By Louis Rive
I dream about working. Literally. When I fall asleep the repetitive nature of my job means my days’ images simply consist of the identical shifts I work. So I finish shift. I go to bed. I start a shift. I finish shift. I go to bed etc. Nothing exciting happens. I don’t dream of setting fire to the place or killing the boss. I simply do a normal shift like always. Whether I am asleep or not has become irrelevant as the line between reality and fantasy has become so blurred. It has been five nights now. For me this is like doing ten shifts on half pay. I get up and go to work, I think.
Today is different. The floor keeps moving. It’s the kind of thing that should be a dream but my brain suggests it isn’t. As I sit and count the money constant movement punctuates my peripheral vision. Maybe it’s exhaustion, maybe it’s lack of motivation Then I open the cash draw and turns out it’s neither. It’s rats. Big fucking rats. When you’re that zoned out you don’t react normally to a shrieking beast the size of a terrier in your cash draw. It was only when it came at me that I swore and hollered until the beast disappeared into the recesses. Pest control didn’t believe me about how big it was. They would soon be proved wrong. Boric acid and glue traps went down but this leviathan ate the pills like smarties and left paw prints in the glue like rat Hollywood boulevard.
It took three days. In an uneasy truce the bookie staff “tooled up” and held a perimeter around the main counter but the staff kitchen, that was rat territory. The beast clearly got arrogant and tried to clamber over about 5 of the glue traps. It was the shrieking that alerted us to the potential opportunity to use the toaster again. We ventured through and there it lay. Finally brought to heel like Gulliver and the Lilliputs. Then our attention came to the manner of its’ disposal. Shooting it point blank with the foam fire extinguisher seemed like a great idea at the time but after 10 minutes of foamy screaming sense and humanity prevailed. Sort of.
I manage to attach the broom handle to the screaming mass of glue, rodent and because of the fire extinguisher, foam. Its’ manner of demise was far from dignified. Two thumps off the side of a wheelie bin behind the kebab shop next door couldn’t kill it and it spat back blood and teeth in my direction. One final act of defiance. I grabbed an empty beer keg from the pub on the other side. It turns out that the cartoon staple of squashing animals to the sides of rolling devices is based on reality as I looked at the 2-D rat affixed to the bottom of Carling barrel. The idea of subsequently cleaning said keg was far from my thoughts as I put the barrel back with its’ contemporaries. Leave that one to the corporations.
Another anonymous day in another anonymous shift pattern I sat vegetating at the counter watching the automatic doors open and close. Deadbeats came in and occasionally went out again. In and out the clockwork monotony of boredom and loss throws few surprises. Then the door opened and in came a rabbit. Using its teeth and paws it dragged in a carrot after it which it took to the corner of the room and began to eat it. Nobody seemed to notice. I watched the creature for three hours as it wandered to and fro, munching away as it did it. There is little enough nature on the Hackney Downs roundabout to suggest that the animal was a native specimen and the thought of having to clean nesquik from the floor spurred me into action.
“Anyone know anything about the rabbit there?’
Silence. There was a pub next door. With barrels. Could I do it again? Probably. My murderous thoughts were put to rest, however, by one of the deadbeats claiming it was his. He then whistled and like a golden retriever the thing came to him. It’s like something out of an early Disney film when you have seen a rabbit comply with a whistling drunk, just far less endearing. Then he spoke.
“You know the best thing about rabbits, blood. They don’t judge mate. Not one bit. Don’t care where you’ve been in life. Go on ask him” and gestured the rabbit to the counter. I could now see that he was quite mad as he engaged his new friend in one-sided conversation. They left together. I was to see the deadbeat again later but without rabbit. I didn’t ask but just sat and watched the electronic doors open and close. When he finally left I noticed the pair of hind legs sticking out the back of his jacket. Still it was better than a barrel.
Louis Rive was born in London, England but raised in Edinburgh, Scotland. He infrequently attended George Watson’s College, Edinburgh before leaving early due to “irrevocable differences with the staff”. He studied Ancient History to MA level at the University of St. Andrew’s writing his final dissertation on the development of the toilet in the ancient world. Louis has been exposed to the working world since he left school aged 17 and has to this day worked a plethora of jobs.
Despite holding an MA from one of Europe’s top educational institutions, Louis has not gone down the road of many graduates in getting a “proper” job but instead continues to work many “dead end” jobs in an attempt to stave off the 9 to 5 lifestyle. From supermarkets to bookies, it is his experience within the lower reaches of employment that forms the basis of his writing.
An aspiring musician Louis is very interested in traditional music from Scotland and the wider Celtic world (aka Ireland). He is a fully trained cellist and also plays banjo and guitar to a good level. Currently residing in London, he plays in renowned Scottish music act, Deep Fried Fiddle. Alongside music, writing has provided Louis with an outlet to share his stories and vent his frustration at the often-ridiculous world of work.