by Brendan Strong

>kind of faux-poor man’s-bad beckett…

She hands over the paper. Both of us look at our hands, exchanging. Both soft. “Not a day’s work…” Still makes me angry, but not at her, not anymore. The grey walls meet the grey sky above us, and neither of us look, as it’s nothing spectacular. Everything feels like a definite unknown; truly false; clearly confused.
They dressed me and disabused me, and left me out to fend for myself. I had to dress myself now. Fucking hell. Would’ve been easier if they had me do that from the start. But that was the problem, they said: that I always needed someone to have me do something. I should do something for myself, they said. After the years of telling me to not be selfish and do something for someone else for a change! Hypocrites, all of them.
Now, she is telling me I must do something. I wish I knew what, but she won’t tell me. She says she doesn’t konw either. If she doesn’t know, how can she know there’s something I need to do? This is why I’m confused. They told me to think before acting in future. That was after my brother’s funeral. So after that time, I always thought before acting. But now they say I think to much. It might be the thought that counts, they say wrily, but it’s the action that matters. How does that help me?
I have the paper now anyway. Blacking fingers run past the peadophiles, terrorists, politicians and other scourges of decent society to get to the jobs. I need a job, I’m told. I don’t feel it myself, but here I am with black fingers and an intent look; copied from the other boys on the bench, waiting to be called so they could excuse themselves from work for another week. Every ritual humiliation holds the same moment. When you’re sitting doing nothing, and it passes your mind that this week, they might just understand. Not at all, they do not. “Look” they say “I understand” they say “I’m like you” they continue “and if I could get a job, so can you” they cheer. “Well”, you feel like replying “If I do get a job” confirming their request “Then you’re good at your job” flattery gets you everywhere, you have to put it in, “But then you might lose your job” you sympathise “because the benches over there would be empty” you postulate “With everyone working” you explicate “Then where would we be?” asking rhetorically “Eternally swapping places” you answer for him “Because my job would be understanding you” you explain “And empathising that if I could get a job” you condition “then so could you” you reason. That kind of investigation deserves a pint. I decide to come back later.

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