This is a story about destiny...
I've been writing short stories all this week to fill my boring days at work. I wasn't going to share them, because I already share thousands of words every week, but this is one of my better efforts.
Anyway, without further ado, please allow me to introduce The Factory:
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His mother had warned him that if he didn't try hard enough at school he would have to work in a factory, but this conflicted with Alan's day-to-day experience with his teachers. Alan's teachers always told him that he had amazing potential. Alan's teachers always told him that if he just applied himself, he would be a brilliant student. Perfect! No effort required then, until the exams actually counted for something. Why burn yourself out over mock exams and other work? Keep your gunpowder dry until the real battle.
Was it lazy? Was it arrogant? It seemed smart to Alan to not bust his balls on extra homework and every essay and assignment. School was going to go on and on for years and years, and then there was university after that. Yes, it was generally assumed that Alan would be going to university, because he was a sharp cookie. Just needed to apply himself. Just needed to try a bit harder. Why bother trying until the day of his GCSE exams, his A-levels, and his entrance examination for Oxford or Cambridge? Why break a sweat until then? Why get anxious about tomorrow's problems, today?
Whenever Alan did turn it on, concentrate, try hard, he found that he was showered with praise and good grades. His experience bore out everything that the world told him every day, except his mother's prophecy that he would end up working in a factory.
But now he worked in a factory.
In the factory, there were warehousemen who drove fork-lift trucks, ferrying pallets of supplies around the factory buildings, or loading the boxed up products being dispatched to the wholesalers. There were machine operators, who pressed oversized industrial buttons, to start and stop the various plant that mixed chemicals in huge vats, pumped liquid, or carried things on conveyor belts. The machine operators were responsible for hitting the big red STOP buttons in the event of an industrial accident, so they were slightly higher paid than the warehousemen, who only had to have a fork-lift truck driving license.
The lowest paid workers in the factory were those who performed repetitive manual labour that could not be easily automated. The manual workers took cans off the conveyor belt, stuck a sticky label on them, and then loaded them onto another conveyor belt. The manual workers picked out any cans with dents or loose lids, and put them onto large trolleys marked "Quality Control" which were wheeled to another area, where somebody else would check to see if the product could be salvaged or not.
There were the supervisors, who had risen through the ranks by doing one of the many jobs in the factory for 25 years or more. That was about how long it took to get promoted. If you had stuck it out for 25 years, and you'd managed not to make a fool of yourself, you were pretty much automatically promoted into a supervisor role. It was well understood, and it was the reason why many people were sticking with their low paid jobs, holding out hope for that promotion. The supervisors were paid marginally more than their colleagues, but the big bonus was that they didn't have to do any work anymore. The supervisors would march around, clean and smelling fresh, putting ticks on a checklist clipped to their clipboards.
Supervisors would escalate issues to management. Management were all the sons, daughters, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends and close friends of the family who had originally owned the factory, or another factory. To enter into management, you had to be born into management, or marry into management. There was a legend, often told, of the boy who used to sweep the factory floor who got promoted to be a manual worker, then a supervisor, and then a manager. This legend was the lottery-winning chance that everybody in the factory secretly hoped for, but of course it was a myth. Whenever new managers were needed, only people who were already managers would be eligible for the role. Can't get the job without the experience, can't get the experience without the job. That was the Catch 22 that kept the riff-raff out of the boardroom.
But, there had been a new role that had been created, that nobody felt qualified to do. Some of the managers had hired family members, friends, to try and do the role, but nobody had been able to perform the duties required. There had been several rounds of telephone interviews to screen candidates. Human Resources had then called in promising candidates to understand if they had the right cultural fit and commitment to the mission of the company, to be suitable. Then junior management had held some day-long sessions where candidates fought it out with each other, in some real-world scenarios that had been set as a test. Then, finally, there were several more face to face interviews with senior management, before at long last the CEO personally vetted the remaining handful of hopefuls, and selected a winner. A job offer was dispatched and the factory's newest recruit joined the team. However, every person they had recruited to date had left, soon after starting their new job.
It was time to try the open market. Jobs were routinely advertised on the open market, but invariably it would be somebody known to somebody else who would be recruited. You had to know somebody. Any candidate from the open market was there just to make up the numbers, and to pay lip service to the idea that there was some meritocracy to the process, but everybody in management knew that unless you were already in management, your face simply didn't fit: you weren't part of the club.
