January 04, 2013

No. 277

The conveyor belt ground to a halt. In a distant part of the vast factory, an alarm whooped forlornly.
“It wouldn’t be so bad without all the noise,” said Barney Yates.
“I suppose,” said Kelly Ashford. She wasn’t a talker.
The pair had worked together on the same line for almost seven years, although they rarely spoke.
“Seems like it’s been shutting down a lot more recently,” said Yates. Then he waited patiently for a reply.
“Yup,” agreed Kelly.
“Equipment’s getting old,” Barney offered as an explanation that Kelly hadn’t asked for. “Or I guess it could be something else, too.”
In response, she took a sandwich out of her lunch box and began to eat it deliberately. “Sorry. Chewing,” she said, while pointing at her mouth.
“Hey, that’s fine by me. We all gotta eat, right?” said Barney, undeterred, and not catching the hint. “Sure is nice to have a break.”
There was a great mechanical rumble as the machines began to spool up again. The alarm shut off, and a buzzer announced the impending start of the equipment.
Kelly and Barney began their work again, and continued to do so for the rest of the day. When the whistle blew to signal the end of their shift, Barney continued the conversation where he’d left off.
“Any plans tonight?” he asked.
“Nope,” said Kelly. She checked her watch. “I’ve got to run.”
“Okay,” said Barney. “Talk to you tomorrow!”

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