The sound of the alarm shattered Tim from the nothingness of deep sleep into the harsh, conscious reality of 4:30 am. He killed the sound with a fling of his arm and swung his legs out of the bed. He sat in silence, angry. Angry at being woken up so early, angry that he had no real option. The anger was normal – part of the ritual now – and helped him get up, get moving.
Tim staggered to the en-suite and took a leak. He had a drink of water from the cup on top of the vanity. He moved silently in the dark. He never turned on the light. Light was offensive at this hour.
Tim took his pants from their usual place and put them on. It was an effort. He didn't want to go to work today – more than usual - even for the first day of a tour. He worked his arms into his shirt. As he did up the buttons he noticed that it hurt a bit to swallow. He thought about this, slowly. Perhaps he was sick, or would become sick part-way through the shift.
He sneaked out of the bedroom. His wife hadn't moved the whole time, since the alarm. Perhaps she's dead, he thought. If I check, then I'll be dead. Of well, I'll find out when I get home.
He took the milk from the fridge and poured some into the bowl of cereal on the kitchen bench.
Tim ate slowly, sitting on a bar stool. It was getting towards summer now, and a little pre-dawn light came in through the windows. That made it easier to get going; not easy, but easier.
Tim didn't think about much as he ate. He couldn't think at this hour. He did decide he wasn't sick, though. His throat was still sore, but the crew would need him. Two teaspoons of cement was all he needed.
Tim left the empty bowl on the counter and grabbed his crib from the fridge as he put away the milk. He headed out the front door ten minutes after he'd woken up. He didn't need to check his watch.
He began to walk towards the bus pick-up. It would take him seven minutes, maybe eight. The birds were awake now, flying around, making a racket and catching their worms, or whatever they did.
Tim walked along the edge of the road, carrying his bag. He felt empty. It was like being sad, but worse, and different. He felt like that a lot lately. He tried not to think about how he felt.
He was glad it wasn't raining; that was something. He'd have stayed home, he thought, if it was raining. But stayed home for what?, he wondered. Better off at work. Rock and a hard place. Hard place. Harden up.
He was at the bus stop in plenty of time. Some of the others nodded, said g'day. A few were smoking, while they could. A few blokes were telling each other dirty jokes, laughing.
A year ago, Tim would've joined them. But he'd lost interest in that sort of thing. Like most things. Hate my job, and not interested in finding another one. For sure, not interested in learning a new mine, a new boss, new people. Only wish this job didn't grind me down. Harden up Tim, harden up.
Tim fell out of his daydream. "Hey what?"
"Coming?" The bus had arrived, and everyone else was on board. How'd I miss that?
He climbed on board to head off for the first shift of the tour.
This story was first published in Issue 99 of Shift Miner Magazine. I wrote this coming into the month of "Movember", helping to raise awareness and funds for men's health issues for prostate cancer and depression. Let's just say I wasn't going to write a story about prostate cancer.
Depression is a killer. One way to help is to so go to the beyond blue website and give some money.