A Chancer

A Chancer by James Kelman Read Free Book Online

Book: A Chancer by James Kelman Read Free Book Online
Authors: James Kelman
got a wee job.
    They followed him from the smoke-area, right outside the building to the rear yard, where he indicated a big pile of broken wooden crates. A couple of your mates were breaking them up yesterday
but they forgot to get bloody rid of them! The foreman shook his head: I told them as well! Anyhow, okay, I want yous to burn it. Alright? A bonfire, but make sure yous keep it well away from
anything inflammable.
    When he had gone off Tammas said, Thank Christ, I was beginning to wish he’d stick us back on the machine. Anything’s fucking better than nothing.
    Aye, it’s been a long week son.
    You’re no kidding.
    Never mind. Ralphie lifted his bunnet up off his head for a moment then settling it back again he bent to drag out some of the wood. Watch for nails, he said.
    They carted the wood across to a cleared area and also collected in bits of plastic and cardboard which were lying about. Rain began drizzling; soon it became heavier and Ralphie moved to
shelter by the factory wall. Tammas continued finding rubbish until the other called him across, and added: You dont get paid to catch a fucking cold.
    Several minutes later the foreman appeared at a door some yards away. He gestured to them to come. Here, he said, and handed them two enormous polythene bags. Stick a couple of holes in them and
you’ll be able to wear them – they’ll keep you dry. And here . . . He handed a gallon tin to Ralphie: Paraffin; to start your fire.
    The foreman turned slightly and he winked at Tammas. You’re doing a grand job Ralph!
    Ralphie grunted.
    The rain was falling heavily now. When the foreman departed Tammas began pulling on one of the polythene bags but Ralphie laughed briefly and said: For fuck sake son!
    He shook his head and grinned at him, then strode out to the big pile of wood and rubbish and emptied the paraffin on top. Tammas trotted out to beside him and watched as Ralphie knelt a little
to drop on a match. Then he followed him along the path near the canal, leaving the pile to burn. They walked quickly, hunching their shoulders against the rain.
    At the entrance to the boiler room Benny was standing gazing at the sky. That’ll be on for the rest of the day, he said. He stood aside to let them in.
    To the back of the room, behind the boilers, there was a large pipe Benny used as a bench, and here the three of them sat down, Ralphie shaking the rainwater out of his bunnet before bringing
out his tobacco and his pipe. Benny was already smoking a roll-up. So, your nightshift’s been halved? he said.
    Ralphie looked at him. How did you know that? Ya auld cunt ye I bet you knew before us!
    Benny sniffed before replying. Well, he said, I heard a wee whisper at the beginning of the week there but eh I didnt want to say anything – in case it was just a fucking rumour. You know
what like they are in this place Ralph you can hardly believe a fucking word you hear. He nudged Tammas and continued, I’m telling you son see if you listen to everything you get fucking told
in this joint you’ll wind up in a confused condition. It’s fucking notorious so it is! How long you been here now?
    About seven month.
    Is that all? said Ralphie.
    Hh. I thought it was longer.
    Naw, it just seems like it!
    Benny said, Wait till you’re here the same as us.
    God forbid . . . chuckled Ralphie.
    Tammas shook his head. No point worrying about that auld yin – last in first out. I’ll be heading the line soon as the redundancies start.
    There was a brief silence.
    Then Tammas glanced at the boilerman. I was wondering, he said, any chance of loaning me a smoke?
    What d’you say?
    Naw I was just wondering, if you could lend me a smoke, one of your roll-ups.
    Aw aye . . .
    Ralphie coughed.
    Any chance?
    Benny nodded. He took his tobacco pouch out of a pocket in his boilersuit and handed it to Tammas. There’s a couple rolled already, inside.
    Thanks a lot Benny. Tammas unzipped the pouch and brought one out.

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