Juggling Dust

If you've ever worked (are working) in a factory, you will get this! Nothing more needs saying really. You'll get it! I just pray you get out and find hope and happiness and love. Because hope and love and family and friends is all we have.


1. Juggling Dust



Mickey is slow . . . something to do with complications at birth or so the myth goes. Nobody here really knows or more to the point, nobody cares enough to find out; at least not  until what everybody now calls that day.

             Mickey terrified me when I first met him all those years ago. Although  a small guy he’s built like a  Pitbull. His oversized head seems to have been mindlessly slammed onto massive shoulders like a slab of clay and his arms are seemingly carved from oak.  I guess this is more down to a defect in his already abnormal genes than any form of physical exercise  because he’s such a lazy bastard. But the most unnerving thing about him is the dead, unflinching eyes when he’s talking to you. They remind me of the goldfish I won at the fair when I was six. By the morning it was floating on the surface of the water and I remember being hypnotised for hours by the cold, lifeless eye which  held me in judgement.

He nods continuously as he’s listening to someone talk and his  high-pitched voice talks rapid gibberish like a child after too many additives and  But when you get over all that  the mix and match, the Frankenstein DNA and the fact that he actually won’t  tear out your spleen and use it as a sloppy ornament in his torture garden.  Mickey  is   just . . . Mickey. He’s OK. 

Money means nothing to him. His wage is turned over to his mother every week who in turn gives him his pocket money.  He thinks we all do that  because we tell him we do. Believe me, what his mum does is an act of kindness. She’s been building an account for him for over forty years now, Christ knows how much he has in there.  As long as his Mum is there for him every day he’s happy. He wouldn’t understand the concept of cancer so she hasn’t told him. 


I was straight out of school when I started work here. Although I pissed about,  I came out armed to the teeth with A’s and B’s. I wanted to go to college.  Then it would be uni, three dazed years of hard study whilst riding the obligatory sex and alcohol wave. Well that was the story I heard. Then hey! The world would be at my feet of course. Life-plan sorted. That was the dream. But when Dad told Mum he was popping out for some fags and never came back . . . well, there was no chance. That was eighteen years ago. Yeah, I cried like a baby for a long time but I kept it to myself. I couldn’t upset Mum, not with everything she had to deal with at the time and three kids to look after on top of that. But don’t worry, I’m keeping the dream alive because every weekend I’m riding that alcohol wave. Granted the sex has been more of a hollow plop, a skimmer that instantly sinks. I still cry now and again but nobody knows why. I just fob it off as the monthlies and everyone’s happy. That’s just the way it is. As long as everyone’s happy.

            It’s amazing how quickly you get used to Groundhog Day. It hypnotises with its ethereal sleight of hand as you stare into its sly, depthless eyes and  wham! 9 to 5, 9 to 5, 9 to 5, 9 to 5 recurring to infinity etc, blah, blah, blah. Before you know it sixteen years  have slithered into the  atmosphere without even realising.

            This is what I was taught to do on my first day at work: put-letter-into-envelope. Or another variation. Put-flyer-into-magazine. If we’re really lucky: put-flyer-into-envelope then-into-magazine. It was a quick education, one that  I can say I completely and utterly excel at; what we all excel at. It gets quite surreal after a while if anyone could be bothered to actually think about it. I think about it. We don’t actually see what we do or feel the paper sliding rapidly beneath our nimble, conditioned fingers. All day piles of paper simply rise and fall beside us, between us and in front of us like some kind of stop-motion animation, day in day out. So given that our working day is on auto-pilot, our brains need to be somehow fed in order to prevent shrinkage and psychosis. This is done by the way of entertainment provided by my good self and Fizz, my partner in crime;  time-honoured ringleaders, clowns, acrobats and crap-chucking monkeys all rolled into one. Okay two. We are bad girls, the darlings and saviours of everyone’s boredom and the infected thorn in the arse of the management.  So Ta-dah!  I proudly present our most, calamitous, riotous, ball-bouncingly  joyous jape of all.     

Every other week we get young lads straight from school or the dole and we girls help the poor buggers find out exactly what job they shouldn’t take. Their main role (apart from being general managerial cannon-fodder) is to keep us girls supplied by constantly wheeling over pallets of whatever we need when we are running out. So when we get a new boy on his first day we wait patiently until he dumps our stuff beside us and  its ‘Oops silly me, I’ve dropped something, can you be a love and get it for me?’ With a shy helpful smile, under  the table our brave new innocent goes. Normally the first thing you hear is the nasty thud as his head hits the underside of the table and up comes a beaming red face you could fry an egg on with eyes full of confusion and occasionally, tears. The whole place erupts into laughter as me and Fizz pull our jeans and knickers back up from around our ankles.  The last thing they ever expect on their first morning is an impromptu biology lesson followed by abject humiliation. You can hear Mickey laughing like a sandblasted hyena from the other side of the room and you can guarantee he’ll still be bent double when he’s clocking out. These are the things we do to get us through the day until the baton is then passed to alcohol which gets us through the weekends.


I have a problem. The problem is my secret and the secret is my problem. OK, as far as quotes go it’s not exactly Jean Paul Sartre, I’m sure he’d have put it better than me. His ‘hell is other people’ beats me hands down but  . . . anyway you’ll get the picture. My problem. 

