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by Paperback 

Posted: 14 April 2004
Word Count: 2657
Summary: I really want to know the reasons for if why you like/ dislike this peice. Be as brutal (but not bitchy) as you want. I've said before i need to know how other people read my stuff. Cheers. Only 19 more to go.

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.


I’ve never been much of a one for work but after their investigator had recommended that they stop my benefits I’d had to go out and find myself a job. I don’t have any ‘formal’ qualifications so I decided that it was best to get employed somewhere that could provide a steady career path in an area that I already had an interest in.
Now I like food as much as the next man but I’m no cook so whenever it got to meal-times, or just if I were hungry, I’d always find myself with a problem. It wasn’t until a world famous fast-food restaurant came to town that my life gained any type of structure.
Before then my meal times were pretty free form, my days lacking cohesion. But now they’re in town? Well, now i can just pop right on down there and enjoy the locally cooked hamburgers and their piping hot, card board-covered, desserts. It has everything I could ever wish for and the manager has told me on more than one occasion that I’m his best customer. Without me, he often says, Head Office would have moved them out of town long since.
So, at the age of 29, it seemed to me that this would be the ideal place for me to start my working life.

I’d been on the shop floor for a little over four weeks when every single member of staff received a letter. You could tell that some of them weren’t used to receiving post very often because they acted as though it were a personal calling from the President of the United States himself.
They held their letters closely to their chests and, clutching them tightly, asked the rest of us what they said. When I told them that they had been hand-picked for an important military mission or that they had been promoted onto the board of directors, their eyes welled up in pride and, unable to wait until their allotted time slot, they took their dinner breaks early. It was hard to keep a straight face in front of all those customers as I listened to my excited colleagues frantically scratching at that broken pay-phone, trying in vain to make a collect call back to starving hungry relatives in India or one of those other ones.

Because of this confusion over the contents of the letter the Area Manager had to come into the restaurant to help clear things up. Although one of the burger-boys had already handed in his notice and begun his journey to the capital, there wasn’t much fuss as the Area Manager simply confirmed what the original letter had tried to announce.
For one day only, we were all going to be leaving the restaurant to participate in a team building day.
For this event we could wear our own clothes and we would receive ¾ pay. Everyone was expected to attend and if you were due to work on that day you could make up any missed hours by the end of the week. When asked how we would be building our team, the Area Manager told us how we would be taking part in a type of treasure hunt where one clue would lead to another and we would pass from one local landmark to another. Oh and we would be working in pairs, he said flippantly, at the end.
As soon as this was announced everybody quickly padded around the restaurant to stand next to their preferred partners. Even though I passed around that space smiling sweetly and aiming for eyes, none of the pretty college girls or the surly, effortless, boys seemed to want to partner me. Some of them shrugged apologetically but most just turned away from my face and giggled with their new found best friends. Even all the foreigners had gone and gotten themselves together, but then I doubt that I’d have been welcome there anyway.
Desperately I approached my favourite manager, hoping that she would take pity on me.
“Sorry,” she said, as she quickly grasped hold of the ice cream vendor’s arm. “I’m already taken. There’s only one other person left.”
I felt my face flush and my anger grow as everyone in the room began to titter.

The following day our names and that of our partners were stuck up on the staff-room wall. I didn’t bother looking for confirmation that I was to be buddied-up with Gill.

Despite having worked at the restaurant for over seven years, Gill still hadn’t gotten any stars to his name. He seemed to keep his own hours, sometimes disappearing for days on end and coming into work only when the mood suited him. It became even more obvious to me that Gill got to play by a different set of rules once I’d realised that the duty managers never said anything to him when he turned up ready for work, three weeks late, and carrying a tan.
I was cleaning out the milkshake machine late one Friday night when a colleague let me in on the full story.
Apparently, he told me through his broken, faltering, English, the managers weren’t allowed to pick on Gill.
“That Geeeell,” he whispered through his poorly mended teeth. “He get away with any fuckin’ thin’ heee wantz. He fuckin’ untouch’ble. Heeem up here. You. You down there.”
Although I found his English difficult to understand, his hand actions spoke much clearer than his words.
I wasn’t sure what to make of this at first but then, when I found out from a drive thru kid that our company has a contract with an agency that specializes in getting Gills type into work, I knew exactly where we stood. This contract, it’s said, is almost impossible to terminate. My line manager, Hafeef, confirmed as much when he told that me that it was good for community relations and besides that, Gill wasn’t even paid minimum wage.
Even bearing this last part in mind and despite the distant, puffy-shaped glaze that never left Gills face and the awful affliction that bothered his walk, most of us still envied his invulnerable position.
Gills role in our restaurant was a simple one. Once an hour, he was supposed to take a break from his smoking and giggling and mop out the customer bathrooms. Unfortunately, with Gill much preferring to spend his time by the garbage bags full of rotten food and unfinished milkshakes that we kept hidden behind the back of the restaurant, we were lucky if they were done once a day. It was a pretty unusual sight to see the little yellow sign that warned people of Gills presence, as well as the danger of a wet floor, to be propped up outside one of our public conveniences. Still a wise move, for the ladies room though, I thought.

