Friday Fictioneers – The Means of Production

Photo by C E Ayrs

Decided to give Friday Fictioneers a go this week, run by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.  I’m honestly not a huge political history buff, but decided to try and go in that direction anyway. I also would like to leave a disclaimer that even though I do work in manufacturing, this is definitely not something I am planning! 

No missed calls. No new emails.

After two cups of espresso and reading 30 pages the latest Simon Sinek book, he picked up his eerily silent company phone, perplexed.

As he drove to the office, he decided that great leadership was creating a self-sufficient workforce which did not bombard him with communications every minute.

He pulled up to the gate. Reversed. Pulled up again. This automatic number plate recognition system was beyond ridiculous. He owned the building, for God’s sake!

He jabbed at the intercom.

“I’m sorry,” a voice came through the static. “You’re no longer permitted in this factory…”

C: Friday Fictioneers – Run Away With Me

PHOTO PROMPT © Luther Siler

Picture Copyright – Luther Siler

For this week’s Friday Fictioneers entry, I’ll be joining the ConCrit sub group for the first time. I’ve definitely been struggling lately, so some hints and tips would be much appreciated.

In a back room, I pull the ridiculous costume over my head, and I’m enveloped in the sweaty, cigarette-tinged odour of the last person who wore it.

There’s a knock on the fire exit. I turn and see her behind the glass. There’s something regretful in her mischievous grin.

“Forget what I said! Forget this! Come with me!” she shouts. She sees my hesitation. “Are you a chicken or aren’t you?”

I grin. I rip the suit off, damaging the zip, snapping the wings, and violently kick it to the other end of the room.

Breathless, I barrel through the exit.

The Library Book Project – 12 January 2011

To read more about this project click here.

The clouds lay low and heavy over the skyline, their shades of gray just as grim as the concrete monstrosities that rise above the slate rooftops. If I stare for too long at the horizon, the icy air causes my eyes to tear up. I tell myself that my lethargy is due to the long break, but I don’t recall feeling this tired after my first day back last year. The atmosphere feels so cold, it’s like the air is thicker and harder to walk through. My legs complain and refuse to be forgotten as I get closer to home.

The house is warmer than outside and my fingers begin to itch and swell after a few minutes, even though I wore gloves. The smell of last night’s takeaway flirts with my nostrils, and I would open a window if it wouldn’t let all the warm air out. My first act is to sit on the couch, but resting only seems to accentuate the soreness of my joints. Unfortunately, getting up requires more energy than I am willing to part with.

I tell myself that I am mentally preparing. The fact is, it is only a little after 3 in the afternoon, and there are many things that I am meant to be doing. The kitchen needs a wipe down, the bins need taking out and there is a pile of washing up by the sink. The stale sheets on my bed would be an affront to any proud housekeeper. The laundry pile spills out across dirty carpet. If I manage these things, I will feel better.

I pull myself up and decide to tackle the bedroom first. The washing machine can do its work while I clean the kitchen, but first I need to strip the bed. I try not to think about anything as I do it, making my movements as robotic as possible. I can’t afford to pause or I won’t start again. When taking my pillows off the bed, a book falls onto the floor.

It’s the library book I took out weeks ago. I flick to the front page, dreading what I’m about to see. The book is due to be returned tomorrow. I look at the date stamp, feeling defeated, before placing it on the desk. I know that I will want to traipse to the library tomorrow afternoon even less than I want to today. As inconsiderate as it may be, I’d rather pay the fine.

The Library Book Project – 26 August 2010

To read more about this project, click here.

Hannah reclines on the sofa, one hand holding the TV remote, the other diving into a packet of crisps. She gives me smug grin.

“Hope you guys have fun!”

I mumble something before backing out of the lounge door and greeting our three children, who are supposed to be putting on their shoes. Ben and Tom are too busy shoving each other to dig their footwear out of the jumble by the door.  Kaitlyn, the oldest, sucks in her cheeks and directs a baleful look at me with her brown eyes.

“Can’t I stay behind with Mum?” she pleads.

“No.” I say, firmly. “We’re going to the museum, just me, you and your brothers. And then, if you’re all good,” I raise my voice slightly so the boys can hear me, “We’ll get some ice cream or something, how does that sound?”

“Yeah! Ice cream!” the boys chant together, distracted momentarily from their tussle. Kaitlyn’s demeanor brightens.

“But only if you get your shoes on right now, no fuss!”