And so, the unprecedented step of hiring somebody on the basis of their Curriculum Vitae was made. Their aptitude and qualifications were actually considered on merit, and the interviewers actually mulled over the answers to the questions that were asked. The management team was getting desperate. It was time to hire somebody who might be capable of doing the job, rather than simply recycling the same pool of people who had been born into privileged positions. Management were out of ideas, because they had only ever taken their ideas from an insular pool of people with the same background. It was time to try an outsider.
Alan had been through the same gruelling rounds of telephone interviews, HR grillings and face to face meetings with various junior and senior managers. Alan had suffered the same dismissive attitudes, because he had never held a management role, because his family had never owned a factory and gifted him a job. Everybody who interviewed him let him know, subtly, that he wasn't cut out for management because he wasn't part of the club. However, begrudgingly they had been forced to recommend their favoured outside candidate. Alan had been chosen for his strengths, not because of nepotism. Management were not happy about this. This was not the way things worked.
Finally, the CEO had awarded Alan the job. The CEO knew that the factory had little choice. It had an unfilled role that was very important. Nobody from the pool of those with managerial experience had proven able to perform the duties. Of course none of the supervisors could be promoted. That would be ridiculous! Alan had good grades and had studied at Cambridge, so on paper he was a cut above everybody else that they had interviewed, except the one thing that would normally disqualify him from ever entering management: that he actually had to apply for a job, rather than just being gifted one by his family.
Alan's roles and responsibilities had been explained to him at length during the interview process, but now he had an HR meeting to discuss his salary and his final job description.
"There's been a slight change" said Sandra, the HR woman. "There's actually just one thing we need you to do" she explained. Sandra pushed a piece of paper with some text printed on it over the desk towards Alan. "Is this some kind of joke?" Alan asked.
The salary negotiations had taken a new direction now that Alan knew that his intended role had somewhat changed. Normally, candidates enthusiastically accepted pretty much whatever was offered in terms of remuneration by the time that they had reached the point of a job offer. The purpose of the interview process was to make a candidate so relieved when the stress and the anxiety of the whole awful ordeal was over, that they wouldn't want to risk losing the job offer when it was on the table.
"I want twice as much money" Alan plainly declared.
"Ridiculous!" Sandra had replied. "You'd be paid more than the CEO if we gave you that much" she spat, contemptuously.
"But look at what you want me to do" Alan pleaded. "What you're offering just isn't enough to do that".
Eventually, Sandra had backed down. She was shocked. She'd never actually had to negotiate with somebody before, and even when candidates had tried, she just held her ground and they gave in. She'd met people like Alan before, but she'd never come up against such stubborn determination. His attitude had seemed to change completely when she told him what his new role would entail.
Alan started his new job with something of a sense of happiness. He was going to be paid an obscene amount of money. He couldn't believe his luck. Even though Alan knew that the size of his paycheque bore no relation to his actual value as a person, he still felt special and appreciated to be receiving such healthy remuneration for his efforts. Alan was almost cocky and arrogant, knowing that he was the highest paid person in the factory. He was the highest paid person he knew. He calculated how much he was going to earn every hour, every minute, every second... it was a lot.
Three supervisors met Alan at the factory gates and gave him a brief tour of the facilities. Alan was soaking up his surroundings with glee. It was nice to feel part of something. It was nice to see the efficiency of everything, as cans and boxes, and crates and vats of liquid were ferried around the warehouses, and vast quantities of products were stacked up ready to be dispatched to customers.
Alan was shown to the testing room. Everything had been prepared for him.
The testing room was a cube in the corner of one of the cavernous warehouses, with a door labelled "TESTING ROOM" in bold black text. The testing room had a round silver door handle, and a piece of plastic that could be slid so that the words "IN USE: DO NOT ENTER" could be displayed, or hidden when the room was unoccupied.
"Yes, it's ready to go. Please start when you're ready" one of the supervisors said, gesturing towards the door.
Alan slid the plastic so that "IN USE" was displayed, and stepped inside the room, closing the door behind him.
Inside the room, there was black folding chair in the centre, and 4 blank walls. The walls had a slightly glossy shiny look to them. There was a sharp chemical smell in the air. An extraction fan whirred above, sucking away the fumes. Alan sat down in the chair, and begun to look at the walls.
