Hostility is in the air. I can feel it.
The Saturday shift is seriously fucked off and that is a rare thing, because people working Saturdays generally do so because they like working Saturdays. Time and a half, double time, call in, all the little sweeteners to make a man drag his sorry arse out of bed at 5am on a weekend and come in to work.
Usually it’s only Saturday mornings, six through to twelve, a short shift that most folk can do spinning on their cocks, even with a brutal hangover. Saturday mornings are a lark, a chance to fatten the pay packet with minimum work for maximum return.
There are no managers about because they’re on salary, and only a lunatic would shamble into work on a Saturday unpaid. No, Saturday’s are usually a chance to toss it off for an extra hundred in the bank.
But not this Saturday.
This Saturday is manic, a desperate attempt to catch up on an impossible workload, print machines running like demons to keep the rash promises made by reps and managers. A month’s worth of work shoehorned into a fortnight, the company is trying to spin straw into gold.
So everyone is in on twelve hours, Saturday, Sunday, night shifts too. Managers came in to oversee the morning but they lost interest at about eleven and by now, at three in the afternoon, they’ll be teeing up golf balls or knocking back pints. The factory is running itself, a driverless juggernaut, thundering and rattling for hour after hour.
I’ve had a busy one. I’ve worked smart though, cut a few corners and managed to get ahead. As such I’ve got nothing to do for the next couple of hours but I’m not going home. No, the weekend is already fucked and double time kicked in at ten so only an idiot would sneak off on that pay rate.
I’m killing time looking for a bolt hole, so I go out onto the factory floor and that’s when I sense the atmosphere. Ugly. Printers stamping about, throwing paper on the floor and telling assistants to pick it up, assistants telling printers to go fuck themselves, everyone unhappy.
I stay out of the way. I’ve only a couple of hours to kill and I don’t want to spend them windmilling with some hairy backed troll with a chip on his shoulder.
I remember there’s space on top of a row of disused offices, a dust-caked mezzanine reached by a shaky metal ladder. I head that way, look round to make sure I’m not spotted and climb up.
It’s grotty up here, dusty and the air is horribly dry, but it’s fairly quiet and there’s space out of the way for a nap or a read.
I sneak behind some shelving… and have a minor heart attack.
“Fucking Hell, Dave! You scared the shit out of me! What the fuck are you doing back here?”
Fucking Amazing Dave is crouched in the shadows, a mug of tea in one hand, a dog eared copy Razzle circa 1989 in the other.
He grins at me, kind of nervous. “You ok, Luci?”
I say, “Yeah, fine. Just a bit surprised.”
“Good, good,” he says. “You’re all good then. Not… hungry, or anything?”
I’m puzzled. “Nah, I’m fine. I had a pack-up at one so I’m sorted. Had a bit too much, to be honest.”
Fucking Amazing Dave looks relieved. “Grand! That’s alright then.” He moves out of the shadows a bit and I catch a better look at his face.
I say, “Oh no, not again!”
Fucking Amazing Dave pulls a confused expression. “What you mean? You on drugs, Luci?”
I say, “I mean you’ve obviously been wanking over tennis girls again! Your face! It’s a big red square! Last time you had a face like that you’d got sunburn wanking over teenagers playing tennis!”
Realisation dawns on his red face. “Ah! My grid! Yeah, it’s a bit of a shocker, innit. Nah though, I’ve not been pulling my pud over athletic young minxes in short skirts this time. It were McDonalds that caused this.” He looks suddenly quite sad, shaking his head.
I say, “McDonalds? How has McDonalds given you a red face? Did you get on of those hot pie things slapped in your mush? Or was it the coffee? I hear that stuff is like burning petrol.”
“Nah,” says Dave, “it were nowt like that. I let myself down, that’s all. Let myself down an’ I let the lads down.”
“Give over, Dave! You’ve not let anyone down. You’re Dave! You’re fucking amazing! Don’t be getting all depressed on me, fella. It’s not like you.”
Fucking Amazing Dave shrugs. “That’s a matter of opinion, mate. Tell that to any of those lads down there and they’ll tell it different.”
I say, “What happened?”
He says, “Well, it were like this. It got to lunchtime today an’ I were gettin’ peckish but no-one had come round to take an order for the sarnie shop, so I’m asking everyone ‘who’s taking the sarnie orders then? When we gettin’ a sarnie in?‘ But the lads were busy as fuck and no-one had made a sarnie list an’ I’m getting panicky cos the only reason I bloody came here today was to get a hot sarnie or somethin’, so I got a bit uppity, like, demandin’ a sarnie, but then one o’ them big gorillas on the Heidelberg press collared me an’ said it were now MY job to make a list an’ get the sarnies or he’ll rip my arms off! Now, you know me, Luci. I’m not one to shirk…”
“Yes you are.”
“Alright, I have been known to shirk on occasion, but I pull my weight…”
“No you don’t. You’re known for not pulling your weight.”
“Well, yeah, that’s true. But anyway, you know me, I’m shit at lists and shit! It’s not my strong point! The weed, man, it’s addled my brain! I forget shit! But now I got the job of making the biggest fucking list of all time, the work’s sarnie list on the busiest Saturday we’ve seen in years! I were well out of me comfort zone, mate, I can tell you.”
“Shit. Sounds bad. What did you do?”
Fucking Amazing Dave taps the side of his head. “I used my noggin, dude. I thought, ‘Davey boy, what list do you know inside out, back to front, prices an’ all?’ An’ I got it!”
I say, “Is it the price list of that sauna massage place you can’t stay away from? With that big lass in her fifties who lets you cum on her tits?”
