By Amy Dollery
MY eyes feel like they are on stalks, eyelids pulled back, pupils widened. My heart is banging so hard, I am worrying I am heading straight towards a heart attack. I swear I can taste the adrenaline like metal in my mouth. I strain to stare through the blinds right into the shop, praying I magically get some x-ray vision to see what is happening, but obviously I see fuck all.
They had walked away from the car so solemnly. Norman focussed, concentration written in his every move, Jace more edgy, his face twitching, even loud mouth Carl was scarily silent. Just before they disappeared from view, Jace had turned around and looked at me. The way I imagine a little boy looks back at his parent on the first day of school. I tried to smile back in a reassuring way, but even to me it felt weak.
I keep replaying that moment in my head. Should I have done something? Should I have stepped out of the car and shouted them back, told them it wasn’t worth it, that it didn’t matter? But by the time I had decided it was too late, they were gone. Now all I can do is wait and try to convince myself this is not a really shit idea.
I slide down in my seat and bite the skin around my nails. They have been gone too long now, I am sure of it. I mean I have no idea how long something like this takes, but come on. My legs feel itchy so I wriggle back upright, lean my arms on the wheels, jiggle my feet and begin to stare again.
A man passes the car and glances in and I am suddenly aware I must look really odd. Sat in my car like some fucking stalker. I start to panic. What if something lodges itself into that man’s mind and when the whole thing appears on Crime Watch, and he suddenly remembers me, acting like a weirdo? Or perhaps he is having his breakfast reading his paper and a little news story in the left hand column jogs something in his mind and he thinks about me sitting here in a new light and boom we are all up shit creek. Christ, what do I do? Should I go after him and explain I am normal, because that won’t stand out in his memory? Or perhaps I should just drive a street away, but then where would they find me if we have to run? And we will have to run. Perhaps I should drag him down an alleyway and tell him to forget what he saw. But as I have never dragged anyone anywhere, I am not sure that idea is a winner.
Jesus I need to calm down. He probably thought nothing. Perhaps I should put on the radio, no one could suspect a man listening to Radio 2. No wait Radio 5 Live and then everyone would just think I am trying to get a bit of peace to listen to the footy. Yes, I just need to calm down listen to some sport and wait. My job is the easy job. Surely you can’t fuck up waiting.
They chose me to be the driver out of some warped morality. When this whole stupid idea came about I had just found out my missus was expecting. Apparently this puts me up the ranks. Jace’s kids are a bit older, Norman only has his mum to worry about and Carl has never had a girlfriend as far as I know. If the Titanic sinks, save the children, mothers and then expectant fathers apparently. I tried to argue this was nonsensical, everyone had something to lose, but somehow thinking this way, had felt really important to the group, especially so to Norman. He thought if we all acted morally and honourably, even when doing something un-honourable then perhaps it would all turn out okay. Perhaps karma would be kind or the gods would look on us favourably. If he acted selflessly, then the whole group would triumph. Whoever says there is no honour among thieves.
Radio 5 announces the start of Manchester United versus Man City, and for a second I feel like it is a normal Saturday. A day when I actually would be trying to find a quiet place to listen to footy. But then almost in the same second that safe feeling was gone. This is not a normal Saturday. I am not sure there will ever be another normal Saturday.
We almost didn’t choose a Saturday, there was a right debate. Was a Saturday too busy? Would a week day have a better chance of success? Or was it better to hide in the crowd? Sunday was out because the bookies wasn’t open, but every other day was discussed to death. That is what happens when four men suddenly find themselves with a lot of time on their hands. In the end Jace without realising it decided it for us. It looked like he might have picked up a job, a shit for nothing job, as he put it, better than nothing though. But now he couldn’t get any time off in the week, so it had to be Saturday.
Seems ridiculous really. But then doesn’t the whole thing when you think about it.
I blame all those months waiting for news. It was the drip, drip of it that did our heads in, made us all go a bit insane. Death by a hundred knives I think they call it. First our shifts were cut down, then voluntary redundancies were offered, but of course the message still was, “don’t worry lads, if you don’t want to leave you won’t have to”. And then came the less voluntary redundancies. Lads from our department, neighbours we had known for years called into the HR office, and let out through the back door. Every day we spent feeling sick for them and sick for ourselves. Never knowing if we would be next, until the final blow was delivered and we were told the whole plant was closing. That was it. Over. Our jobs, our skills, our livelihoods, done. Quickly the stress we had lived with for so long, turned to rage. Rage at how they treated us, and rage at how they had left us.
It was three weeks ago though, that it came to a head. The night started like any other, all of us sitting in the working men’s club, which is ironic as none of us now worked, having a bit of banter and moaning about our lot, until Jace came in. He had a letter in his hand from his lad’s school. Apparently they needed the final instalment of money to send his son on a school trip to wales. That they had written twice now and were asking if there was a problem. It was the most patronising letter I had ever read and it was the last straw for Jace. He was so proud of being a father, providing his son with what he hadn’t had, but now this letter was telling him he had failed, that he would let down his son who had been looking forward to this trip all year. Jace said he should have told them ages ago, when he first got the news, but he just couldn’t bear to see the look on his kids face. It was only £150 he needed, just £150. I swear if I had had a penny to my name that night I would have given it all to Jace.
Everyone felt his rage. If the bastard company had acted better, had more foresight, had protected the workers. We all knew they had got out alright. Looked after themselves, walked away with fat cheques. It was a well-worn argument, but that night it had a new edge.
Someone added to the rant that they had read in the Echo one of our directors now ran 360 Gambling, which had just made the top 100 hundred local companies. And then someone had a cousin who worked there, and said she had told him, they made indecent amounts in a day. That takings had gone up since the plant had closed down, a lot of people wishing on a lucky star. They were doing so well they gave out all these crazy bonuses, like a weekend away for being the highest seller. That you should see the cash in the safe at the end of the day.
And it was from that sentence the plan unravelled. It was a simple plan. Get a bit of pay back and gain enough to tide us over. We figured if we could just take eight grand, just that amount, no more, between the four of us that would be two grand each and that would be enough to take the pressure off. That was four months mortgage, it was Jace’s son’s trip 10 times over, it would tide us all over whilst we all got back on our feet. And who would get hurt? The staff would be fine, the business would hardly notice it, the insurance would probably cover it. It would only be the pride of the director that got dented and well to be honest that is the least that dipshit deserved. Fuck we were owed this.
So that was it. The plan was set and now they are in there, and I am here. They are trying to change our lives and I am sat here waiting like a lemon.
I have my foot on the clutch ready and I am determined not to let them down. In my mind I keep seeing the door burst open and them running towards me. I want to see them charging out of that shop, hands full of heavy bags, and a massive smiles on their faces. I want to see Carl turn around whilst running and stick two fingers up at the shop. Then as quick as you like they will jump into the car and someone will shout drive, just like in the movies, and I will put my foot down and we will go. I don’t even really care where to.
Suddenly with everything in me, I pray this is a success. I want us for once in our lives to have some luck. I want us to get some fucking pride back. With all my heart at the end of this, I want to think, fuck, this wasn’t such a shit idea after all!
I sit back and wait.
© Amy Dollery 2016