73. Puppet on a Thing.


It’s never easy being the new boy.
Even the most civilised office space can feel daunting to the fresh meat.
Factories are another level again.
They can be seriously scary.
When customers are given the guided tour of the print works, they huddle close to the sales rep, pale and frightened.
It’s like they are on a grim urban safari, and the rep is the only one packing heat.
Feral beasts lurk behind greasy machines, ready to pounce.
The deafening chatter of the presses echo from the grimy walls like the mocking cries of mindless apes.
The rotting stink of overflowing bins assails delicate nostrils.
A primal cry floats above the industrial din, a territorial howl from a mad eyed alpha, challenging the suited intruders.
“Here! You cunts! Suck us off!”
The rep hurriedly ushers the shocked suits to the safety of the offices where refreshment is offered. Frayed nerves are soothed with tea and biscuits. Heavy blinds screen the horror.
They’ve seen enough of the wild.
For some of us though, the wild is our new home.
For those of us without qualifications or a university education, it is where we are sent.
We must face the feral beasts.
We must fearlessly defy the cries of the mindless apes.
We must make cups of tea for the howling, mad eyed alpha.
Like Max in the land of the Wild Things, the screaming, shrieking, gibbering fiends become your friends.
Kind of.

It took a while to find my feet in the wild.
There were plenty of journeys home on the bus spent in shocked silence.
Lot’s of creeping around, avoiding others, reluctant to be their sport.
Painful balls from inky maulings by the coffee machine.
Disappointment at finding myself in such a shit hole.
You get used to it.

I’d thought I’d seen it all until I met Mule.
Mule was fucking enormous.
He must have been six feet seven, easily twenty two stone.
Big black moustache nestled under his nose.
I was bustling on my way somewhere, and he stepped out from behind a machine.
I froze.
He grinned.
“Erm… hello.”
Mule kept grinning.
“You’re new, aren’t you?”
“Yeah.”
“It’s Lucifer, isn’t it?”
“Yeah.”
“I’m Mule. Have you met my friend?”
“Don’t think so…”
This giant slowly pulls his arm out from behind his back.
He’s wearing a glove puppet.
I quietly start to freak out.
“W..what’s that?”
He thrusts the puppet at me.
“Hello there, Luci-her! Hy nay is Garnagy!”
“What? What are you saying?”
“Garnagy! Hy nay is Garnagy!”
“What? I.. I don’t understand! Garnagy?”
Mule loses his temper.
“Are you stupid or something? His name is Barnaby! He wants to be your friend!”
I wanted to go home.
“Look, I’m a bit busy, I’ve got to…”
“Shake his hand.”
“What?”
Shake Barnaby’s hand. Be his friend.”
One of Mule’s big, fat sausage fingers poke out from the puppets clothes, and started to waggle at me.
“Shake his hand, Lucifer.”
The finger was dirty.
“Shake it.”
I didn’t want to.
“I said shake Barnaby’s hand.”
I slowly raised my hand.
I heard a loud rumbling approaching.
We use pallet trucks to move heavy loads around the factory. They basically look like giant orange scooters, and people use them to travel around on. You’re not meant to, but that didn’t change anything.
Taters came hurtling by on a pallet truck.
Taters was the sort of bloke who didn’t have a particular job, but seemed to be doing something new each day.
His main task was to needle Mule.
He was legendary.
“Hey, Lucifer, don’t shake that puppet’s hand! It smells of kid’s arseholes!”
He thundered away.
I quickly dropped my hand.
Mule turned purple.
“You foul mouthed fucker, Taters! It’s not true! I’ve never done that! Never! NEVER!!”
I ran off.

Taters lounged at the coffee machine, leaning on his pallet truck like it was a Harley.
“Yeah, you want to avoid that gimp Mule, Lucifer. He does a lot of caravaning, and belief me, he get’s thrown off sites all over England for scaring kids with Garnagy. It’s just not normal.”
“He really freaked me out, Taters. God only knows what a little kid would make of it.”
“Mule reckons he used to be in the Navy before he came here. We reckon he was really in jail. We reckon he’s a nonce.”
“I reckon you could be right. Look out! Here he comes!”
Mule was lumbering towards the coffee machine.
Taters climbed aboard his pallet truck and rolled out.
“Hey, Mule! Where’s Garnagy? I heard he’s been hanging out in the toilets offering handjobs to the lads!”
“Fuck you, Taters! Wait till I get hold of you! I’ll…”
“Wank me off? Keep that puppet away from me, you rapist!”
Mule was foaming at the mouth.
I left, quickly.

Scrawled in pen on the toilet door:
“What do you call Garnagy in a gimp suit?”
“Marigold!”
It was scribbled out the next day.

The Mule bating went on all week.
On the Monday, Taters didn’t show for work.
Neither did Mule.
Or Barnaby.
I heard what happened later in the day.
Taters was cycling home on Friday night.
Mule followed him in his 4×4.
On a bad roundabout, Mule made his move.
He ran Taters over, knocking him to the pavement.
Then Mule got out of his car, walked over to Taters, and beat the living crap out of him, right there at the roadside.
He used Barnaby as a boxing glove.
It was a toss up to decide who was the most battered afterwards.
Taters or Barnaby.
Barnaby ended up in the washing machine.
Taters ended up in traction.

I was fetching coffees again when I next saw Taters.
His orange pallet truck wasn’t moving so fast, probably because of the whiplash collar round Taters neck.
And the pot on his leg.
“Hey Taters! I heard about what happened. You look like shit.”
“Thanks for that, Lucifer. I’m not too fussed, to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t tickle at the time, but I won’t be cycling to work anymore.”
“How come? Have you got permanent injuries?”
“Nah. I sued Mule for assault, and got ten thousand in compensation. He got a criminal records and a suspended sentence. I’ve got a nice shiny Ford Escort in the car park. I’m sorted!”
“Fucking Hell. Good work, Taters. Did Mule get the boot?”
“They couldn’t do nowt, cause he waited till he was off company property before he twatted me. They’ve warned him to keep away from me, though.”
“I’m not sure that’ll stop him, Taters. Here he comes!”
Taters whinced a bit as he got on his truck and rumbled away behind a print press.
Mule collared me before I could get away.
“Hello Lucifer. You never did get to meet Barnaby, did you?”
I gulped.
“No, I never got the pleasure, Mule.”
The puppet came out from behind his back.
It was missing any eye, and faint stains covered it’s head.
Some things never wash out.
“Shake Barnaby’s hand, Lucifer.”
“I’d rather not…”
“Go on, shake it.”
“The finger poked out.”
I reached up…
A shout came from the other side of the print press.
“Don’t shake that thing, Lucifer! It’s not Garnagy’s hand! It’s his cock, and it smells of cub scouts!”
The pallet truck rumbled.
Mule bellowed.
I dropped the coffees and ran.

Like Max in the land of the Wild Things, the screaming, shrieking, gibbering fiends become your friends.
Whether you like it or not.

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