8th December


When we came off the backshift he’d already been dead eight hours. The guys coming in for the nightshift told us. ‘Didn’t you hear the news?’ But how could we have heard, working in the ice factory? The ice came crashing down the chute every eighteen minutes and we bagged it as fast as we could go, no time to talk, no time to listen, and with the noise of the next load of ice being made and the roar of the bagging machine and the banging of the staple gun and then in the muffled silence of the freezer where we stacked the bags feeling the cold wet ache of your fingers and the ache of your back and the sweat that crusted on you in the freezer – well, there wasn’t any room for news. Even on our breaks we didn’t have a radio, and we were too tired for talk. The only person who came in was the fish man wanting ice, and he just handed over cash and took his ice away in crates, a dollar a crate, and he never said anything, not even thank you. So how could we have known that he was dead, John Lennon, dead, on another continent on another day in another time zone? We heard it from the guys coming in for the nightshift.

I walked back through the city in a daze, and went for a beer because I needed one. I wanted to be on my own, but I wasn’t alone. Everybody else in the bar was in a daze too, and we all sat drinking and listening to the music, the Beatles and John on his own and John with Yoko, starting over. After the first beer I had a second, and then a third, and then I went home.

All that summer in Sydney I made ice, and every day it hurt but I got fitter and stronger. And every day on my way to the ice factory I passed a wall on which someone had sprayed the words AFTER ALL I’M ONLY SLEEPING. And I knew that part of my life was over, and that the rest was going fast.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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