Martin Shaw
Buddy Blue

In my life, machines have amassed by forklift, dressed in pig iron skirts of racing green, precision welded for keener corners. Oil pools, like hot butter reflecting yellow sodium bulbs, while metal elbows pump fists that churn rotunda bellies, moulding fridge doors and cheap tin trays for the Christmas countdown….

With paper underarm, a machine minder, Buddy Blue, sits down on his plastic chair facing the lights and dials. He’s on a ten-till-six-shift, his face as pallid as the paper readouts from the metal encased computer at his side.

Deep into the night, Buddy’s head drops to his chest. The workshop manager notices. He looks stern as he strides over to wake him, then quickly calls the stretcher bearers, the appointed first aiders. Upon seeing Buddy’s lips as dark as his last name, they try to resuscitate him before finding a whiz-bang defibrillator for a jumpstart. However, with blood coagulated after years of working on tectonic concrete floors, Buddy’s body is zombified with thrombosis—and, in fact, he’s now dead as the proverbial door nail.

Buddy’s unmanned machine flashes intermittent red lights in sympathy, and even the computer readout is jammed, the paper concertinaed, labouring, like an accordion out of air and tune. The whole factory is shut down for ten minutes as the production graphs in the office fall from the top of an ink-drawn Mont Blanc, to the marker dots at the foot of the page.

All of us workers can now hear a radio playing from above, before realizing it hasn’t been switched off for years. A game of musical chairs begins – the guy who replaces me being set free from his incarceration of assistant store clerk. However, he’s shackled-down again by compulsory overtime on the factory floor. After a pay rise, it is I who replaces Buddy Blue. His work life passes in the flash of neon lights before me, while my existence is now mapped on a graph, climbing to the top of K2. AQ