Jake Raglan sits in a dingy room in the company of four workmates. Along one of the walls are old battered lockers some with locks some without. It’s 4am everyone is wearing the twilight look, too tired to be asleep and reluctantly awake to their lives. Jake picks up a pair of pliers and places two small sticky pads on the inside of its jaws. ‘What are you doing?’ asks Shakey Smith (a man who can’t stop his legs from moving whenever he sits down).
Jake places the pliers in his mouth grips tightly on the handles closes his eyes and rips out a tooth whilst screaming to deflect the pain that is about to follow.
‘JESUS! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING!’ said Andy Malone as he put his hands to his face.
Blood was pouring out of Jake’s mouth as he reached into his small rucksack and pulled out a toilet roll, two painkillers and a half bottle of whiskey. He swallowed the tablets and took turns to mop up the blood and swill whiskey round his mouth. His workmates were stunned into silence, each of them wincing at the thought of such pain.
‘fucking hell’ said Pete Filey, ‘that is gross’
After ten minutes of dabbing and swilling Jake holds up his trophy too his audience, a large tooth healthy looking at one end but blackened by rot at the other.
‘That bastard has been giving me gip for weeks’
‘Could you not just have gone to the dentist?’ whispered Mickey the mouse (a very quiet timid man)
‘I can’t afford to pay a dentist’ Jake said as he threw piles of blood soaked tissue into the small waste bin in the corner.
‘waste of a good whiskey’ said Andy
‘it’s cheap shit’ said Jake with a pained smile
The door opened ‘right come on back to work you’ve had your 15 minutes’ said John Forbes a 40 year old man with an empty life behind him and renowned company arselicker.
All four men rose from the bench and headed back on to the factory floor.
Jake Raglan 20 years old saw this coming. Fortune of birth was the law of life for his generation. He left school at 16 armed with 10 GCSE’s and looking forward to a world of earning money and living independently from his family. These last four years have not been kind to him. It’s been a succession of temporary jobs, humiliating visits to the local job centre, countless assessments, filling in forms and trying not to lose his temper at the sneering dismissive civil servants who assessed him.
‘why don’t you enlist in the territorials?’ said one particular interviewer.
‘Because I’m not interested in fighting for the rich so I can die on the cheap’ was Jake’s terse reply.
Jake’s current position was Warehouse Operative an appropriate banal title for such a mind numbing fuck of a job. There was no specific role in this job no real training or any opportunities to advance. Health and safety was based on how alert you were. The company he worked for was a thriving business supplying cheap food brands to bargain shops. The turnover of staff was endemic unskilled people were available in droves and the company could and did fire at will without any recourse from a compliant government.
Jake was employed on a zero hours contract or TNC’s (tomorrow never comes) as he and his workmates called it. Zero hours meant you had no fixed schedule. On any given day you could be sent home and you might not be called back for several days. You could be sacked for no reason and there was no procedure for disputing your dismissal unless you paid £1500 up front to a tribunal.
Night shift was a bastard getting used to it was like climbing into a giant tumble dryer that went straight to spin. Your body has no idea what’s going on and your mind refuses to take an active part in such a dead existence. Jake looked around at his fellow workers and imagined a Cossack army ‘The Red Eye Regiment’ marching in line with blurry sight raising their right hand in feigned salute as the troops, with perfect timing, rubbed their eyes to restore vision He laughed at his stupid analogy. He was grateful for such fortunate interruption to a job that was full of last rites for independent thinking.
This was Jake’s last shift on nights he’s been working two weeks non stop and was ready for the break. It was 6am as he and his small team were done for the day. He walked out into the rain smiling at his impending mini break and his dental skills.
To be Continued… ©JMcN2014