Albert Warner watches the frozen veg rattle by.
The noise is immense; green, white, orange shining
rocks bouncing and jostling on dimpled shining steel.
Albert perches on a stool, elbows fat against the
inspection table, his whole huge body vibrating. A
blue plastic scoop is always held softly in his huge soft
It falls, wavers above the veg, its battered edges and smooth
sides slide against the shining rocks, his grip firms and
for moments it vibrates with him until
he relaxes again and its fall starts over.
He has a ready smile for all who walk by, whether they
stop or not, whether they acknowledge him or not. He
has white hair tucked into a blue hairnet beneath
plastic bump hat above red face, white stubble and blue collar
jagging from white overalls. Black boots. Hands red and
white like bloodied butler’s gloves. A jumbled pile of
football strips waiting for the wash, numbers lost in the
folds but soon up.
A welder in his day, Albert Warner is heavy now, at 3 am,
slumped against that table. On those long nights his smile
slips and he’s nothing to say. Florets and slices batter past,
loud enough to wake the dead, and no one hears him anyway.
He shares his time with skinnier versions of himself until
machines can see what isn’t green among the peas. Violent
hisses of jets fire stones and droppings. Albert has his back
to the machine and watches the brassicas and the carrots,
Banquo’s fingers passing over them like a fairground mystic.
When roused he will roar like an old walrus, scoops and
shovels thrown at younger men who think themselves older,
wiser, better. The clatter of plastic on steps, a few seconds of
noise above the noise, white stubble on chins shaking with
hot, furious life.
When they take away his stool within a week he is laughed at,
laid out, beached on the factory floor. His skinny counterparts
take up his scoop and rest their chicken-bone fists
on the inspection table.