All my life I’ve been surrounded by loving and devoted friends and we’ve all been through hell and high water together. The factory is our purgatory and the pub our haven and so goes our life. We exist together. People like us do. We have this common thread weaving us together. We sit on our collective laurels and  are content. Yes, so I’m a party girl with a filthy mouth; a wild-child who lights everyone up when hearts and minds are battered and scattered. But inside . . . inside I’m not there. I’m lost. Worst of all  no one knows. Put me in a room with everyone I adore and I’m alone. In the bubble. Conversations are dulled, morphing around my private darkness like primal echoes. Words lose their meaning as they fall to their death from well-meaning, familiar mouths. From inside the bubble everything blurs into shadow, there is no mortal form only the spectral chaos which strokes the walls of my soft prison.

The author Bernice Rubens once said. ‘as long as I’m in the middle of a sentence God will never take me.’ Joan Didion said, ‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live.’

Welcome to my secret.

I have a passion which has severed the common thread from all I love. Only I realise this fact, they remain blissfully unaware.

I write. I breathe. One and the same. Cause and effect. I live in a literary vacuum surrounded by gentle Philistines. Why? Because not one person has ever read a word I’ve written. Again the same question  because I’m afraid. Afraid of castigation by friends and family because ‘our Sadie’s up herself, thinks she’s better than us.’ Afraid of destroying the delicate web of everyone’s perception of who they think I am. The fake me. Afraid of the humiliation of being the freak. But mostly I’m just afraid. Beneath my bed is almost thirty years of the real Sadie: innumerable stories, poetry and novellas and five novels (soon to be six). I don’t know if I’m a good writer or not, it’s of no consequence. I  write as a druggie shoots up inside a random, hardened vein. It’s my kick, my rush. I inject words onto the page and my arteries sizzle with static. I can maim, kill and resurrect; be man woman or child; create and destroy infinite worlds as I soar with angels or kneel between the legs of Satan. 

I am God.

You see, take Fizz, my wonderful and spectacular fuck-up up of a friend. As long as her guts are drizzled in vodka,  preferably with her ankles around her ears with some bloke’s arse going like a fiddler’s elbow on top of her every weekend she’s happy  truly happy. She accepts her lot. When she cries or laughs, nine times out of ten she knows the reason.

I simply cry. I’m in no-man’s land. So I cry.

Remember when I talked about Mickey and that day?


It was Mickey’s fortieth birthday and we finally persuaded his mum to let us take him out on the piss with us. I’ll say this for him, he can drink. Not only that, after eight or nine pints he still appears as sober as he does at work whilst we capsize under tables and talk fluent Aramaic to each other. The night was amazing and Mickey had the time of his life. We did him proud. Everyone went their own way and I told Mickey I’d walk him home. He steadied me as I staggered along beside him and as we past my house he turned to me.

            ‘Can I see you room, Sadie?’ I giggle and made a few dirty old man remarks.

            ‘Aye, come on up Mickey lad I’ll mekusacuppateeee!’ I fell over. He carried me to the door.  The house was silent apart from mum snoring away upstairs in her room. Ronnie and Jack were away on holiday. After putting salt in the cups I gave up on the tea and walk him straight to my room. He wandered around silently tapping his lips with his fingers, smiling at the silly photos of me which peppered the wall and ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ at this and that. He was like a kid in a sweetshop. Now obviously I’m going to blame it on the alcohol because sober there wouldn’t have been a cat in hell’s chance. But I did it.

            ‘Hey, Mickey lad?’ He turned to face me. ‘I’ve got a present for ya.’ So what does little miss piss-head do? Peels off every stitch of clothing, slides onto the bed and strikes her best Playboy pose. ‘Go for it, Mickey lad. Do your worst.’ Nothing. ‘Mickey?’ His face remained blank and he went back to tapping his lips. ‘Mickey?’

We must have stayed like that for five minutes or so until he went back to wandering around my room again, smiling at this and that as if I hadn’t actually made a complete and utter arsehole of myself. He was either being very kind or he’s been rendered blind as I lay there going the colour of lobster. I dressed quickly. He turned to me and smiles.

            ‘I like your room. Can we go now? Mum will be worrying.’

We walked without a word and I crashed out back at home until the following afternoon. I was so hung-over for the rest of the weekend that to tell you the honest truth I didn’t give the weirdness of that night a second thought. Then Monday morning came.


It was business as usual at work, me listening with throbbing head to Fizz banging on about some bloke she’d met at the weekend. Then that day happened. Seemingly out of the blue Mickey appeared in front of us, his face a sea of calm, his eyes locked onto mine. I tried a few silly comments and Fizz giggled as she skimmed a flyer at him but he may as well have been made of stone. I went cold. Fizz elbowed me a few times wanting to be let in on the joke but all I could do was shrug my shoulders. Machines went dead and all chatter stopped as one by one, he slowly removed  his clothes. Right move, wrong time Mickey. A few giggles went around the building but apart from that silence.  In front of  1000 gawping women  there stood a naked, forty year old man and he was staring directly at me.       

It was me and Mickey in the bubble now. The rest of the world had blurred away ¾  me and him. I  realised I was seeing not a prank or a filthy joke but the most beautiful display of pure innocence. Like a baby, he doesn’t question his actions or his consequences because in his own rare world he is free from the restraints of self and pride and ego  utterly unafraid and fearless. He’s  lived his forty years without the excruciating  pain of rational thought, there is no need  to strive, to worry or be condemned to a life which adds yet another scar with each day. I look at him without embarrassment or pity. He is no longer the bogyman, the inflicted one. And as I  see myself reflected back in his bright child eyes I wonder which of us is truly damaged?


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