After 12 hours, a loud whistle blast could be heard throughout the factory, including inside Alan's room. The factory workers queued up to clock out of their shift, and then disappeared out of the exit to the car park and bus stop. The supervisors jumped in their battered old cars and drove home. The manual workers queued up in the rain to catch the bus. Alan queued up for the bus too: he would have to wait for his first paycheque before he could think about buying a car.
The next day, Alan arrived and made his own way to the room. He opened the door and there were a couple of men in there who were just packing up their things. One of the men said "all ready for you" and then the room was left vacant. Alan slid the sign to show "IN USE" again, closed the door and sat in his chair, waiting for the factory whistle while looking at the glossy walls.
After 11 or so hours, Alan started to wonder if his eyes were playing tricks on him. Were the walls slightly less glossy? There certainly seemed to be patches where the walls looked somewhat more matt. There were areas that were still shiny and reflecting light, but there were large parts that seemed to no longer have the same sheen. Before he could think about this much longer, the factory whistle blew and everybody left for home.
Alan had a troubling night of sleep, wondering what he was doing. Had he made a mistake in taking this job? It was certainly very well paid, but it wasn't at all what he imagined he would be doing for a living. He started to think about the nice new car he was going to buy himself with his first paycheque. Yes, just focus on the money, he told himself as he drifted off to sleep.
The following morning, two men were just leaving the room as he arrived. They were carrying rollers, brushes and cans of paint. "Morning!" they cheerily called to Alan. "Morning!" Alan enthusiastically replied. It was nice to be greeted by his colleagues. They seemed happy to have him there.
Inside the room, it had been repainted in a wonderful bright new colour. This made Alan joyously happy. This minor change in his environment and routine was well appreciated and his whole 12 hour shift passed quickly. Alan felt noticed, cared for. Perhaps his doubts about this career were misplaced.
In the evening, Alan considered taking out a car loan. I mean, now that he had found a job that he enjoyed and was well paid, surely there would be no risk in taking out some finance to allow him to have a reliable vehicle to transport him to work? It would be a nice treat that he could have now, rather than having to wait until his paycheque. He would be able to drive to work rather than taking the bus. That would be a big improvement in his quality of life, not having to stand and queue for the bus in the rain.
Now the working week was nearly done. Alan felt really happy about the approaching weekend as he rode the bus on his way to work.
The painters were leaving his room again when he arrived, carrying their brushes and rollers. Wow! This was exciting, Alan thought. "What colour have they painted my room today?" he wondered.
Inside the room, the walls were the same colour as the previous day, Alan felt sure. What the hell? Were his eyes playing tricks on him? Was his memory fading? Maybe the paint simply needed a second coat, but it had looked pretty good yesterday, he thought.
Alan's 12 hour shift was spent pondering the conundrum of the paint colour. Strangely, he was almost but not quite able to enjoy watching the glossy sheen of the wet paint change to a matt texture, as it dried. He made a little game, of checking each of the slower drying areas intermittently, to see if they were still shiny.
Friday brought another almost identical day. The painters were leaving as Alan arrived, and the colour was unchanged. The only thing that was different was that Alan was now certain that no further coats of paint had been required in order to give even coverage. The walls had been adequately coated with paint the day before. This extra coat of paint was wholly unnecessary, for even the most diligent decorator.
Clocking out of his shift, Alan was troubled and locked into his own mind, questioning what he was doing and why. His eyes were glazed over and not engaging with the faces of his colleagues as they left the factory. On the bus ride home, Alan started to shake off his doubts and just enjoy the fact that work was over until Monday. It was the weekend and he could relax, knowing that he had successfully got though his first week, and he was a little closer to his first paycheque.
The weekend was overshadowed with niggling doubts. Alan had been planning on going to the car dealership to enter into a finance agreement and arrange to take delivery of a brand new car. Instead, Alan was almost in a daze, unable to shake off the feeling that his new job was not quite what he had bargained for. Were things going to change? For sure, on that day that the walls had been repainted, he had felt that things were going to be OK, but then the end of the week things had made no sense.
By Sunday evening, Alan had started to become quite anxious about the week ahead. If the colour of the walls changed again, that would be better, but it still didn't really answer the question of what he was doing there. If the colour of the walls didn't change, he would be forced to question what the purpose of his role was. He knew that it was important that he didn't ask difficult questions or voice his doubts, and he didn't want to risk that big salary. How long could he hold his tongue?
