58. Baccy Warehouse

Boring, aren’t they?
Not something you get excited about.
There’s sometimes exciting things inside them, like cheques, a hand written apology, hate mail, blurred Polaroids of hirsute genitalia, perfume scented love letters meant for someone else.
The envelope is soon discarded.
Well, think about this.
1. Who made them?
2. How were they made?
3. What is the mental state of somebody who makes envelopes every day?
Any guesses?
Well, swap papers and mark the answers:
1. Devil made them. He’s my brother. He worked on the envelope machine with Slugsy, Bilbo, The Thing and Piccolo.
2. Imagine Satan commissioning a machine that would add to the ambiance of Hell.
Imagine the noise. Then double it. That is the machine that makes envelopes.
A grey-black machine that thundered and shuddered, voraciously chomping up envelope templates with such vigour that a fine mist of paper dust coated your mouth, your skin, your eyes.
A machine spitting oil and ink, a machine you could hit with hammers, spanners, wrenches and crowbars and it would not flinch, yet it would choke spontaneously on any random half made envelope, crashing out for days on end.
A machine that puked complete envelopes out of the other end, to be packed into boxes with mind numbing regularity.
A machine you could climb into and hide in, if you so wanted.
A horror, a haven, a porn plastered leviathan, an envelope machine.
3. Barking mad. Singing, capering, snatching-at-imagined-stars mad.
I don’t know if they were mad to start with, or if the job sent them over the edge.
Anyone get three out of three?
Engineers kept checking to make sure the machine wasn’t kicking out poisonous fumes, just because of the behaviour of it’s operators.
They didn’t find anything.
Only a deafening, filthy machine, and some odd people.
They were funny people though.
Piss funny.
Always fucking about.
It sent Cardboard Supervisor into depression.

I passed the envelope machine.
I noticed something going on. The lads were excited.
I took a look.
The canopies guarding the moving parts had all been lifted off and lads crammed themselves between the clattering rollers and churning cogs.
They were straining to see through metal air vents to what was happening behind the machine.
Curiosity killed the cat…
I squeezed past a whirring flywheel and pressed my eye to one of the grimy vents.
I could see a large yellow-stained perspex box, the size of a big shed.
It was the smokers booth, known as the Baccy Warehouse.
Half a dozen wheezers were tabbing it, perched on bus shelter style benches around the booth.
Nothing much to look at.
I collared Slugsy.
“What’s going on?” Had to shout over the noise from the machine.
Giggling, he showed me a length of blue pipe.
It was connected to an airway, a steel pipe that fed powerful compressed air throughout the factory.
The pipe led to a huge bottle of water.
The bottle of water led to more pipe.
The pipe led to the Baccy Warehouse.
The nozzle of the pipe was concealed.
The smokers were blissfully unaware.
I wriggled into my place within the machine, and waited for the fun.
Scorcher ambled into the booth.
We could see him talking to the others, and someone passed him a lighter.
I glanced back at Slugsy.
He was ready to switch the airway on.
Someone new entered the booth.
It was Lincoln, one of the directors!
He sauntered in, nodding condescendingly to the other smokers.
He drew a pipe from his waistcoat pocket.
That’s right.
The cock wears a waistcoat to work.
Smugly starts to fire up the briar…
I turned to Slugsy.
“Slugsy! No!”
Slugsy gave me the thumbs up. He couldn’t see the booth.
He couldn’t see who was in it.
He turned the valve.
Oh shit.
I couldn’t miss this.
Eye to the vent…
It took a second or two to reach the booth.
It was worth the wait.
There’s a lot of pressure in those compressed air feeds.
It was like a bomb going off.
One second people were relaxing over their favourite tobacco, blowing smoke rings, murmuring idle conversation.
The next second, the Baccy Warehouse had been turned into a fucking car wash.
The pipe came loose, thrashing about the booth like a demented cobra.
Drenched silhouettes could be seen bouncing of the perspex walls.
Something clattered beneath the wall of the booth.
A water filled briar pipe.
The door to the booth burst open.
Scorcher staggered out, looking bemused.
He still had a soaked cigarette drooping from his lips.
He looked skyward, bemused.
Several other smokers made their escape.
The last to leave was Lincoln.
He was clutching something.
A length of blue pipe.
Time to scatter.
Lads ran everywhere, but only one couldn’t leave his post.
It was Devil.
He had to keep grabbing envelopes as they churned out of the still roaring machine.
If he didn’t, they would spray all over the floor.
He gave me a pleading look.
I shrugged, and ran for cover.
Lincoln, dripping water all over the place, followed the pipe to where it was connected to the airway.
He took one look at Devil, and stalked away.
A minute later, Cardboard Supervisor appeared.
“Devil! Devil! What the fuck have you been doing!? There’s water all over the place, and Lincoln is soaked! What the fuck is going on?”
He shouldn’t have spoke to Devil like that.
He really doesn’t like it, especially when he’s not to blame.
Dark red crept up his neck, and veins started to throb at his temples
“What are you talking about, Cardboard? I’ve done fuck all! FUCK ALL!”
He hurled a wad of envelopes to the floor.
Cardboard stepped back.
“Look what you’ve done, Cardboard, LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE!! Look at me!! I hate it when this happens!”
“Now, calm down, Devil…”
“Don’t tell me to calm down, you PISSFLAP!!!”
Slugsy and The Thing rushed to restrain Devil, while Cardboard Supervisor fled.
He wouldn’t show his face again on the factory floor for a week.
Everything started to calm down, and people crept out of their hiding places, shaking their heads and laughing.
I made sure Devil was OK, then turned to Slugsy.
He was carefully drying the blue air pipe, and taping it back into place.
“What are you doing, Slugsy?”
“I’m setting it up again! The afternoon shift still don’t have a clue. I can’t wait to see their faces!”
“What? Well, good luck with that. I’ll see you later.”
“You mean you’re not stopping, Lucifer?”
“Another time, Slugsy. See you.”
He didn’t hear.
He was still giggling.

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