the kettle and plugged it into the socket next to the stove. He walked out of
the kitchen, through the living room and poked his head into the bedroom.
you right ?" he shouted: "Kettle's on. It's quarter past." He walked along the
short corridor, picked up the newspaper, opened the door and went out on to the
blocks stood silent in the morning haze. Down below, a figure emerged from the
entrance of one of the blocks. A railway man, with a small bag hung over his
shoulder. Harry watched him disappear round the corner. A milk float rattled its
way through the courtyards. Other signs of life began to filter through the
From one of
the flats, the sound of a baby crying. Then, the noise of an engine spluttering
to life, the sounding off of an alarm clock. He glanced at the headline of the
newspaper and went back inside.
Elsie was up
and dressed and was combing her hair in front of the mirror in the living room:
"Kettle's boiled-I've brewed" she said. He went into the kitchen and poured out
the tea. "Want anything ?" he asked. "No -just a
drink. I'll get something at work" she replied.
him at the table as he sat drinking his tea and reading the paper.
got six months for battering their baby half to death - Animals." He
glanced up at
the clock: "Christ - I'm off', he said and got up from the table, went through
into the hall took his coat from its hanging place and said: "I'm not working
tonight - See you about six."
The car was
waiting for him on the corner. He squeezed in on the back seat as they rebuked
him for making them wait.
"What were you-on the nest again? Can't leave it alone
eh? He wouldn't swap them last three pushes for't treble chance, I'll bet".
on with minutes to spare. Harry shed his jacket and took out his boiler suit
from the locker next to his machine. It was just ten o'clock that the incident
occurred. He had reset the machine and was checking the result when he became
conscious that somebody was standing behind him. He looked round over his
shoulder. There was the foreman, one of the office staff and a man Harry had
never seen before. They were standing there silently watching him.
at them and gave a little nod. The foreman was frantically trying to signal with
his eyes. Harry wanted to walk round to the other side of the machine to remove
some swarf from the bed. He took a half step but the stranger who was standing
in the way, did not move. Harry stared at him for a moment and then switched off
the machine, pulled out his stool from underneath the bench, sat down and began
to read his newspaper.
"Is it finished now ?" asked the stranger.
Harry shook his head: "No- it's not finished yet".
have you stopped working ?" asked the man.
"Two reasons", said Harry: "I get
paid for producing - not for entertaining and in the second place - you're in the
fucking way, aren't you ?" The man went
rigid. He looked at the foreman who seemed as if he was about to faint.
see about this" said the man and stalked off, followed by the other two.The man from
the next machine to Harry's came over and said:
"What yer playing at Harry ?
Don't you know who that is ?" Harry shook his head.
"I don't care who he is-the
twat-standing there like a bleedin' dummy. Who is he anyway ?"
"It's the new
manager. He started today".
"Christ" said Harry: "Nobody told me. Anyway-balls
to him. He ought to know better."
later, the foreman returned.
"Sorry Harry" he said. "You ought to have known
better than that. You're pieced up - now. He wants you off the premises. Christ,
he went bleedin' stir back there"
"Pieced up !
Give over- he can't do that. How was I to know who he was. I've never seen him
before". "It's done" said the foreman: "I tried to argue him out of it but he
won't have any. He's going on there about asserting his authority-You'd better
go and see the Steward-see if he can do anything".
was in his tiny office at the end of the aisle. Harry told him what had
happened. He laughed and said:
"You're a silly sod aren't you- leave it with me.
I'll sort it out". Harry went
back to his machine and waited. Half-an-hour later the Steward returned. There
was an uncertainty about his smile as he said: "Listen Harry-if you'll go up
there and apologise he'll let it go at three days".
?" said Harry incredulously. The Steward nodded. "Tell him to piss off. Jesus
Christ - apologise and three days. What bloody game on?" The Steward
looked at him for a long moment:
"It's not easy Harry. He means to show he's the
boss. Give us time and we'll bring him in line, but for now, I don't know.
That's what he wants".
