Author: Gus Doiron
I lift a shovelful from the conveyor belt and heave it into the furnace. Same as the one before, and will be after. I spill nothing on the dirt floor.
There, it is much harder to scoop and my burden has time to build up. The belt, loose and drooping on its squeaking rollers, moves slowly, but never stops.
Regardless, I don’t over work myself. I have learned the more I do, the more They’ll give me.
There is no ventilation in here and I am almost naked. My white underwear is tattered and worn to the point of being see through. On my feet are work boots, three sizes too big. One of the boots has no laces and they belonged to the worker before me. According to her scribblings on the wall, she was a giantess from New Guinea named Matariki.
Full of sweat, I wear nothing else.
As a result of having no gloves, my hands have formed large callouses and are thick and scarred.
This job was tough at first, incinerating the broken dreams and empty promises of the world. The ones from the children are the hardest and burn the hottest, but not even they bother me anymore. In the end, everything goes in the furnace. All I smell is sulphur.
Some days I think I am fueling a macabre machine, its belly lined with hell and brimstone. In better times I feel I may be doing a service, ridding the earth of its never-ending supply of heartache. My greatest moments of clarity tell me the term ‘day’ is misleading as I see no sunlight or night-time. Only a large dark room, partially lit with flickering shadows from the sadness I burn.
If ever granted a wish, it would be to not know the name and location of every person whose failed hopes I throw into the furnace. Occasionally it is somebody I know-knew-and I feel guilty sharing their secret.
I wonder if there are other people like me, with jobs like I have. One thing is certain, things are busier now than when I started. All the failed careers and business ventures, broken homes and missing children. Infidelity and lies are up tenfold.
I met the devil once. He wore jeans and a white long-sleeve button up shirt, walking in with a woman that called Him Fabian. He did not have the red skin and horns on His forehead like books would have us believe, but He was the devil, nonetheless. They were talking productivity and when Fabian looked directly at me I found I could not answer His gaze, even though I wanted to.
The devil did not commend me or even offer a nod for doing a good job, and in some ways that hurt as much as the solitude in which I am confined. But I can’t complain-I got here honestly enough.
There are moments I am fortunate and encounter slight lulls. But there are never any breaks.
Betimes I think back to my old job. A janitor in an arena, a long time ago. I not only had breaks, I had coffee breaks. Coffee with so little milk that people not knowing me would take it for black. In my greatest of times, I even had ginger snap cookies.
When I catch myself reminiscing, I shovel fast to get the memory of coffee breaks out of my mind. For here, there are no ginger snap cookies, no coffee, and no breaks.
There is only the furnace.
I bend and take another scoop.