As the clacking whirr of machinery continued, the feeling of displacement that had come over Sue receded once more. Her heart began to slow from its panicked rhythm, and the fine dew of sweat on her forehead cooled as her temperature began to fall back to normal.

She wriggled a little on the hard plastic stool that she perched on, wishing, once again, that she had been given one a little shorter, so she didn’t feel as if it would topple at any minute. It wasn’t her fault that she was the shortest girl on the line.

With a sigh of relief, Sue realised that things were back to normal again. She hated those episodes, but was too embarrassed to mention them to her line-mates to see if it was just her suffering them.

As the radio in the background continued to churn out its babble of music and manic chatter, barely heard above the noise in the room, Sue glanced quickly away from her work to check the clock on the wall opposite her station – only three thirty – still another two hours to go before her shift ended!

To stop the panicked feeling returning, Sue looked down at the sliced bacon running past her, and suddenly noticed the beginnings of a cyst starting to show on the slices. With a start, she hit the red mushroom-shaped button in front of her, and the line began to slow down.

She glanced over to her supervisor, who was looking at her, and indicated the bacon that was slowly making its way down the line.

‘Cyst,’ she called loudly over the noise of machine and music, and she heard the groan that came from the other nine women on the line.

As the line stopped, her supervisor hurried towards her, examining the offending bacon as she came. She stepped in beside Sue and, pressing the button that completely stopped the machinery, she reached up, and lifted the remainder of the side of bacon being sliced, out from its niche.

At a glance, she saw the cyst running through the meat, and she immediately started to take the offending slab over to the room supervisor, who was making his way towards the stopped line to see what the problem was.

As the two supervisors huddled together over the offending meat, Sue’s line-mates started to laugh and joke among themselves, relieved at the change in routine, but Sue didn’t feel like joining in with the chatter – she just wanted this shift to end so that she could escape this room with it’s mingled scents of oil, overheated machinery, stale perfume and, worst of all, the overpowering smell of bacon.

She hadn’t touched bacon since the first week of starting this job. The smell and feel of it made her feel ill nowadays, especially when dealing with situations such as now, when a cyst, buried deep in the meat, and so overlooked by the loader, was cut into. This meant that the line would have to be cleared, and the whole machine cleaned down before they could continue on.

Sue wondered whether her pay packet at the end of each week was worth putting up with it all but, sighing, kept thinking of the mortgage to be paid.


(543 words)


Written 13/11/2008.

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