"And what do
you want ?" asked Harry. They stood there looking into each other's eyes. "If I
was in your place, I'd stop the bleedin' job right now," said Harry.
"Is that what
you want ?"
"It's not what I want. It's what should happen. Never mind bringing
him in line later on-he's got to be shown now." One of the
office clerks came up. He was holding an envelope.
"The Manager wants to know if
you are coming in now with your apology - he says five minutes - otherwise he wants
you to leave the factory".
you've got there" asked Harry.
"It's your money-and cards". Harry looked
at the Steward:
"He's a right charmer this bastard eh ?" Turning to the clerk he
said: "Tell him to come down here and apologise to me - otherwise he can get
stuffed". The clerk hurried off.
"Well that's it then", said the Steward.
that's it. What now ?" The Steward looked at his watch.
"I'll have to put it to
the section at dinner time".
"The section ? What about the rest of the factory
?" asked Harry. "Come on now-it's all or nowt on this one".
"Harry for Christ's sake. Let me put it to our section. We get
them out-then we can put it to the committee, and the rest". Harry pointed a
warning finger at him.
"Don't you sell me short mate. I'm leaving it to you". He
stripped off his boiler suit, hung it up inside the locker, put on his jacket
and walked away. "I'll be in the rest room" he said.
sat behind his desk, telephone in hand, explaining the situation to the Company
"Yes Sir-That's right Sir - He was insolent and aggressive - I really had
no alternative-on my first day - I - Yes I did offer a compromise Sir - An apology and
three days' suspension - No - Well, they
are meeting now, in the canteen-Just the one section, yes - I think it may just
be that, Sir - Yes - Well thank you. I'll keep you informed - Three days? It may even
be less - Yes Sir - Thank you very much".
replaced the receiver and went back to the bar to join his friends.
new man over there. His first day and he's got a bloody strike on his hands. You
know the feller-old Smithy's boy. He's trying to show how firm he can be.
Still-it might turn out quite useful. We have the merger coming up in three
months' time. This little test of strength could be a pointer to how they will
react when we start stripping down".
driver friend poked his head round the door of the Rest Room:
he said. "It's not good though. You should have heard some of the bastards ! The
Steward's gone to see the Committee for support, but he's not got much. It was a
over to the car park. The other two passengers were waiting for them. They
talked over the matter on the way home.
"There goes my overtime-and the weekend.
You should have stayed in bed. Telling the gaffer to fuck off"
"That's not what
happened" said Harry and he explained the incident. "Where did you get that from
? About me saying that to him ?"
"It was big
Alf told us, at the meeting. He was all against coming out- said you should have
apologised like you was asked and went on about the holidays coming up and his
bleedin' mortgage and what a bad time it was for a strike."
that bastard one of these days" said Harry: "What did the Steward say ?"
Christ man - he's right under the arm that one. I don't know what case he'll put
to the other Stewards but if it's as weak as the one he put to us - you've no
chance. If we hadn't have had a go in there our lot would never have come out.
Half of 'em are squealing already".
sat in the Union office explaining the incident and the result. The official
leaned forward on the desk, chin in hand:
"Christ- that's all we need. You know
we've always had a good set up with the management there. What do the other
stewards say ?"
they would call a meeting for tomorrow - if you agreed". The official sat there
silently as he thought about the problem.
"Don't have a meeting tomorrow" he
said: "Tell them I'll make an approach to the management first -to see how the
"What about our section ?" asked the Steward:
"They'll have to stay
out" said the official: "You say it was a split vote ?"
"Yes. I don't think
they'll stay out long on their own."
all right. Don't worry about that".
"What do you mean ?" asked the Steward.
use your loaf man. You know what's at stake here. This is no time for us to be
getting involved in a big dispute".
