I went out onto the factory floor.
It wasn’t a social visit.
I’d been summoned.
A big machine was clattering away.
It’s the machine that adds that ‘oh so personal’ touch to your shit junk mail, the ‘dear Mr Debtridden’ bit on the letter selling you a credit card at 29% APR.
Webb was at one end, feeding the printed stuff in to be personalised.
Smithy was at the other end, lifting out the finished product and checking it.
Weakspuds was with him.
He’s a manager, a pretty big name in the company.
He knows a lot about machines.
He knows fuck all about how to talk to people.
Weakspuds and Smithy were arguing.
“you see, what it is, Smithy, I couldn’t really give a shit about what you’re saying. It takes ages to lift that guard rail because of those pistons. I know it’s heavy, but you’re a big lad. Now take the pistons off, lift the guard by hand, and stop fucking about!”
“But health and safety, Mr Weakspuds, they won’t…”
“TAKE OFF THOSE FUCKING PISTONS!”
He slapped a screwdriver into Smithy’s hand and turned to me.
“Ah, Lucifer. I’ve decided to take people like you out of their cotton wool boxes every now and again, to give them a taste of what the real people are doing. How does that grab you?”
“It’s lovely, Mr Weakspuds.”
“Lovely? What do you mean by that?”
“Hmm… Well, keep a close eye on me, Lucifer. Watch and learn, watch and learn.”
I was keeping a close eye on Smithy. Veins were bulging in his forehead, and he was gripping that screwdriver like a dagger.
He was a man on the limit.
Weakspuds walked in front of me.
I knew he’d do it.
He doesn’t know he does it, but everyone else does.
His hand crept round to his arse, and started digging away, right up his crack.
He was practically fingering himself.
He took his hand out.
Wait for it…
Wait for it…
He sniffs his fingers.
Watch and learn, watch and learn.
We walked to the other end of the machine.
Webb was there.
He looked just as stressed as Smithy.
It had obviously been a long day.
Any day involving Weakspuds was a long one.
“Webb. You’re not running the machine fast enough. Double the speed and load at a faster rate.”
“If we run it any faster, Mr Weakspuds, it’ll cause a paper jam. This is the fastest it’ll go without jamming!”
“Rubbish. You’re just doing it all wrong…”
Weakspuds grabbed the speed dial and yanked it around.
He ignored Smithy’s bellows of protest from the other end of the machine.
“There you go, Webb! Running like a dream.”
Webb glowered at Weakspuds.
“I’m gonna have to put the machine on standby, Mr Weakspuds. I’m busting for the toilet.”
“Your toilet break isn’t for another hour and a half, Webb. You’ll have to hold it in.”
“I need a shit…”
“I don’t care.”
“What am I supposed to do! Just let it slide down the back of my legs?!”
“Weren’t you listening, Webb? I… don’t…care.”
They stared at each other, hard.
They were almost nose to nose.
This was good stuff.
Webb started going scarlet.
He made a tight grunting noise.
The smell of fresh shit drifted into the air.
Weakspuds stepped away, his mouth open.
“I needed to.”
“You dirty… go get cleaned up! You’re stinking the place out!”
What do you mean? I thought you were keen on the smell of shit.”
“What are you talking about? Get out! Go get cleaned up, you filthy…”
Webb waddled off, a dark stain spreading across the back of his overalls.
Weakspuds took over from him on the machine.
He turned the speed dial up another notch and started loading paper like a demon.
I watched and learned.
There was a snarling, shuddering noise, a grating of gears, and then silence.
“Oh, what now??” screamed Weakspuds.
“Smithy? Smithy! What have you done?”
I could hear Smithy at the other end of the machine, calling him a cunt.
“What did you say? What did you say?”
Weakspuds started walking to the other end of the machine.
He took the opportunity to shove his fingers deep into his anus and sniff the shitty odour on his fingers along the way.
I’ll not be shaking his hand.
“Smithy! What have you…”
He didn’t finish the sentence, because he tripped and fell over on the two discarded hydraulic pistons that Smithy had removed from the metal guard.
“What are they doing there, you fucking moron! I could have killed myself on those!”
Smithy just shrugged.
“What’s happened? Why has the machine stopped running, Smithy?”
“Paper jam. It was running too fast.”
“That’s bollocks and you know it! Look, all the paper is snarled up in the outfeed! You weren’t collecting it fast enough, you lazy sod!”
Smithy went scarlet.
I don’t think he was pushing out a turd like Webb had.
“Now look here, Mr Weakspuds…”
“Shut it, Smithy! Lift that guard so I can reach into the outfeed.”
Smithy muttered something, but lifted the guard up.
Weakspuds cleared the outfeed and reset the machine.
We all watched as the personalised sheets flowed smoothly out.
Weakspuds was crowing with self satisfaction.
“That’s how it’s done, Lucifer. Can’t trust these chimps to get it done right! Smithy, get to the other end of the machine and start feeding paper in!”
Smithy was holding the metal guard up.
Weakspuds was focused on the outfeed.
Both me and Smithy were focused on Weakspuds thumb, which was positioned directly beneath the guard.
We looked at each other.
I had to look away.
There was a large clang, a sickening crunch and a high pitched scream.
I looked back.
The printed copies were still feeding smoothly, but they were splattered with blood.
“My thumb! You’ve broken my thumb!”
Weakspuds slumped to the floor, unconscious.
Webb came back from the toilets, glanced at the man on the ground, and carried on with his work.
Smithy removed the bloody copies from the stack, and carried on with his work.
“I’ll fetch a first aider then, I suppose?”
Both men shrugged.
Weakspuds was on his way to hospital.
I headed back to the studio.
“Not sticking around, Lucifer?” asked Smithy. “Thought you were here to learn a thing or two?”
“I’ve learned plenty. See you later, Smithy, Webb.”
“See you later, Lucifer.”