Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Following is a piece of flash fiction called Early Starts, recently published in Issue 84 of Shift Miner Magazine. The idea is based on two eerily similar stories I've heard from fellow mine workers. Anyone who has to get to work for early starts in the morning should be able to relate to this.
Harry woke to the sound of a bump and a scream, and sat straight up in bed. In a moment he was staggering down the hall to his daughter's room. He wondered how his wife Judy had slept through it; but then, it had been a rough night for both of them. He found their daughter lying on the ground beside her bed, crying, still half asleep. He picked her up, rubbed her back and made hushing sounds. After a minute it started to work, and before too long he had her tucked back into bed.
Harry wandered back down the hall and went to the toilet. He was about to go back to bed when he decided that it wasn't worth it. He'd have to be up again soon to go to work anyway. The only thing worse than waking up this early was just getting back to sleep and doing it all over again. If there was a single thing that Harry hated about working in the mining industry, it was the early starts. He liked small towns; he preferred them to cities, and enjoyed the fact that despite this he got paid a remote area living allowance. He liked the work, and he liked the people. At least, he didn't dislike the people any more than those in other industries. But Harry was not a morning person. He would set his alarm for the latest possible time he could, without being late for the shift bus. He had his lunch packed the night before; Judy did that for him, mostly. He would lay his clothes, wallet, keys and phone in the bathroom the night before. Harry did his mornings sleepwalking in remote control.
He would usually just throw his clothes on in the dark and leave, but with a bit of extra time today, he treated himself to a shower. The hot water felt good on his neck and back, and he felt his mind clearing as he prepared to face the day. He still ranted in his mind about the ridiculously early start time. He did this almost every day, slowly building up enough anger to get himself moving. Why does the shift have to start at six? he asked himself. Why not eight? Once he got over that, he thought about what he might do with the rest of this extra time. He ruled TV out as a waste. I hardly ever read he thought, as he towelled himself down. I'll start one of those novels I bought, getting dusty on the shelf.
With years of practice he slipped into his clothes, and loaded up his pockets. He turned off the bathroom light and began to sneak down the hall.
Judy appeared in the doorway of their bedroom, scaring him silly. He said one of those words he'd promised to stop saying now that he was a father.
"What on earth are you doing?" said Judy. She said the words slowly, with little pauses between them. It was like she was talking to a child, and he hated it.
Harry kept up the slow talking thing and said, "I'm going to work."
"Harry," said Judy, "It's one o'clock in the morning."
He paused. "Oh," he said. "Well, I thought I might sit down and read one of my novels first."