"Big dispute ?" said the Steward.
bloody dispute just now. You'll have the moaners on about losing money. The
press will be squealing about militants. It's best if we can get over this
without any blood being spilled. It could affect things here".
things? You mean your election ?":
"Not only mine". He stared at the Steward for
a long moment. "Oh come on-you know the score. If I move up, you'll be up for
this job. The thing is to keep things quiet. You have to win the votes of the
members who never want to get involved. You'll not do that by marching in front
of strikers and getting all that kind of publicity. It's softly-softly man, and
keep your head down".
buzzed. He picked it up listened for a moment and said "OK. Put him through". He
raised his eyes to the ceiling as if appealing to someone: "Yes-Oh yes I do know
about it, but not all the details- No I can't tell you that yet - What?- I've no
idea what he said-Well I'd check that first before you do anything on it".
He rang off
and asked the Steward:
"Did he tell the manager to fuck off ?"
"Not that I know
of' said the Steward: "Who was that ?"
"It's the Press - see what I
told you? Now you tell the others to hold off. I'll see if I can get to the
management tomorrow. I want this one out of the way".
got home from work, she found Harry in the kitchen preparing the table for tea.
"You're early" she said. Harry grunted and said:
"Get yourself sorted out. I've
done the tea". She took off her coat and went into the bathroom to wash her
hands. When she returned, Harry had started his meal. She sat down opposite him.
"You've not told me why you're home early".:
"Never mind that" he said: "Get on
with your tea".
came out later as they sat watching the regional news on television. There was a
brief mention about the strike, and Harry's name was mentioned.
"Is that you ?"
"Of course it's me. Who do you think ?"
"Well you might have told me"
"I was going
to" he said.
"You swore at the manager-and used a four letter word !"
Christ" he shouted: "Listen to this lot. I'm right in it now aren't I ?"
"In it ?" she
replied: "You mean we're in it. You got sacked! What are we going to do ? You
know we can't afford to go without your wages. What about the saving up for the
house, and what about the holiday ?"
going to listen to me ?" he asked her. "What about my side of the story ?" He
explained what had happened, but when he had finished, she said:
"And all you
had to do was apologise ?"
"And get grassed for three days" he said.
days? You daft bugger, you're sacked now We could have stood the three days".
He stood up,
pointed a finger at her and said:
"Now that's enough. You know me better than
that. I don't take shit like that off managers or anybody. You think I'm going
to go arse-holing round a bleedin' idiot who hasn't got the sense to let people
know who he is when he goes creeping round the bloody factory ?" He sat down
again. She was silent: "You're sulking now aren't you ?" She made no reply.
After a while he could stand it no longer. He got up from his armchair. "Sod
this. I'm going t'branch".
He caught the
bus into town. Sitting in front of him, two women were having a fundamental
"It's true-some of 'em do think they run this country. They've got
too much power, that's what wrong with them".
"Yes-well anyway, my Tom says he's
not coming out, and none of them in his department are either. He says he asked
for it and he should've bin sacked for what he did".
"Mmm. That's right. I heard
'e's bin in trouble before. I bet 'e's one of them Communists".
"Oh I wouldn't
be surprised. They're always causing trouble. They should get rid of 'em all".
They got off
at the same stop as Harry. He got off first and helped them both off. They
thanked him, giggling as they did so.
"I bet you're up to no good tonight" he
"Oh give over. We're only going to Bingo" said one. They stopped at the
crossing opposite the Bingo Hall.
"Good luck with the Jackpot" he said and
walked on. They crossed over still giggling.
He went into
the pub, through the Lounge and up the stairs to the Branch room. The Branch
Secretary looked up as Harry walked in:
"Hello there. What have you been up to
?" Harry sat
down on a chair at the side of the room.
"You've heard then ?"
"Oh yes. We've
had a couple of your fellers in tonight. That's a right queer place you work
"Do you want me to fill you in on it ?" asked Harry. The Secretary looked
at his watch:
"It's a bit quiet tonight. I'll be through here soon. Go and have
a pint downstairs. I won't be long".
back down and into the bar. Four men were playing cards at a table in the
corner. One of them was Big Alf, one of the reluctant strikers. Harry got a pint
and walked over to stand behind him. Unaware of Harry's presence, Big Alf was
making his views known:
"Bleedin' clown. Got us all out now with his big mouth"
He did not see the signals of the other players trying to warn him of Harry's
presence. He was studying his hand. They were playing nine card Don.
