I had had no work today. That’s why when Bill called I was still in bed.
‘You working today, Tone?’
He already knew the answer that’s why I didn’t respond other than throw my eyes around the room. I knew what was coming next.
‘You couldn’t help me out for half hour – mate?’
Bill was struggling on a job and he had no help as his own boss was having an extended Christmas in
‘Just half an hour?’ I groaned.
‘Yeah, half hour. Just got three large sheets of glass I can’t get in the van. I’ll pick you up in ten.’
That meant he was still at home. But Bill was round after five minutes not ten. So he must have been at the shops when he called. Sat in the van hassling me to get out of bed on my day off. Fuck’s sake.
As I was supposed to be lifting just three sheets of glass into the back of his van, I didn’t bother dressing down. I wore what was on the bedroom floor; what I had on last night down Tripticks Wine Bar. Red trainers, jeans and a blue trackie top; I never name-drop brands.
Guess I should have read the warning signs though when he said this with a straight face as I got in the van.
‘That’s not your best clobber Tone is it?’
I didn’t answer. So he talked instead, about his weekend.
Bill’d been on an all dayer Saturday. Brentford v
‘Here we are then,’ said Bill, pulling sharply right into some private lane, a mud-strewn dirt track and then another sharp right. In front of me, an L-shaped bungalow.
Where I assumed there should be a garden in the front and on that garden, a skip, there sat a vast and grotesque mountain of debris. Broken slabs of concrete, destroyed wooden pallets, fluorescent lighting tubes, black bags, so many bulging black bags, mostly ripped at the sides, large paint tins, plastic bins, window frames, door frames, internal doors, soggy cardboard, even items of clothing. But there was no three sheets of large glass.
‘This the job you’re on then?’
‘Where’s the glass?’
‘Round the side.’
The three double glazed units, as they were, each weighed a ton. And it was a struggle to get them round to the van. Bill had gloves on. Kept moaning when I said I needed a rest as the units were slipping through my fingers. I could feel and hear my heart complaining of stress, my whole body soon joining in with the aching disappointment of this morning pain, my facial expression grassing me up to Bill as I struggled desperately with the last of the units; I had to rest five times in all. Bill groaned but that privilege should have been exclusively mine.
‘Man up, Tone,’ he said.
I wanted to retaliate. But a vision of my doomed relationship a while back with his little sister
‘As you’re here now, you might as well help me load up all the rest.’
Forty-five minutes later and with my red trainers now camouflaged in brown mud, my tracksuit black and blue, my mood reddening deeper by the second, I somehow also agreed to visit the dump to unload all this filth. And when I say unload all this filth, what I mean is that the back of the transit van was rammed tight with shit.
‘Surely,’ I said, strangely trying to remain friendly on route to the dump, ‘everything will fall out when you open up the back doors?’
‘That’s the plan,’ said Bill.
At the dump there were three points of entry into the monstrous waste disposal chamber. Three fifteen foot wide corridors that had partitioning walls some thirty feet high. At the back end of the right side bay we reversed into was a condensed mountain of rubbish that had just been compacted by the bulldozer currently dozing in the yard. In the centre bay next to ours a metallic dinosaur was at work, occasionally its angry large jaws were visible over our heads.
‘Can get dangerous here,’ remarked Bill as he opened up the van doors and unleashed hell – a waterfall of industrial shit fell from the back of the van – and at that precise moment pieces of concrete debris fell from the dinosaur’s jaws above us and into our bay; the peak of the mountain, but still a fucking worry.
Bill got back in the van and drove a foot or two forward so that we could access what had to come out by hand. We were soon doing just that; throwing shit from the van into the lower regions of the mountain.
‘You sure you’ve not got a spare pair of gloves?’
Bill tossed his head savagely.
There was no question that I had every right to cherry pick. I began to carefully remove the stack of florescent tubing – there was about a dozen of them – that were neatly tucked upright in my immediate corner; I was by the right side door. I enthusiastically threw them like spears up into the mountain, marvelling when they impacted and shattered. I felt ten-years-old. Bill watched on disapprovingly but remained silent. However the small bout of joy was soon cancelled when a loaded black bag split, spilling its putrid guts of wet muck down my jeans. I then asked myself a question we all consider in moments of desperation and pointlessness.
What the fuck am I doing here?
Next I wrestled with and eventually pulled out half of a wooden pallet and as I turned and prepared to throw it hard, fast and high, I felt a tremendous blow on the head – a door had followed through sideways and clubbed me like the blunt end of a falling axe – and I fell, blood pouring down into my eyes, me now blinded in seeping red. Floored and blind the last thing I remember was Bill regarding me, I think he said, ‘Told you it was dangerous here,’ and that’s all I remember about the end of my life. It was over. Simple and boring as that. My life flame brutally extinguished in filthy squalor. Nice one Bill.