Pigeon Variations – Ch 36 – The House Wins
By Mark Burrow
Russell was considered to be on the fast track. A rising star in the cutthroat world of supermarkets. The rumour was that he was going to be promoted from warehouse manager to head of grocery. A prodigy, no less.
“Come into my office,” said Russell.
It was the size of a shoe-box. The only thing Pyser envied about Russell was the twat’s girlfriend, Dorothy, one of the graduate managers. She had the greatest caboose he had ever seen in his life. Time slowed whenever she sauntered into the warehouse.
“Where have you been?” said Russell.
“At the doctors.”
“I felt rough.”
Russell ran his fingers through his overly gelled hair. Such a cockwomble. He even played golf. Talked openly about it too.
“Listen, I want to say something to you.”
“I know you’re leaving but I wanted to tell you how much I dislike you. I don’t like how dirty your overalls are. I don’t like how you come in stinking of booze. I don’t like your swearing, your lifestyle or the friends you hang around with. If you hadn’t handed your notice in, you were out anyway for your sick days and always coming in late.”
Pyser and Russell looked at each other. The fluorescent light on the ceiling flickered, making a ‘plink, plink’ sound. It was tempting to say “fuck it”. Call Russell a golf wanker. But he needed the final few days pay before starting his next job. That’s what living hand-to-mouth and growing older did to a bloke. Taught you when to keep your mouth shut. One way or another, everyone gets to know their place.
“Yes boss,” he said.
“Get out,” said Russell.
Pyser turned to leave.
“Oh,” Russell said, “you’re in The Cage with Brummie Lee for your final shifts.”
Pyser smiled. “Thank you, boss.”
Classic Pinker behaviour.
He walked out of the shoe-box. “Friends,” he said to himself, smirking. “I don’t have any fucking friends, what’s he on about?”
The bullshit kept piling up. He couldn’t wait for a pair of wings so he could fly above it all.
The Cage smelled of wet cardboard and rotting animal flesh. Working in there was the worst job in the warehouse, bar none. Brummie Lee and Pyser were tasked with disposing of boxes and plastic, including the blood-stained ones used by the butchers.
Normally, a bloke with special needs called Lesley worked in there, but he electrocuted himself wanking in the bath and no-one was sure when – or if – he was coming back.
“Fuck Russell. Fuck bosses. Fuck this place,” shouted Brummie Lee, using the arm of his sleeve to wipe off animal blood that had splashed onto his cheek.
The lad was a mega-mouth. A massively cocky prick with a chip on his shoulder.
Pyser loaded the compactor with cardboard. It was odd. Whenever he had been ordered to help out in the cage before, the smell had made him gag initially. This time, he didn’t mind it so much. It was almost pleasant.
“We’re modern slaves. No different to the fucking Egyptian times. This supermarket and warehouse are the pyramids. Monuments to the God of consumerism,” said Brummie Lee. “I was going to give university the big fuck off, but now I reckon I’ll go. Anything has to be better than this shit. Except for the money it costs. Can I be fucked to study for a degree no one cares about and then spend 20 years paying for the fucker?”
Pyser kept breaking up cardboard and loading the compactor.
“Hey, fuck head, are you ignoring me?” yelled Brummie Lee.
“Could you at least try to talk to make the time pass a little fucking easier? You know, some conversation. A bit of banter. Come on, you’re acting like this work matters.”
“The sooner we finish the work, the sooner we’re out of here.”
“Oh, fucking leave it out.”
No one could remember why he was called Brummie Lee. He claimed to have never been to Birmingham.
Pyser resumed breaking up cardboard and separating the bloody plastic bags.
Brummie Lee had a pop at Pyser. “Look at you, you fucking slave. You doormat,” he said. “I bet you were happy to get this job. Pleased with yourself. I bet you went home to some shithole flat where you live on your Jack Jones and you celebrated by getting hammered and watching some shit old comedy like Alan Partridge or a crap 80s movie like Tango & fucking Cash. Probably stuffing your gob with crisps and shit, trying not to think about what’s happened to your fucking life. Why it’s amounted to a big blob of nothing. Why am I alone? Why am I so old? Why does no one call or message me? Why is my belly so big? Jabba the Hut fucker. Let me guess, did mummy not love you? Did your daddy fuck off when you were young, leaving you all alone? How very sad. How upsetting. I'll let you into a secret, we all have shit parents, mate. Every last one of us. We’re all in the same fucking boat. Don’t you get it? You’re not special. You’re here because this is what you amount to. This is what you deserve.”
Pyser stopped what he was doing. He faced the lad, who could only have been nineteen, twenty max. In previous times, he would have decked the cunt for blaming individuals, for not seeing the wider conspiracy of the Pinkers. How the poor are made poorer so Pinkers can get richer. Fucking twat. Deserved to be decked. No question. Knock out his two front teeth. Or given it a go as the boy liked the gym. Lean. Muscular. Jim Morrison’esque. Early Doors. Been down that road, though. Didn't end well. Once bitten, twice shy. Besides, too itchy to have a punch up. A scrap. It was as if he had been bitten by fleas. His skin under the boiler suit was bleeding from the hours he spent scratching himself. All he wanted to do was lie in a bath, crack open a tinnie and lose himself in pigeon daydreams.
It was incredible to him how wrapped up Brummie Lee was in himself. The lad could not give two shits about anyone else. Other people, they were simply targets to attack.
He kind of understood too. He knew that anger.
Go on. Lash out, then.
“Imagine doing a job like this at your age,” said Brummie Lee. “I’d want to fucking top myself if I was here in my whatever-the-fuck age you are. Not that you’re unusual. You’re all fucking dinosaurs here, laughing and joking and leering about Dorothy’s arse and the girls on checkout. It's fucking tragic. I wouldn’t be laughing if I were any of you lot. I’d be doing my utmost to find a shotgun and shove two barrels into my mouth. How did you end up like this? I can’t imagine you were the sharpest tool in the box at school. Did you have maths nightmares? Feel anxious going into classes? Getting sweaty over Pythagoras? Your 3.142? Did you start retakes then think, ‘Fuck this, I don’t need certificates.’ And then you paid for that decision ever since.”
Pyser resumed breaking up boxes. He pressed the button for the compactor.
“Don’t turn away from me, you cunt. I’m talking to you. What’s the matter? Too close to the bone? Am I making you feel depressed? You fucking Weeble.”
Saturday was Pyser’s last day in the warehouse. On Monday he was starting a job in purchase ledger for a publishing company on New Bond Street in the West End. They told him to wear a suit and tie. He would have to go shopping.
As for Brummie Lee, he’d be back in the warehouse, shouting his mouth off at someone else. Venting. Spouting. The cocky cunt would learn one day. He’d get beaten down eventually. That’s the rule, that's what happens if you’re stuck doing fuck all meaningless jobs.
The house wins. Always.