Ten minutes later we’re walking up the hill, and I’m feeling more sympathetic towards my wife with every step. She works from home, but the last few summers I’ve managed to get time off to help her out during the school holidays. This year, things were harder, and so I can only take the kids off her hands on the weekends.

On the way through the town centre, I drop off my library book, and then we head towards the museum. Hannah was doubtful that the kids would particularly enjoy a contemporary art exhibit, but I insisted it was never too early to start exposing our children to modern art. I showed her the exhibit online. It was a collection of photographs by Diane Arbus. Hannah made a face, which caused me to be all the more determined.

It’s not until I stand in the museum’s entrance, the sound of my rowdy children the only audible noise, that I begin to wonder if this is a good idea…

The Library Book Project – 23 November 2009

To read more about this project, click here.

Today, this company will lose a major asset. I open the top drawer of my desk, revealing reams of printed paper that are dated between yesterday and and five years ago. No, surely I must have cleaned out this drawer since I first moved into this office? I suppose I always had far better things to do. I was a busy woman, constantly managing and advising the junior staff, who always seem so much more clueless than I was at their ages. They’re not completely incompetent, but they can’t back up their own egotistical bluster.

Amongst the stream of fury, I feel a small amount of relief that I’m not obliged to clear out all these documents. Most of them could probably go in the bin, but I’ve always erred on the side of caution, which is why the second drawer down is equally full. In fact, all four drawers contain nothing but pages which now have no relevance or importance to me. It’s liberating and soul-destroying all at the same time.

At first they wanted me to reduce my hours. That conversation left me with a sour taste in my mouth. It was sickly, sugary lines from a man half my age. Made me almost long for the days when sexism was rampant, but at least the man (it was almost always a man) in charge didn’t bullshit you and pretend that everything was for your own good.

I vowed not to let it set me back. I joined the gym. Even though I can afford books, I frequented the library because I couldn’t think of any more excuses to go outside. I ended up drinking wine on the evenings and watching box sets of my favorite televisions shows. When I retired to bed I’d still be wide awake, wondering what I’d done wrong, and why they wanted less of me rather than more. Hadn’t I proved myself invaluable?

Soon, my colleagues will come into the office and present me with a card and some flowers, congratulating me on my early retirement. None of them will look me in the eye. Tomorrow, I will be the main course on the cafeteria gossip menu.

Friday Fictioneers – CoolBlu-Y

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Copyright – Roger Bultot

To find out more about Friday Fictioneers, click here.

Hey, you!

Yes, I’m looking at you!

Had another one of those days? The ones where your train was late, you got fired from your job, and then you came home to find your wife having sex with your brother, and when you leave the house, you find your car has been destroyed by a fallen tree?

Never fear those days again! With CoolBlu-Y, all you need is a simple injection into your eyeball and all the worries melt into drug-induced contentment!

Available from all leading pharmacists!

Caution: Side effects may include hair loss, brain damage, kidney damage and/or impotency.

The Library Book Project – 25 July 2008

To read more about this project, click here.

Well, that was awful. I mean, I never even realized people could be so rude. My first ever shift of my first ever job, and I’m already exhausted. All I thought about when I applied and had my interview was the money. The woman who trained me, Martina, she was alright, but the customers? Don’t even ask. The rest of my summer stretches ahead of me, like the days are being reflected by a fairground mirror.

It blows my mind that some people do this day in, day out and that’s all they have. At least I have college to look forward to in September.  (That’s the first time I’ve ever said I’m looking forward to college.) This job makes the prospect of A-Level maths quite delightful. God, A-Levels. I mean, when I first started secondary school, sixth-form students were like this whole other species. Frankly, even as a GCSE student, they were weirdly different from us. Like they were way, way more than a year or a couple of years older than us. I think it’s the lack of school uniform.

College is even more… I don’t know. I know that it’s supposed to be the same as sixth form, but everyone told me not to stay on at my old school, or I’d regret it. “College is way better!” they told me. “At sixth form they still treat you like you’re a kid.” To be honest, I always wanted to ask them how they knew. They either went to sixth form, or they went to college. How could they compare and know which was better?

Still, it gave a finality to my last days at school. I handed in my textbooks and filled in the leavers form. I had to ask the librarian to stamp a sheet saying I didn’t owe any books or fees despite the fact I’d never even taken a library book out. I stood in the very long queue to her desk and wondered why that was. I loved reading and must have read all the books at home twice over.

With that in mind, I’d visited the library in the town centre during study leave. The book I took out is sitting on my desk. It hasn’t been touched in the past two weeks, and now it’s almost time for it to be taken back. I’ll have to return it on the way back from one of my shifts.

