He tells her his sex life has improved no end since they started doing overtime together. They talk dirty for a couple of hours while the labs are empty and dusk gathers outside, but she’s wondering why she peps him up, preps him up, gets him ready for his girlfriend. She thinks he’s lovely. That shaggy dog hair all tousled and natural highlights – which is weird really because she normally goes for the dark haired types. It flops over his eyes that twinkle naughtily. He does a great Deputy Dawg impression and he can make his mouth look like a letter box. He makes her laugh. And her? She knows she’s nothing special. Hair a dirty blonde, skin too-much-time-in-the-lab pale, ingrained with coal dust around her hairline, smutted with dirt. She’s the best in the lab at heads though; holds the record. But then Dave Cowper taught her. She sets them up, calibrates them running up and down the row, always moving, no sore arse on heads. Right now she’s on methanometers: D6s and D6Ds. Her least favourite instruments but the area of most overtime, and she knows, overtime is Richard time: fluffing time.
She waits the whole day for those two hours alone. From eight till four between Richard Brain and Richard Carter. The tousled one and a sleek dark Richard who is also on her cute list. She’s finding the male dominated work environment distracting. There’s an emergency shower to be used in case of contamination: cold water only, but sometimes, she thinks about slipping away from the bench and cooling her fervour. Instead she grabs another D6 and wanders into the dirty room where a cool fan whips the coal dust upwards: an attempt to save the workers’ lungs. The cool air blows on her face as Smog, the lab boss, blows cigarette smoke up the vent. The fan has a multitude of uses and hides many more sins. Smog grins, offers her a fag:
‘D’you wanna do the computer? Dave’s sick of it and you can still do overtime on D6s. We always need overtime. It’s just the service data, you know. What you write on the sheet. Pretty boring. Only ever get to use the square of numbers on the keyboard…’
‘Okay. Makes a change doesn’t it?’ British Coal can be monotonous at the best of times but the salary’s not bad. They get miners’ bonuses. She doesn’t know why and doesn’t ask – why rock the boat? But then, they couldn’t go down the pits if their instruments weren’t serviced.
Data entry is easy but soon gets her down. She sees every pit closure; shunting instruments on to new destinations as pit after pit drops off the transport list. It drums home the fact that all the overtime is on short time and before long they’ll be on borrowed time and when Maggie’s finished there’ll be no time for any of them and she longs for casual banter with The Brain.
© Ammie-oy 2011