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Permanent Jewellery

New day. Second bus. Down straight and narrow roads. Good of Uncle Terry to sort me out. Good of his mate too. Fucking job centre.

Induction begins. Probation period. Shoes trape in mud. Room smells of citrus fruit fighting stale boots. Piles of invoices everywhere. Trapped from the draft by a watch. Sarah tells us the don’ts. Prettiest girl I’ve seen in thirteen months and three weeks.

Told to move slabs first. Yes, sir. Got to start somewhere. Heavy. Like giant monuments from the past. Arms creak under the weight. Used to being inside.

“Pint afterwards?” Would love to, but can’t. Got to be home by seven. They laugh. Ha-ha. Old me would’ve lumped him. New me now.

Second day. On time. Shoulders as stiff as prison bars. Hot. Wearing shorts this time. Planning pay cheque now. Trainers, phone. Give Mum some too. Proper son.

Sarah brings daughter in. Earrings stretch her lobes. Red with the burden. Daughter talks. Asks why I’ve got a watch on my leg. Sentence lingers. Sarah puts finger to her mouth.

Slabs brand my hands. But keeping up. Until load dropped. Support went. Bits of rubble everywhere. Uncle’s mate comes out. Has one of those eyebrow piercings. Fucker goes up and down when he twitches. Like a dumbbell. Bet he thought good idea at eighteen. Things are.

He stares me out. Checks out my jewellery. My permanent jewellery. My blank anklet.

“No second chance with them,” he says. Lad writes ‘damaged goods’ on the bag. Rest goes on the scrap heap.

Ten minutes later, “Office”. Door closes. Customer visit. Terry should have said. Nothing personal. It never is.


Flash Fiction by Paul Croucher

Published in Autumn 2017

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