The Library Book Project – 22 March 2008

For more information on this project, click here.

The blue-grey headache is starting to impose itself upon me again. Painkillers will only make me drowsier, but I’m still tempted. In front of me, on the screen, is yet another of these personality questionnaires. What happened to the good old days, where you sent in a CV and if they liked it, they called you for an interview? Now you type your details, over and over again, into little boxes. If you’re lucky, the autofill facility does some of the work for you.

Pick an option: A, B, C or D. One of them tells us you might have the right attitude for this organization. The rest direct you to the online rejection basket. It’s almost as if I’m part of some sadistic game, as if I’m trying to win my life back with chance. The possibility of success is so tiny, I can’t even see it. I’m filling out details for the sake of filling out details, almost like I’m back at work.

Of course, the big difference is that I was paid to work. It was almost as mundane as this, but at least I didn’t feel like a failure. I was supporting my family. Now, my wife picks up all the extra hours she can so we don’t have to sell the house, but we’ve had to sell the car. We didn’t have a holiday this year. “It could be worse,” Louise says to me. She says she doesn’t care, but there’s a darkness under her eyes and a sag to her smile that wasn’t there before I was made redundant.

She never yelled, or cried. She’s never said a word about missing the restaurant trips we used to take, or the holiday we had to skip. She helped me put the car up for sale. Her face is always calm and impassive when we’ve discussed our financial issues. She never complains about her extra hours, but before we hit this mess, she used to talk about how much she hated her job, and I know she’s tired.

I want to shake her and ask her how she really feels. I want her to shout at me, tell me how much I’ve let her down. I want to get down on my knees and cry, and tell her how sorry I am that this has happened.  I love you, I would say, and I swear to you, I am doing my best to get things back to the way they were. I feel that her unwavering support swings the balance even closer to the tipping point, and I know she deserves better.

I try to focus on the screen, but after a couple of minutes, I absent-mindedly pick up the library book I borrowed. Its scenes remind me of things that happened in my old office, but oddly, it still acts as an escape from this reality, like all the books I read. I regretfully place the book back on my desk. I don’t have time to waste browsing someone else’s imagination.

Having Doubts About Everything

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A “compliment” slip from Anatomicals. (Possibly the best skincare company I’ve ever come across.)

I went back to my parent’s house for a few days recently. I say I went back to my parent’s house. I saw them for about a day and then spent the rest of my time with a close friend. I had a really nice time overall, but one of the first issues I faced was that my sister also came home and essentially told me that my housemates had been saying things about me behind my back. (To clarify, she lived in the house as well until recently, so has known my housemates for longer than me.)

This really threw me off, as I would say that for a student house, we get along pretty well most of the time. Things aren’t perfect, but when you’re in a house with four other girls (and only one bathroom!), you’re generally just grateful that you aren’t screaming tearfully at each other or trying to rip each other’s hair out.

It made me feel like I didn’t really want to come back, but I realized that it wasn’t the end of the world. 1. My sister is one of those people who have a  tendency to take things you say and make them sound about one hundred times worse. 2. Yes, there was a period when I was ill, when I was busy with NaNo, when I was waiting for an appointment at the breast cancer screening clinic, when housework was not my priority. I can understand why my housemates may have been frustrated about that. If they said anything, it probably wasn’t personal.

And then, a few days later, I went out with my friend and got terribly drunk. And it was very fun at first. But then I kind of hit that moody, depressed state which I’ve never experienced before. The one where you wonder what you’re doing with your life because:

A. You still don’t have a job because you’re a lazy fuck and nobody wants to employ you and why am I so useless and oh god.

B. You’re really not that smart either. You’re not dumb, you got a 2.1 this year after all, but that’s still not a first.

C. You are surrounded by the absolute dregs of society, including some freaky stranger who keeps coming up behind you and putting his arms around you and trying to kiss your neck and arrrrgghhh leave me the fuck alone!

D. You’re a terrible writer. A real stinker. What are you playing at, spending so much time on wordpress and pretending people care about what you write?

E. Your housemates hate you. Maybe they’re right and you are a horrible, terrible person.

And, I’m absolutely sure that a lot of people on here can empathize with D. Not because they’re bad writers, just because they have doubts. Even famous authors have doubts about their work sometimes. 

I guess there’s no big secret to suddenly gaining confidence in your work. It takes time. I think it’s all about practicing and not giving up.

Oh mighty users of WordPress, what is your opinion?