“Nah, man! Not there! McDonalds, man! I know the price list of McDonalds! Shit, dude, I been eatin’ there since I were a nipper! I know them prices like I know me mam’s birthday! So I gets a pad of paper an’ I get on it. I’m makin’ that sarnie list like a motherfucker! Goin’ round the machines, givin’ it, ‘What you havin from Uncle Ronnie’s?’ An’ they tell me an’ it goes on the list. We gettin’ cheeseburgers, more Big Macs than you can shake a shitty stick at, quarter pounders an’ chicken burgers. Fries, fries fries! Shakes an’ Cokes an’ Sprites. Shit, Luci, I were workin’ some list magic. I knew them prices straight off. Bam! Took the money, gave ‘em change, onto the next. Some deviant bastard even had fuckin’ Fillet ‘o’ Fish! I mean, what? Who the fuckin’ hell has a Fillet ‘o’ fuckin’ Fish in a factory on Saturday? Still, it went on the list.”
I say, “Sounds like you missed your calling, Dave. You sound like a list wizard to me. Either that or someone who should work at McDonalds.”
Fucking Amazing Dave closes his eyes and smiles. “One day, maybe I’ll get to wear that uniform, mate. I can see me sen, chest full o’ gold stars sayin’ ‘ave a nice day!’ to some fat cunt or other. But anyway, I got that list nailed. It were the biggest McDonalds order list in history. It came to £112.50. Imagine that! Over a ton on Maccy D! So I pulls a fast one. I rang the order through. I tells ‘em I’ll be comin’ in hard an’ fast at the drive-thru, payin’ cold cash, an I’ll be drivin’ a fucked silver MkII Fiesta so they’d better be sharpish. I could tell they were impressed, me spendin’ big like that. They thought I were a right player.”
“I’m sure they did, Dave. Nothing says Chairman of the Board like a MkII Fiesta and a hundred quid’s worth of burgers.”
Fucking Amazing Dave winks. “You know it. So I sets off an’ I’m well focussed. I do not want to fuck this shit up, man, you know? I got that list smashed, got the order rung through, I just had to do the pick-up. It were like a movie. I were like one o’ them get away drivers, only I were pickin’ up burgers instead o’ money or drugs or whatevs. So I see them golden arches Luci, an’ they look soooo sweet. I knew the goods were ready, I just knew it, so I swings by the drive-thru an’ this lass in the window clocks me wheels an’ I see her ready wi’ these two huge paper sacks, filled wi’ the merchandise. I pull up, real cool. I give the girl the foldin’, I take the goods, open the bags an’ I check it all off against the list. They done good. It’s all there. I tip this lass the wink an’ I can see her swoonin’, but I just take me sacks o’ Ronnies an’ I drive into the fuckin’ sunset. Job done.”
I say, “It sounds like you nailed it, Dave. It was a done deal. Wait, you didn’t crash into a roundabout again on the way back to work, did you?”
“Nope. The return journey was incident free. Stuck to 30mph, watched the mirrors, signalled at every turn. Textbook. Pulled into the car park an’ I were home dry. Honest, Luci, I felt well proud. I done the list, I made the run, I made the pick-up, I done the getaway. I just had to complete the delivery.”
Fucking Amazing Dave lets his head hang. I’m confused. I say, “Wait, you were there! All you had to do was walk into the factory and hand out the grub! That’s the easiest bit!”
“I know, I know!” Cries Dave. “It was so close I could fuckin’ taste victory!! I goes into the factory, walkin’ between the machines like a champ. I could see the lads clock me, smilin’, they could taste those sweet, sweet burgers, man! They were eatin’ those fries with their eyes! I just needed to put the bags down somewhere so I could divvy up. So I see this table over by the cutters an’ I put the bags down, an’ I turn round to shout the lads that grub’s up, an’ that’s when I hear the noise.”
“Noise? What noise?”
“Kind o’ like a big ‘THUNK…NOM NOM NOM’.
I say, “What the fuck was that? What made the noise?”
Fucking Amazing Dave had tears in his eyes. The defeat was still raw. “I’d put the bags down next to the big industrial suction pipes, Luci, the ones that suck waste paper to the compactors. The bags o’ burgers an’ shakes an’ fries were sucked across the desk an’ got gobbled up by the machine! The factory ate £112.50 of Ronald McDonald’s finest in one big gobful! Everyone just looked up, listenin’ as all that sweet nosh thumped an’ rattled along the pipes, on it’s way to the belly o’ the beast. Gone.”
I try not to laugh. I’m horrified, but… well, you know what I mean. “Shit, Dave! What did the lads do?”
“Well, there were a horrible silence. They just looked stunned. Then somethin’ started drippin’ from the ceilin’. One o’ the pipes must have got a little leak. It drips on that big fuckin’ gorilla who made me do the list. He takes a taste o’ what were drippin’ on him an’ he just growls, ‘STRAWBERRY MILKSHAKE!’ an’ that’s when they rush me, raggin’ me round, howlin’ like lunatics! They try to ram me down the suction pipe after the burgers, but I don’t fit. That’s how I got me face lookin’ like this. The suction pipe gave me the world’s biggest love bite on me face, a massive mechanical hickey.”
I had to feel sorry for Fucking Amazing Dave, but I also felt for the lads. It’s not easy working twelve hours with nothing to eat, even if the only thing you’re getting is a McDonalds. It’s not an easy life.
I say to Dave, “You might be a shit delivery boy, Dave, but I know what you’re good at.”
Dave looks up. “What’s that, Luci?”
“You tell a good tale and you cheer me up. You also make a good brew. Where’s the kettle?”
Dave grins. “It’s back here. Black, one sugar yeah?”
“Spot on. Budge up and make some room. We got two hours to kill. Got any more Razzles?”
“Aye, Luci. I always got tea an’ Razzles for you, mate.”