11th May

Work Tokens

Bill was already at his window. Keith sat down and logged on. ‘Aye,’ Bill said.


‘How was your weekend?’

‘No bad. Yours?’

‘No bad. Couple of DVDs, bottle of wine. Same shite as usual actually. Ready?’ ‘Ready.’

Bill flicked the switch. The automatic doors released and a crowd of miserable-looking men and women came in out of the rain, dripping everywhere. They shuffled into a line between the straps and posts of the flexible queuing system.

Keith glanced along at Janice and Harriet. Harriet was yawning. Janice was picking her nose. Bill pressed his call-button.

Cashier number one, please, the posh woman’s voice said.

Keith pressed his call-button. Cashier number two, please. Harriet and Janice pressed theirs. Cashier number five, please. Cashier number four, please.

The woman who came up to Keith’s window looked like she’d stood under a shower fully clothed.


‘Can I get work tokens here?’

‘You can’t get them anywhere else.’

‘I’m sorry?’

Keith was bored already. ‘What kind do you want? Normal or dried?’

‘Em, what’s the difference?’

Keith sighed. ‘Dried are good for a month from the date of issue. Normal you have to use by the end of the week.’

‘By the end of this week?’

‘That’s what I said.’

‘I’ll take one of each,’ she said. She started fumbling in her purse.

He keyed in the request. ‘Seven pounds,’ he said.

She looked at him as if she’d misheard.

He sighed again. ‘Three for the normal, four for the dried,’ he said. ‘Makes seven.’

She dug about in her purse a bit more. ‘Just make it two normal then,’ she said.

‘Can’t do that,’ Keith said. ‘It’s gone through.’

Eventually she scraped together seven pounds. He stamped the tokens and pushed them through and she headed back into the rain. Keith drummed his fingers on the counter before summoning the next one. Two hours until his tea break. He’d go for what Bill called a bit of light relief soon. Otherwise known as a piss.

Bill had clocked it. ‘They never learn, do they?’ he said.

‘No,’ Keith said. ‘I bet that dry token’s soaked through before she’s home.’

‘Tossers,’ said Bill.

Keith pushed his call-button.

Reader: Bailey Newsome
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium: Kit Downes
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