Harry made a
signal to the others not to give him away. He watched the hand being played.
Alf's partner had pitched Clubs and had just led again with a Spade. Alf claimed
the lead and led back with a Heart. He lost the lead and a Jack of Clubs forced
Alf's partner to play the Don.
"Who's the bleedin' clown now" said Harry. Big
Alf looked round alarmed at the presence. Harry nodded to Alf's partner: "Don't
worry cock - He doesn't know how to back a partner up at anything. He only studies
his own hand, and he's no bloody good at that". He walked away from the table
and toward the door leading to the Lounge. At the door he turned and said: "He
had two Spades there mate". He tutted, shook his head and went through into the
As he sat
there waiting for the Branch Secretary to join him, a young man came over.
"Excuse me" he said. "Are you the man involved in the dispute today ?"
you ?" asked Harry. The man gave his name and said:
"I'm with the Chronicle".
"No comment". The man looked at him appealingly.
"Aw come on" he
said. "This is my first real assignment. Let me get you a drink. I only want to
know what happened from your point of view".
"I've got a drink", said Harry "and
even if I tell you my story it'll never get printed in that bloody rag".
"Look-please. Let me get you a drink" said the young man. "What is that ? Bitter
?" He went to the Bar and came back with another pint, placing it on the table
in front of Harry. He placed his own half of lager beside it and sat down next
"What do you
want to know ?" asked Harry.
"Well we've got something from the firm and I've
been on to your District Secretary, although he didn't seem to know much about
it when I phoned". He had his pad and pen ready. "Tell me-is it true that you
threatened the new Manager ?"
"Well tell me in your own words what
"What did they say happened ?" asked Harry.
"Did you tell him to fuck
off ?" Harry stared at him.
"Where did you get that from ?"
"It's what's going
around. Did you ?"
"How long have you been a reporter ?"
"I told you. I've only
just started. I want to do a good job on this. It's important to me."
do a good job all right. You already know how to put the accused on the spot.
Just like them bastards on the telly. Did I tell the Manager to fuck off ?"
said the young man: "Just tell me what happened". :
"You asked me a question".,
said Harry. "I'll answer it. That is not an expression lever use". The young man
looked hurt. "I'm telling you" said Harry: "Write it down. That is not an
expression I ever use". The young man wrote something in his pad. He asked how
old Harry was. Was he married ? Any children ? Then he asked:
describe yourself as a militant ?"
"What's a militant ?" said Harry. He grinned
as he said it.
"You're not a Communist are you ?"
"Course I am. I've been
trained in Moscow where all the words end in 'off. That's why you're here asking
The young man
snapped his pad shut, stood up and said:
"You are not being very helpful are you
?" Harry looked up at him.
"No" he said: "Do you want
your drink back? I've not touched it". The young man stalked off. As he reached
the door, Harry shouted: "Be careful what you put in. I've got a good
Secretary came down from the meeting room and joined him at the table.
better tell me what happened" he said. Harry gave him a full account of all that
had taken place. "They're a bad lot in there" said the Secretary:
"I'm a loser
on this aren't I ?" said Harry.
"I wouldn't say that entirely" said the
Secretary. "This is how I see it. If you worked at our place we would have
sorted it out before anyone clocked off tonight, but that's our place. Your
Steward's already sold the pass on this one. It's a straight enough issue. The
trouble is, your lot are not noted for having a go. They're docile. Your Steward
is like that with this creep of a District Secretary we've got" he said,
crossing the first and second fingers of his right hand: "When this feller moves
on to the Divisional job, the Steward will be in for the vacancy. They are both
playing the 'keep it cool' game. There's a lot of votes in your place and if
they have to drive the bastards out on strike over this, well-they know what the
"So I'm out
then ?" said Harry. "Finished".:
"Oh they'll cook something up. They might twist
your arm for a crawl back or - we'll have to wait and see".
supposed to be a big meeting tomorrow" said Harry.
