GB No. 1(16)/95
"The world is beautiful," said Tadek, "only the people are pale."
Tadek, our foreman, took a swig of cheap wine and handed the bottle to Janek, our mason.
That day only the three of us were working. The rest of the building team did not turn up for work. After getting their pay cheques yesterday, the majority went on a drinking spree, which meant simply that they wouldn't be sober for a few days. Every month the same thing happened: a pay cheque, a visit to a pub on the way home, drinking till the evening, a repeat at home, a hangover in the morning, again a pub, a party at night, drinking till the morning, and so on without stopping. Money was running out and only then a "moral hangover" got hold of you so you had to go back to work.
The manager turned a blind eye to this state of affairs. After all, they were his best men. And a man with a "moral hangover" worked for three. And he would also say: "A drunkard is a sick person, and a sick person needs to be understood. It is not his fault, it's the sickness that is to blame." After all, the manager also liked to have a drink from time to time.
I stayed with the boss as a mason's aide. Wages were low, just enough to survive, but with such high unemployment I seized every opportunity.
Here, have a drink," Janek took out a bottle.
"No, I don't drink at work," I replied.
The manager drove a pick-up to a building site. Although he tried to walk straight, every few steps he stumbled over a brick or a board left lying around. It was obvious that he too had had a hard night.
"How can somebody who runs a private firm allow himself so much drinking?" I asked Janek.
"His firm, his money, his problem," Janek answered. "Quiet, he's coming."
The manager stopped, his legs wide apart. He thrust his hands into his pockets.
"How's it going?" he asked.
"All right," assured Janek.
"Did you drink yesterday?"
Tadek and Janek nodded. The manager saw a bottle behind an airbrick.
"You could refrain from drinking at work," he complained.
"The work is being done, so what's the problem?" Tadek defended himself.
"How many concrete-mixers have you done today?"
"Two," I said, although in fact we had done only one.
"Two in six hours?! Bastards," the manager tried to intimidate us. "You'll see. I will take disciplinary measures so you won't even get the free soup for the unemployed"
"Well, boss," Janek defended himself, "everybody needs a drink from time to time. We are not animals. Want a drink, boss?"
Janek took out a bottle.
"I've lost enough because of booze," he answered.
"What happened?" asked Tadek. "Did your wife throw you out of your house?"
"No, no. These two guys came over yesterday. They sold me three hundred litres of varnish."
"And?" Tadek asked with curiosity.
"They sold it at half the wholesale price. I thought they were thieves, but it turned out they were crooks."
"It's better not to do business on booze," said Janek.
"Instead of varnish," the manager continued, "they sold me some stinking shit from abroad."
"Probably waste," said Tadek. "The Polish set up a firm of chemical waste utilisation. They buy containers, print labels, organise way-bills, and then sell the stuff as varnish. Strangely enough, our boss was taken in."
"It has taught me a lesson." The manager sat down on an airbrick. "Fuck, what a headache."
"Yes," pondered Janek. "Everything would be just fine except for the hangover. You could drink, have fun and work. But in this case, you have to get over it somehow."
"No," the boss disagreed. "I hardly ever have a hangover. That's the stuff from the car. A whole can was spilled over. My head has been throbbing so much, I hardly made it here. Listen, pour it out somewhere, will you? Only somewhere far away so that the kids won't get poisoned."
Janek and Tadek exchanged looks of disgust. "It stinks, boss," Janek said.
"I will stand you a bottle of vodka and tomorrow off for the three of you."
"Deal." Janek was really glad.
"Okay. Here are the car keys. Everything is loaded. Only
don't crash on your way."
The manager remained at the construction site because he was expecting a delivery of sand.
Janek drove, Tadek sat beside him, and I made myself comfortable in the back with the cans.
"Still alive?" Tadek shouted, turning to the back of the car.
"Yeah," I answered.
"Carrots!" shouted the driver.
A fox ran across the road.
"You could have sped up." Tadek scratched his knee. "Your wife could have had a nice fur collar." "She already has one. There was a fox loitering around the village. Nobody could catch it. It was that smart. And finally it started to walk around the yard in daylight."
"It's probably because of the pollution of the environment. Animals stray as if drugged. They drink poisoned water and they go crazy."
"No, this one was rabid. All the cows got rabies later on."
"Well, yes. It drools saliva on the grass, a cow eats the grass, and there you go."
"And finally it got caught in the snares in a fence. A smart one, it might have died from the struggle to free itself."
"That's how animals are. They'd rather die than get caught."
"Rats, too. Do you remember how...," Janek turned onto
a road leading to a forest.
We stopped at the swamps. We got out of the car.
"Why are you so pale?" Tadek asked me suddenly.
"Breathe deeply and the dizziness will be over soon."
I sat under a tree and felt the blood drain from my face.
"It's beautiful over here," said Janek.
"And so much game," added Tadek. I used to come here with a crossbow to hunt deer. A crossbow is a good thing."
"But it's no good for wild boar."
"Certainly not. You can't always shoot a boar dead with a gun, not to mention a crossbow."
"Okay," said Janek. "Let's get to work. What do we do with this shit? Pour it out or bury it in the ground?"
"Pour it out," Tadek decided.
"How are you feeling?" Janek asked me.
"Leave him alone," Tadek broke in. "Let the guy get some rest or we'll have a sick man among us." They unloaded the cans from the car and begin to put them in a hole in the ground behind a bush. "What about hunting some deer?" Janek suggested to Tadek.
"With a crossbow?"
"Well, and with that bottle of vodka the boss promised us."
"He'll give us a day off tomorrow, so today we can go poaching."
"Look," Tadek yelled. "The boy's throwing up."
reprinted from Zielone Brygady 11/94