naked.
Nice.
I walked on.
A machine had broken down.
Pollock was fixing it.
He was singing show tunes at the top of his voice.
“What is it today, Pollock? Le Misérables?”
He didn’t answer, just kept spannering and singing.
“You’ll get no answer out of that odd cunt.”
It was Rusty, the machine minder.
“How come, Rusty?”
“His best mate has fucked off abroad. Emigrated. Pollock’s in deep mourning. He hasn’t spoken to anyone for weeks. He just keeps singing those fucking songs.”
“I know he’s always been a bit light footed, but I thought he was married, with kids?”
“He is. I’m not sure he’s properly gay, but I reckon he just helps them out, when they’re a bit short handed. You know, a weekend thing.”
“Maybe your right. Not a bad voice though. What is that?”
“Mezzo soprano, I reckon. Want a biscuit?”
“No thanks. See you later, Rusty.”
I walked on.
I could hear a grinding, tearing noise.
A folding machine was going haywire, chewing everything up. Nobody pressed the ‘stop’ button.
The operator was Winkle.
He had narcolepsy.
He shouldn’t have been running a machine, but he was.
He was asleep.
I tapped the button, and walked on.
I climbed the stairs to the canteen. A new shift was about to start, and Haystacks was eating his pack up before he started work.
Cardboard supervisor hustled in, looking all hot and bothered.
“Haystacks! What the fuck do you think you’re doing! There’s an urgent job waiting on your machine, and you’re up here stuffing your face! We don’t pay you to sit here eating, you know!”
Haystacks slowly looked up, checked his watch, and cleared his throat.
“You don’t pay me fuck all for another seven minutes, Cardboard, now fuck off.”
Cardboard supervisor went bright red, and fucked off.
Haystacks bit into another sandwich.
I walked on.
Something hit me on the back of the neck.
I looked around.
Nobody there.
I carried on.
Something hit me again.
I looked around again.
Still nothing.
This had happened before.
I looked really carefully this time, then I saw him.
The bog roll ninja.
He had wrapped an entire roll of paper towels around his head, leaving only an eye slit.
He had a biro converted into a peashooter, which he poked through his disguise.
That fucker was really, really accurate.
I dodged behind a machine, and made my way to his hiding place.
Took a deep breath.
Jumped out.
He was gone.
Something hit me on the back of the neck.
I didn’t turn around.
I was defeated.
Never found out who the bog roll ninja was.
I walked on.
Nutsack and Fresh were arguing.
Nutsack was an old hand at the print game, always wore overalls pulled up too high.
That’s why he was called Nutsack.
You couldn’t fucking miss them, bulging through those filthy overalls.
Fresh was a new kid.
He’d washed Nutsack’s mug out.
He was only trying to be helpful.
“Look at the state of my fucking mug, you stupid little cunt!”
“What do you mean, Nutsack? It’s clean! I cleaned it! It took fucking ages! I had to use powerful solvents to get all that black shit off!”
“That black shit, as you call it, is what makes my cup of tea taste like a cup of fucking tea, shit for brains! I’d just got that mug how I like it! Now you’ve ruined it!”
“Just got it like that? You’ve not washed it in six months!”
“I know! And it’ll take another six months to get a mug tasting right again! Give it here!”
Nutsack snatched the mug off Fresh and smashed it on the ground.
Fresh was speechless.
I walked on.
Somebody was coming towards me.
It was Yogi Bear.
Not somebody’s nickname.
I mean Yogi Bear.
Hat. Bear suit. Picnic basket.
Yogi Bear.
“Erm. Hello.”
Yogi didn’t say anything.
He pulled his head off.
Inside was Sytex.
“What the fuck are you looking at, Lucifer?”
“Er…”
He shoved the head back on.
“Go on. Fuck off.”
“right. Will do, Sytex.”
I walked on.
So did Yogi.
I heard a big commotion coming from near the toilets.
Blokes were laughing and retching at the same time.
Guisley was walking out of the toilets with his sleeves rolled up.
He was carrying a massive shit in his bare hands.
“I told you it were a big un! Come on! Which dirty bastard done it!”
I did a little sick in my mouth.
I decided I’d seen enough.
I went back to the studio.
Silence.
Zulu was still grinning, glancing occasionally at the store room.
Soulless Boss was still shut in his office.
Genuflect looked up from his book.
“Where you been, Lucifer?”
“Been for a wander.”
“What’s happening out there then? Owt?”
“Nowt, really.”
“Slow day.”
“Yeah, slow.”

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