On Monday morning, Alan felt extremely tired even though he had not stayed up late or slept especially badly. He felt tense. His muscles ached. He felt butterflies in his tummy. Why would he be so anxious? His job was easy and he'd made it though the first week with no problems. There was no reason why he couldn't continue day after day, week after week, year after year, decade after decade. Think about all that money he could save up for retirement. Think how rich he was going to be.
Alan arrived at work with seconds to spare. He was almost late. The room was empty, but the walls were shiny and wet with fresh paint. The painters had obviously left shortly before Alan had arrived.
For the first three days of the new week, the paint remained the same colour but it was always freshly repainted. Alan never saw the painters again because he was arriving later and later to work, questioning what on earth he was doing and how he could carry on without understanding the purpose of it all. It was so meaningless, so purposeless, so lacking in rational explanation, so wasteful. He was the highest paid person in the factory, and yet he didn't understand the importance of his role. In fact, his role seemed pointless to him. He persevered, thinking about the money and the new car.
On Thursday, he was torn between just quitting his job or marching into the boardroom to demand answers from the senior management. He knew that either option would pretty much spell the end of his career.
Arriving exceptionally late, Alan turned the handle and opened the door of the testing room a fraction. Inside, the walls had been repainted a different colour. Alan was flooded with a disproportionate amount of relief that something had at last changed. It had been more than a week since the colour had been altered, and even though it had happened once before, he was now overjoyed that it had happened again. It had seemed like forever that he had lived with the same colour of fresh paint, day after day.
On Friday, the wall colour changed again, and now Alan was almost ecstatic. He felt giddy with the waves of emotional relief that swept over him. He was almost drunk with feelings. Everything seemed to make sense, even though they didn't. Everything seemed to be slotting into place, even though they weren't. Alan spent his whole shift daydreaming about driving his new car, and resolved to rush to the dealership first thing on Saturday and sign the car finance papers.
Alan's sleep was very disturbed with excitement about getting a new car. Of course, he would not be taking delivery for some time, but that's not what he was thinking about as he fitfully slept until the earliest possible opportunity he could get up and rush to the dealership when it opened in the morning. At the dealership, Alan borrowed far more money than he had originally intended. Buoyed with the optimism of last couple of days at work he'd just had, in stark contrast to his misery and anxiety at the start of the week, Alan felt that he must purchase the very best car that he could afford, in order to give everything some meaning.
Then, as soon as the door of the dealership had swung closed behind him, he felt a sense of regret, rising panic. What had he done?
Now his weekend was doubly anxious. What if he had another week where they didn't change the colour of the walls? What if he lost his job before he got paid? What if the new car was not as wonderful as he hoped it would be.
Alan tried to console himself in daydreams about him driving the new car. Alan tried to picture how much happier he would be, owning and driving a new car. It didn't seem to be quite enough to settle his deep sense of unease, that he was now trapped into his job in order to keep up the repayments on the car finance. The thought that he now had no option but to stay in his job, or else face both unemployment and insolvency, was a terrifying amount of pressure.
The following week was sheer agony. The colour of the walls remained the same every day, even though they were freshly repainted for all five days. Alan tried to lose himself in daydreams about taking delivery of his new car, and driving it for the first time. He tried to imagine the new car smell. He tried to imagine tearing off the plastic that protected the brand new seats, like tearing of wrapping paper at Christmas. But it didn't work. Time dragged incredibly. Every second felt like a minute. Every minute felt like an hour. Every hour felt like a day. Every day felt like a month. The week felt like a year. A year of pain. A year of staring at the blank walls, wondering what he had done, but feeling completely trapped by his finance agreement.
Alan made it through a second week that was much the same. He dare not arrive late, for his financial security depended on him keeping this job. He dare not raise his concerns with senior management, for he needed this job. He was locked in. He had to keep quiet and just keep doing what he was doing.
When he woke up on Saturday it was 3pm in the afternoon. He hadn't gone to bed late, but the stress and anxiety were exhausting. He was wrecked by the constant tension, the constant worry, the constant doubt. He was lolling around in bed, not really wanting to face the day because he was too emotionally drained. And then he remembered: he could collect his new car today.
Instead of joy, Alan felt trepidation. He procrastinated in getting ready and travelling to the dealership. There was too much riding on this. If he didn't enjoy his new car, his life was over. How on earth could a new car solve the misery of his day to day existence? No material object was capable of resolving his crisis, surely?
