I was all alone at the coal plant. The final hour of the day had gone by quietly, like a horse wearing slippers. As my co-workers processed out I said: bye, Rolf—bye, Elaine—bye, Barry—bye, Ed—bye, Lakshmi. No one made me leave even though I was never the last one out. Where was the night shift?
I didn’t know if I should stay or go or what to do, so I watered some sick plants. I rolled a screw in slightly unpredictable circles on a table. This made me thoughtful. I thought about how I had got work at the coal plant by accident. My one real qualification was that I was very good at shovelling. If I had made different choices I would probably be shovelling manure or shovelling snow or shovelling soil into graves. I imagined that scientists who wind up making biological weapons must feel the way I do, that their powers have been misappropriated by shadowy forces. Scientists and me, both destroying the world against our wills, like rice water foaming out of the pot.
I decided to ring my parents, to confess or receive absolution, I guess. Answerphone. ‘Hi, Mum and Dad, this is Gordon. Sorry I didn’t phone last weekend; smartening up the house for the sale is taking longer than we thought. I was just wondering if you think I’m a horrible person and if you think Janie would like a cricket bat for her birthday. Love you. Bye.’