On the morning of the treasure hunt we met outside the restaurant where we all worked. There was a photographer from the local newspaper and we all stood in tiered rows and smiled nicely for the picture. Some of the younger ones had worn their best clothes on the off chance that something like this was going to happen. Gill was at the end of the row, standing right at the back. He was the only one there wearing his work uniform, even the little hat.
After the press call the Area Manger turned up to tell us about the prize for the winning pair. It was a company expenses paid trip to see one of our Brazilian cattle ranches. All our burgers came from here and I’d heard stories about field after field after field filled with nothing but prime beef cows. What a sight, I thought. And then I looked at Gill.
I wasn’t going to be going anywhere and neither was he.

A few minutes before the start of the hunt, I ambled over to Gill. He was staring down at the floor and quietly laughing. As I got closer I could see what it was that he was looking at. There was a group of ants carrying a piece of one of our burger buns. It was too large for them and the bread kept getting dropped.
“Hey Gill,” I said. “How’s it going? You ready to win?”
Gill looked up at me and smiled, smiled like he’d just licked the moon, which when I came to think about it, was a bit like the shape of his droopy mouth.
“Win! Heh heh. Win!” he replied.
“Yeah, win. What do you say to you and me in Brazil, eh? Copa cabana with the cows, eh.” I did a little dance for Gill who laughed and clapped and egged me on.
“Moooooooo,” he said. “Moo cow. Mooooooooooo.”
Some of the others heard these noises and turned to look at me and Gill. The part timers, the ones who think that they’re smart and go to college, began to giggle.
“Hey there, Gill,” shouted one. “You wanna see those cows, eh? You wanna moo with the moo cows?”
I stopped dancing out of embarrassment but I wish I’d never even bothered. Everyone had already seen me and at least if I’d carried on it wouldn’t have looked like I was interested in them. Idiots.
“Moo,” said Gill. “Moo.”
Everyone laughed and he just carried on. As Gill stood there, making animal noises and dressed in his starless uniform, I wondered how life could be so cruel. To put someone like me with someone like him, on a day like this. Well, it just didn’t seem fair.
A piece of corporate coloured fabric was used as the start line, and once that flimsy fabric was dropped to the ground we were allowed to start. Everyone set off in a hurry. Rushing about and zigzagging through the moving traffic, I could tell that the trip to Brazil had already gone. But still we had to try. I grabbed Gill by his uncertain arm and said,
“Come on Gill. Time to go. Remember those cows, do ya? Let’s go find the moo cows.”
Gill looked at me and stayed exactly where he was.
“Moo,” he said. “Moo. Moo. Moo. Moo.”
“Yeah that’s it, Gill. Moo, moo, moo. Come on. Let’s go get ‘em.”
I’ve never been abroad before and I don’t mind admitting that I’d have loved that trip, so as you can imagine I was getting pretty pissed off with all this mooing.
“Moo,” said Gill once more.
We looked at each other for a few seconds and I didn’t know what to do. Really I could have smashed him straight in the face, right there and then. Luckily, for the both of us, I didn’t have the will.
“Moo prize,” said Gill, as he pointed to the dump bins where he spent most of his working day.
“Moo prize,” he repeated. “Moo prize. Win, win, win.”
I told Gill I didn’t understand.
“I don’t understand, Gill. The prize is that way. Moo prize is that way.”
I tried pointing in the same direction that all the others had set off in until I realised that they’d all disappeared from view. I brought my hand back to my side, defeated.
“Oh fuck, Gill. We’ll never win now.”
Gill started laughing violently, his body shaking like a happy epileptic.
“Moo prize here. Moo prize here. Win, win, win. In rubbish. Moo prize in garbage. Gill seen. Gill seen.”
“What?” I said. “What do you mean, Gill?”
“Moo prize in garbage!! Moo prize in trash. In can. Big boss man, put prize in garbage. Gill see. Gill seen. Gill watch it all!!!!! MOoOOOOOoooo. MoOOooOOOooo.”
I looked at Gill and thought that if I ever got myself that excited I’d have fallen on the floor by now.
Gill fell on the floor and carried on his with laughing and mooing.
“MooOOOoooOOoooOOoooOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooo!” he said. “MooMOooooooooooomoooooooooooooooomMMMMMoOOOOoooooOOo”.
I went over to where Gill lay on the floor and picked him up. I put my hand tightly over his mouth, just to try and calm him down.
“Now, Gill,” I said. “Are you trying to tell me that the prize, the final moo prize, has been hidden in our own backyard? Is that what you’re saying? Eh, come on Gill, calm down now. Calm down.”
Although Gills sloping eyes still betrayed him with their wildness, his breathing had steadied to a more acceptable level. I moved my hand from his face to let his mouth give out some more words.
“Big boss man,” said Gill, pointing at the Area Managers car. “Last night-time, he put moo prize in garbage. Gill see. Gill seen prize. This way.”
Gill led me round to the back of the restaurant and into the garbage area.
“Over here,” he said, as we clambered through those full black bags. “Moo prize over here.”
We were over in the furthest, darkest corner of the yard, and Gill was scrambling through the garbage. His hands were getting covered in smelly, old food that not even I would have thought about eating yet he still seemed pretty excited.
“Moo prize,” he kept saying, over and over. “Moo prize.”
Finally he laid his hands on exactly the bag he was looking for.
“In here,” he said, rooting through the garbage bag. “Moo prize in here. Gill find moo prize.”
I admit that I was pretty surprised when Gill pulled out another, smaller, bag from inside that big black piece of plastic. I wasn’t really expecting him to know what he was doing, what with him being the kind of person that he is, but really quite honestly, he seemed to have hit the nail right on the head. We were going to Brazil.
“Moo,” said Gill, as he passed me the soiled bag.
Neither of us could wait to see what was inside and it felt much heavier than you’d imagine a couple of plane tickets to, so I just opened it up right there as Gill and I stood knee deep in everybody else’s waste.