"No" said the Secretary.
"That's off. The District Secretary is trying to see the management. Private
talks and all that con. Your only chance is with the District Committee next
week. We can kick his arse over it there if he hasn't settled it by then. The
only trouble there is, it's a bit late for the DC to force the action. Unless
they move at the factory this week, it looks dicey. We'll move victimisation and
try to open it up for the EC man to step in with some national muscle". Harry
finished his drink.
"I'll get off now" he said: "Thanks anyway. See you".
the DC next Tuesday" said the Secretary. "I'll move to get you in to report what
happened just in case they distort it".
The two Bingo
players were in the bus queue. Harry boarded the bus and took the seat behind
them. He leaned forward and said:
"How did it go ?" They looked round, laughed
and one said:
"No good. I waited ages for one number"
"Ah well" he said: "That's
how it goes. You can't win 'em all".
was standing at the Bar of the Golf Club holding a whisky and lemonade. He was
telling a group of his fellow-members about the incident:
"The funny thing was,
everybody got excited and stirred up about it except me. I made a
decision-that's all there is to it. That's been the trouble there before - too
bloody slack - Mind you, I'm not a believer in the new broom and all that. I
planned to get the feel of the place first, but - well there's this insolent
bugger having a go right from the start. I wasn't having that". He glanced
over again to where the bronzed, blonde woman was sitting with her two friends.
She stared back coolly, giving the merest nod of acquiescence. He felt a surge
of exhilaration - "Er-Beg pardon" he turned back to his company.
"I was asking
about the boss. What was his attitude ?"
"Oh, complete confidence-no question".
He raised his voice, hoping that his possible conquest could hear: "Of course
when I took the job I made it clear I would do it my way-with guidance of course
but no interference". He ordered another round. The bronze blonde came over to
the bar. "I'll pay for those" he said. She smiled, thanked him and carried her
order back to the table. One of his
friends whispered in his ear:
"I'd watch that one-she'll take you for a ride".
"Oh don't worry about me. I might take her for a ride". He winked broadly. He
was getting drunk fast now. "I must pay a call" he said and swayed off toward
the Gents. Inside, he suddenly felt sick. He looked at himself in the mirror.
His eyes were watery and bloodshot. Coming out of the toilet, he stumbled, tried
to recover his balance and fell backwards. He sat down on the floor with a bump
then scrambled to his feet grinning foolishly. One of his
friends came over, took him by the arm and said:
"Alright, old chap ? I think
we'd better get you home". He felt dizzy and, pushing the man away, he bolted
back into the toilet to be sick. He came back
white-faced and apologetic. They had phoned for a taxi which arrived shortly
afterwards. He lay slumped on the back seat throughout the journey. The driver
kept glancing through his mirror to see how he was surviving. When they reached
their destination, the driver helped him out and took him to the garden gate,
got the fare from him and left him shambling up the garden path. The driver
checked in over the taxi radio.
alright ?" came the message back: "OK. No trouble. Just some toffee-nosed
drunken get. I've seen him home alright" he reported.
on the corner for the car to arrive. When it did, there was only the driver in
it. The other two had decided not to go to the factory.
"They've heard the big
meeting's been called off' he told Harry. "There's only our lot. The Steward
wants to put us in the picture".:
"Why aren't they coming then ?" asked Harry.
The driver did not reply at once.
"It doesn't take much working out" he said
eventually. "They think it'll be a return to work and a sell-out.
"What do you
think" asked Harry.
"I think so too, but not today. The District Secretary will
cook something up and they'll do it tomorrow".
"What do you think it will be ;"
"It could be a works conference and 'Failure to Agree", said the driver. "That
means a new file being opened with your name on it and put in a drawer in the
"That means I'm sacked" said Harry.
"That's about it mate.