Arriving late, the car dealer was only just able to complete all the paperwork in time to let Alan have the car that day. Alan thought he was going to literally collapse and die when he was told that there might not be enough time before the dealership closed, and he'd have to come back another day. Perhaps the dealer had seen the grimace on Alan's face, and had been taken aback. Instead of being fobbed off, the dealership had pulled out all the stops to get Alan his car, while he sat exhausted in the waiting room.
At last, Alan was handed the keys and led to the car park where his shiny new car was ready to go. The paint colour wasn't quite the same as the one he specified and the dealer had forgotten the upgrade to the wheels that he had been promised, but he didn't care. Alan wasn't going to refuse to take delivery now, when he'd been working for so many years to get this prize; or so it felt. Alan signed his name and stepped into the driver's seat. This was finally happening.
It was certainly nice, like he had imagined, being in a brand new car with the smell of plastic and foam. Everything was unmarked, blemish free. Alan had to pinch himself to be reminded that this was not one of his many daydreams he had been having in anticipation of this day.
Driving to work, Alan drew envious stares from fellow work colleagues who he had previously taken the bus with. He apologetically cringed, knowing that they were thinking how flash he was, displaying his wealth so obviously like this. He felt like a traitor, having taken the bus with the ordinary factory workers, and now flaunting his privilege, while his co-workers were soaked from the rain. However, it had been a remarkably enjoyable journey to work despite the traffic. Alan arrived at his room feeling remarkably relaxed and happy.
Now, Alan spent 12 hours waiting to be able to enjoy his drive home. The anticipation of it almost seemed to make the time go slower, but at least he was carried through the first half of the day with a bit of happiness from his drive to work. He fantasised about perhaps going on a long drive at the weekend.
The week dragged, but it was not too bad. As an added bonus, the room had been repainted on Thursday in a new colour. Alan's week was almost tolerable. This could be sustainable, he thought.
Another couple of weeks passed with Alan's car getting a little bit dirtier, scratched and dented from the daily commute and people carelessly opening doors in the car park, or brushing past his vehicle with sharp protruding zips or studs on their clothing, damaging the paint. Inside the car, it was littered with discarded coffee cups from Alan's commute, which now seemed painfully slow as he queued in traffic. The bus zipped past him in the bus lane, as he sat fuming at the wheel. Driving to work was an added pressure, an added anxiety.
The same nagging doubt about what he was doing, became bigger than the novelty of driving to work, which had quickly become the norm. The changes in wall colour were as routine as anything else. Alan simply spent 12 hours sat in his room questioning his very existence, and trying to will himself to think about the money, which was very much less than before, because of his borrowing obligations. Working to pay off his car loan really did not seem to make any sense except in the context of his job, which also didn't make any sense.
In a way, Alan hankered for the days when he used to take the bus, because he didn't have the pressure of having to drive himself and the crippling financial burden of the loan he had taken out to buy the car. Of course, the car was now well careworn and uncared for and was worth a tiny fraction of what Alan had paid for it. He would never be able to repay his debts by selling his car. He would have to keep the job, in order to keep up his loan repayments. He was trapped, and it was destroying him, knowing that he was damned if he did, and damned if he didn't.
Alan started to drink heavily. At first in the evenings, to deal with his anxiety at facing the working day. Then he started to drink at the weekends, to deal with his anxiety at facing the working week. Then he started to drink in the mornings in the car park, so that he would be drunk at work and the day would pass quicker. Alan had no problem hiding his drunkenness at this stage, because he was inebriated around-the-clock. He would never let the alcohol levels in his bloodstream drop, because he would start to get the shakes and start throwing up. He had woken up in the night, soaked in sweat, when he had suffered an epileptic fit in his sleep.
Now physically dependent on alcohol, Alan's his body would complain with horrific withdrawal symptoms and seizures if he stopped drinking. He was also psychologically dependent on intoxication to be able to cope with the monotony of his job. Sobriety was barred to him, because he was unable to continue to work without alcohol, and he needed the job to pay for his loan. Alcohol numbed the stress and anxiety of the situation.
His mother had warned him that if he didn't apply himself at school, he would amount to nothing, and would be a manual labourer in a factory. He was now the highest paid person in the factory, and higher paid than even the CEO. He had a lovely car, and he was on top of his finances. His credit rating was sky high. He could borrow as much as he wanted, to buy a house, a boat or whatever he wanted. However, he was now wary of borrowing any more, knowing that it would shackle him more to the job that had driven him to alcohol. There was no way out. Material things brought temporary relief, but only at the expense of further tying him to a pointless job that denied him any sense of purpose.
