Charli Mills latest flash fiction prompt is thus described:
December 30, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write an industrious story. It can be about an industry or the efforts of a person or group of people. What does their industry reflect? Does hard work pay off? Are there risks or accidents?
Industry, to me, conjures up factory working, lots of noise and smoke and dust and grim faced Lowry people shuffling hither and yon. Down trodden, put upon, to be pitied. Rubbish, of course. True enough in parts but the reality is more nuanced.
Maybe these teasing images remain because my exposure to industrial working is limited to one summer employed as what was colloquially called a ‘Bollockie’ – i.e. working beneath the Big Knobs. This was at the chemical plant where my dad ran the sales team. Dad pretty much loathed his job, even while enjoying the company of the people he worked with. Something about being impotent I think. You see he’d sell the products the plant made – they took refined oil and turned it into things like brake fluid and antifreeze and heaven knows what. He’d accept the order and agree on the timelines with the engineers and then hold his breath. If something went wrong with the manufacture, if the tanker was delayed ruining the product, whatever the reason, it was his task to explain to the pissed off customer and try and keep them sweet. Being nice to Mr Angry of Ford Dagenham was not part of Dad’s skill set. He was more of the ‘You think you’ve got a problem? You should try working here…’ school of sympathetic banter.
So when he told me his boss’s son was going to work as a temporary bollockie on the plant in the summer holidays and did I want a similar job, it was with a lot of trepidation on both his and my parts that we considered the position. His because my well known (in the family) clumsiness could prove, at best, costly and, at worst, deadly; mine because he would be far too close for comfort and I was still of an age where his interference would be mortifying. However his boss had offered (therefore refusal was tricky) and the pay was extraordinary (therefore beyond tempting); so we agreed to give it a spin.
I started badly; we had to take a forklift truck driving test – there were three of us – and only I couldn’t drive. I did my best to decapitate the foreman in charge of the warehouse – a lovely if twitchy man called Alan – and it was decoded I could do the job without driving the forklift which was kind of them but it did mean interminable hours on the canning line as we filled 50 and 100 litre oil drums with syrupy gloop. The tea was made in a gallon tea pot that was so black you could pour in boiling water and receive a strong cup of something brown and tea like without any tea leaves added.
Because of my connections to management I was treated ok for six of the ten weeks. Then they made a batch of illicit washing up liquid that was super concentrated and gave me a gallon can to take home to mum. When dad found out he was livid but rather than lay into me he just gritted his teeth and said, “You’ll learn.”
I didn’t understand what he meant until my next shift. Now the ‘lads’ knew they had a hold on me, or rather on dad and their attitude changed noticeably. Petty things like removing the fillings from my break time sandwiches, letting down the tyres on my moped and giving me impossible jobs. It was good to finish. We haven’t kept in touch.
So Mary. Will the new year bring her relief? Well maybe the new neighbours are going to offer Mary an outlet?
Supporting local industry
‘Mrs North. Jasmine and Penny have been plotting I understand.’
Mary looked at her next door neighbour, a petite, strong jawed woman with deep unreadable eyes. ‘Please it’s Mary.’
‘Jasmine said you needed help in your café and I mentioned…’
‘I’d love it, if you can spare the time. Pay’s not great…’
‘Don’t you need references? I’ve not done this before and…’
Hansa took Mary’s hand. ‘Honestly a familiar face would be so welcome while we get up to speed. But are you sure?’
Mary smiled. ‘I always make a point of supporting local industry. I’d love to.’
If you’d like to follow Mary from the beginning you can click here.