Course-there's other things they could do. You never know what these bastards
get up to".
only a handful of the strikers there. They gathered in the canteen. The Steward
explained that the District Secretary was arranging 'talks' with the management
and they were to meet again on the following day.Harry asked
what the chances were of the management agreeing to reinstatement:
"He'll do his
best for you-you know that" said the Steward. Harry and his friend left the
canteen and went back to the car.
"You can drop me off at our old feller's
house" said Harry. "I'll go and see how he is and tell him about this lot".
"What do you
think now ?" he asked as they drove off.
"It's as I told you said the driver.
"He'll do his best for you eh? Neither of 'em want to do anything. They'll have
us back in work after tomorrow, and then a nice easy run in to the elections.
They know there's a big vote in there for them." The Steward
stayed behind talking to the others.
"What do you think ?" asked one.
can't get the others out. We know that. Harry can't complain. We've done our
bit. He'll be alright".
"Oh aye, but what about us? We're losing money over
it - just because he opened his mouth. He should have done what you said and took
the three days".
said the Steward: "I think we'll be back before the week's out".
father was in the living room reading. He looked up as Harry walked in:
you've got yourself in a right bloody mess haven't you ?" he said. "You'd better
tell me about it". Harry told him the story and what had transpired since the
going to sell you out eh ?" said the old man. "That's typical. I don't know what
the movement's coming to. It would never have happened in my day. It's about
time you got rid of that bloody Steward and that District Secretary. Pair o'
him about the feeling in the factory:
"They're not going to move on it" he said.
"No they won't" said the old man: "And they've got the kind of leadership to
match. We lost a few battles in my day, but not like this. We had people who
were scared of the bosses, but when they had to fight, they did it. Now they're
frightened about their mortgages and their bloody cars-tax and insurance.
They'll carve you up."
guess on how it will finish up ?" asked Harry.
"You ought to know that" said the
old man. "They've got all kinds of tricks to pull nowadays. You watch that
official of yours. He'll be pulling something off when he meets them".
official and the Company Chairman sat in the hotel lounge sipping their
"It's a lot of nonsense really don't you think ?" said the Chairman.
"I mean-your man could have got himself out of this quite easily. All this
trouble over a simple matter".
the Official. "But at the same time, your new man was a bit daft too. You know
how these things blow up out of all proportion. I've got the Press on about it
as if some great industrial storm is about to break out. I don't want this kind
of thing on my plate".
"I hear you
are having difficulty getting support from the rest of the workforce" said the
Chairman. "In view of the good record we have between us, I should hate to see
you being called in before the Department in some kind of context over a trivial
thing like this. What is the position? Are the others coming out ?"
put it to them yet" said the official. "I thought we might get it settled before
that stage". The Chairman thought about it for a moment, then said:
be honest with you. I know the new man could have acted with a bit more
savvy-but you know-I'm very much in the same position that you are. I don't want
to undermine him. He's new and he is looking for support-just as we all have to
at times. I think we will have to come to a compromise."
There was a
long pause. Then:
"What do you suggest ?" asked the Official.
got the Acts. I'm sure we can get something which satisfies all concerned".
would have to be Unfair Dismissal" said the Official. The Chairman nodded his
"You put your case-we will fight it of course-but-"
got up to leave.
"Alright" he said. "We'll do it that way". The Chairman walked
with him to the door:
"Of course" he said quietly, "It can't be reinstatement. I
mean - it will have to satisfy our man too
"Cash ?" said the Official.
That is if you win it of course."
drove back to his office. The Steward was waiting for him. He reported on the
talks he had held with the few strikers who had turned up that day and the
arrangements for the next day's meeting.
"How did you get on ?" he asked.
won't budge" said the Official: "I've told them we'll challenge it through the DEP ".
"What will you go for- reinstatement ?" asked the Steward.
"We'll go for
everything we can. We're bound to get something"
"What about the lads who are
out ?" The Official gave him a long searching look.
"We'll have to get them
back. Do you know if he got his cards and money sent on ?"