Once I’d looked at the contents of that bag, there was no denying that it belonged to the Area Manager. There were 1000’s and 1000’s of photographs of him in there. He looked very pleased with himself on some of them and I must say for a man of his age he had a quite wonderful body. Some of the naked twelve year old Asian boys and girls who posed with him on many of the picture also seemed to agree.
I looked up at Gill, who seemed horrified.
“Moo prize?” he queried, uncertainly.
I nodded my head at him.
“Moo prize, Gill. We’ve got the moo prize.”

I never got to go to Brazil and neither did Gill. We both finished work at the restaurant that very afternoon.
I managed to come to a very good agreement with the Area Manager who was standing around near the entrance to the restaurant, intently watching the local school kids run. It is a secret deal between the three of us and as long as nobody ever goes to the police or uses the internet for lewd postings then Gill and I never need work again. We take exactly half his monthly salary, once a month, every month and I still get to go down to the restaurant a couple of times a day, just to see old friends and eat my meals. The store manager still seems pleased to see me and yes, he stills tells me that I’m his best customer.
“As long as you keep these burgers cooking,” I say, filling my face on one of my favourites. “Then I’ll keep on coming.”
The store manager laughs and nods his head at me and then he looks at my new best friend, who sits by my side and counts our money.
“Moo prize?” says the manager.
“Moo,” says Gill.

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Comments by other Members

Becca at 20:14 on 15 April 2004  Report this post
Hi Matthew,
The story line is all there and it's compact as a story. But, I'd do some editing on it, at times it gets a little snarled up along the way with the MC's thoughts about the other work people. The MC's not an empathic character which doesn't weigh in the story's favour, but he's not so bad that anything much about him needs changing. I can see why you wanted the moo to stretch across the page, but not so sure it adds to it. I wasn't sure until later what Gill's type was meant to be, although I don't think this matters, as it becomes clear.

The two paras, 'I'd been on the shopfloor for over two weeks,' and 'Because of this confusion' I found a bit confusing, and thought some editing there would help, I wasn't sure quite what was going on there, and I think it was because you gave your MC his head in describing his reactions to seeing the others with their letters. I've a suspicion you've been in a similar situation, the story has a raw feeling about it.
At the end when they find the porno photos would have been the perfect place to draw more out of the drama of the story, so it was a bit of a let down that you didn't give it more space, I don't mean a lot. But imagine finding such things? Maybe you have?
It's one of those stories in which it's hard to avoid 'exposition', but if you can, it would give the whole thing a lift. One very good way of doing that is by using dialogue so that things become clear to the reader without the writer having to explain it.
Hope some of my thoughts are of use.

Paperback at 12:28 on 16 April 2004  Report this post
Always of use Becca. I'd just like to hear some more views on this peice to see where the problems lie but i certainly aggree with everything you've said.

Grinder at 14:23 on 22 April 2004  Report this post

I liked this one a lot, I liked the general outline and the twist at the end. But one of the best things was the fact that he didn’t dump Gill, I was touched by that.


dr_mandrill at 13:45 on 01 May 2004  Report this post
Nice one, enjoyed this shot. It’s funny, with a good payoff. Perhaps not the most responsible thing to do when confronted with documentary evidence of paedophilia, but hey- money in the bank is money in the bank.

Well done.


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