People asked Alan why didn't he just retrain as a circus juggler, or a bricklayer? Perhaps he could be a flower arranger, or a concert pianist? Did these people not understand that those salaries would never allow him to service his debts? Did these people not realise that it costs money, on rent and tuition fees, to be able to retrain, and all Alan's money went on rent, debt and alcohol. "Why don't you save up some money and go travelling?" people asked. Saving money meant less alcohol, and it was only through alcohol that Alan could make it through the day. He was mortgaging his health in order to keep his job, in order to repay his debts. Couldn't people see he'd love to dream. Alan was not short of dreams and ideas, but how could he pursue them when he was so trapped?
Riding the wall of death, faster and faster, round and round. Alan had to keep drinking more and more in order to maintain his intoxication, as his body became more and more tolerant to the copious amounts of alcohol he imbibed. Three bottles of wine every day. Cans of super strength lager to keep him topped up. Then a bottle of whiskey every day. Then two bottles of vodka every day. Then he lost count. There were bottles in his gym bag, in his car, littered throughout his flat. He had hip flasks in every pocket. He lived in constant fear of running out of alcohol and getting the shakes, having a fit at work that would cost him his job.
Nobody seemed to notice that Alan was tanked up on alcohol the whole time. He was functional. He was turning up to work and doing his job just like he'd always done. He was reliable, dependable. He was uncomplaining. He didn't ask any questions. He was the perfect employee. Moulded to fit his job perfectly. He had filled his role better than anybody in senior management could have possibly hoped for. The CEO was overjoyed with Alan's appointment, and the work that he was doing. He was worth every penny of his salary, even if Alan felt worthless.
Knowing that he was an alcoholic and unable to function outside the narrow remit of his role, Alan was even more trapped than before. There was no way that he would find another job. There was nobody who needed somebody with such specific skills and experience. There was nobody who could afford to pay Alan the salary that he needed. There was no way that a functional alcoholic could hide their problem throughout the gruelling interview process. There was no way that a functional alcoholic would be able to start doing something new. He was just surviving on muscle memory, on practice and routine. Alan's brain was shot to pieces.
Alan wondered if suicide would be preferable to his existence. He knew that he was slowly committing suicide anyway. Soon his liver would be destroyed. Soon his health would fail completely, and he would quickly die. Wouldn't it be better to do it swiftly, before he got hospitalised and he painfully slipped away? Death would be unpleasant, as his organs failed one by one and his body gave up due to the ravages of alcohol. Surely it would be better to just kill himself quickly.
Stockpiling paracetamol from the chemist, buying boxes two at a time, Alan gathered hundreds of pills.
There was no moment of doubt when he did it, swallowing handful after handful of white tablets, washed down with whiskey. Alan had selected a fine single malt to end his life. Leaving no suicide note, he had however tidied up his flat and set his financial affairs in order. Everything would be found neat and tidy, when the police were sent by the factory to see why he hadn't turned up for work at all that week.
Of course, people were sad when he'd gone. "He could have been anything he wanted" they said. He had amazing potential. He just had to apply himself to something. The world was his oyster. There were so many opportunities.
Nobody saw how trapped Alan was, and he had known that he could never explain. People would never understand how he could be so trapped, when he was so well paid and so good at his job. He was steady and dependable. He never rocked the boat. He never complained. He just got on with his work.
His mother didn't mention her prophecy about the factory at the funeral. Many of his work colleagues attended the burial, and it would have been insulting to talk about factory work as undesirable. There was also a subtle point that Alan's mother had missed: he had ended up working at a factory, just as she had warned, but she had been proud of him because it was a prestigious role.
What Alan's mother had failed to understand was that the men who manually laboured in the factory felt like they made a difference. Every full lorryload of product that left the factory felt like some small achievement. Even a full day spent sticking labels on cans and transferring items on conveyor belts felt somehow useful.
However, Alan had never figured out what the purpose of his role was. He knew that he was well paid, and that he was a valued employee, but he didn't know why. Alan had been unable to place himself anywhere in the grand scheme of things. Alan had never been unable to get over the most basic reduction of his job description to the simplest possible explanation, which was now chiselled into his gravestone in commemoration of his great work:
"He watched paint dry"
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Tags: #writing #shortstories #alcohol