"No" said the
Steward. "He refused to accept them on the day".
check on it" said the Official.
"Who with ?"
"Phone the office now". The Steward
"Suppose they've not sent them ? You're not suggesting I tell
them to are you ?"
"Phone 'em for Christ's sake" said the Official. "Find out"
picked up the telephone, dialled, made the enquiry and waited for the answer.
"Thank you" he said and replaced the receiver. "Yes-they sent them off today" he
"That's that then" said the Official. "It's Unfair Dismissal".
up the evening paper and sat down in the armchair:
"It's on page three" said
Elsie. He turned the pages until he found the item. It was not a significant
piece, but it knocked him. "Sacked Man Denies Swearing". There was a
sub-heading. "I never use that language".
"Did you say
that ?" she asked.
"No" he replied. "I upset the reporter a bit. He's having a
"You ought to know to be careful with reporters".
"That's alright" he
said. "I might see him again before it's over".
to happen now ?" she asked.
"I'll start looking for a job" he said.
thought the Union was taking it up" she said.
"Oh they're taking it up alright.
You know what's happened don't you ? We had all that business about getting rid
of the extremists and putting the moderates in. Well, now we've got the
moderates. They want a nice, easy life -no trouble and nice cosy chats with the
gaffers. They'll sew me up good".
you know ?" she asked.
"May be tomorrow. After that, I'll start having my say.
I'll get a job somewhere, then I'll start going to the meetings. If I can't find
someone better than that Steward to put up for the Official's job, I'll put up
for it myself". She was
making entries in a small notebook.
"What are you doing ?" he asked.
reckoning up" she told him. "We're going to have to cut down on some things with
you out of work".
"It won't be for long" he said. "I saw the old man today. He
went through worse things than this. We'll survive".
be your last trip with us Harry";
"Yes" he said. "I think the axe will fall this
morning". They were driving to the factory for the meeting.
missus taking it now ?" asked the driver.
"Oh she's alright" said Harry. "It's
not so much losing the job, it's the way it's been handled". The man in the
passenger seat grunted in disgust.
"Pair o' bastards them two. You watch 'em go
to town at this meeting":
"I'm not going in" said Harry. "I want them to take
the decisions without me. They all know what they're doing. I'll wait outside".
He sat on a
wooden bench outside the canteen. There had been a full turn up of the section
on strike. He had watched them going in and had taken note of how many had
avoided looking at him. The official spotted him sitting there and had walked
over to have a chat.
"Are you coming in ?" he asked.
"No" Harry replied. "I
don't want to make things awkward for anyone. You'll do your best won't you ?"
He had stared hard at the man as he said it. The Official had felt uncomfortable
under the gaze.
"It's all up to them," he said. "I'll do whatever they want".
There was a
small patch of lawn in front of the bench where Harry was sitting. At one end of
this, a swarm of gnats gyrated, rising and falling continually. He watched them
and tried to remember something he had once read about the ritual and the reason
for it. A young
apprentice came out of the canteen and walked over to the bench.
"Is it over ?"
"No not yet" said the boy. "I got fed up with it. It's a load of
rubbish. That big Alf's having a go-crying like a big twat. What are you doing
out here ?"
the gnats", said Harry. The boy sat down and watched with him.
interesting about them ?" he asked.
"Have you not seen it before ?" said Harry.
"Course I have. Should I scatter em
"No" said Harry. "You see there you are.
You've seen it before, but you've never thought about it. What they are doing
bleedin' flying up and down cos they've got nowt else to do" said the boy.
"Oh no" said
Harry. "You see - each one of them is striving to reach the pinnacle of
desire - even though it kills them when they get there. They're not much different
than some people I know". He got up and
began to walk away.
"Are you not staying to find out ?" the boy called after
"No" said Harry. "I know already". He walked out through the factory gates.
reporter was waiting for news of the meeting.
"Hello there" he said. "Can you
tell me what the result is ?" Harry looked at him calmly.
"Fuck off" he said and
walked on towards the bus stop.