Labouring In Vain: A Dark Christmas Story
This is a Christmas Story, with a twist ... a lesson about workaholics ... WARNING: THIS IS A STORY WITH A DARK AMBIANCE TO IT ...
"I am afraid I have some bad news. Your husband has a mistress."
Waiting was nothing new to Mrs. Laboria. She turned on the time and weather channel again, to see if there had been new accidents reported. After checking the doors, and peering out the windows, she settled down unwillingly in the stiff rocking chair, picking up the never-ending parka she was knitting. Up and down and across, up and down and across ... on and on it went, always the same, never changing. Three rows and seven stitches later, a loud thump interrupted her repetitive reverie.
"Well, I'm afraid I have some bad news. Your husband has a mistress, Mrs. Laboria," her guest at the door blurted out. "The reason he's never home is that his home belongs elsewhere."
She stood silently -- the words a blur to her ears and to her heart. She waited for him to go on.
His Mistress Is His Job
"His mistress is his job, his work. He is more tied to it than he ever would be to any woman. I am so sorry, Ma'am. I know this isn't easy. I have to be going."
She watched him leave and stood mute staring into the darkness.
"Well," she thought, "I didn't need a private investigator to tell me that! But I've never looked at in exactly that way before ... hmmm... work a mistress ... what a fitting metaphor."
Mrs. Laboria decided that she would go down to "the mistress," and reclaim her man from the competing interest in her mate's life. Even if it was only for tonight -- Christmas Eve -- she would be the one he would be with. Long nights with no one to talk to and whole weekends of boredom were her fate, but tonight -- Christmas night -- she would have the man she married at home.
"She tried waving, but her husband did not seem to notice her"
Visitors Were Not Allowed
The General Motors plant had no lights on, except one when Mrs. Laboria pulled up. She used her access card to get in and passed through the now quiet halls to Secion D. This is where they made the transmissions for all the models of GMC. Her husband had started here No. 3 cogman, but had been promoted through the ranks to Computer Operator No. 5. His job and his computer had taken the place of most of the men he had started off working with.
Visitors to the plant were not allowed on the factory floor, but there was an intercom system available from the viewing room high above the room of machines. As Mrs. Laboria neared the window pane, she spotted the bolt apparatus on the third chamber. She tried waving, but her husband did not seem to notice her. It appeared that he had gone out on the floor to some repairs on the machine he operated by computer.
"Although perfectly normal for the machine, it was a strange movement for a man to make."
Up Down and Around
As she watched, she saw that he appeared to be imitating one of the parts of the machine, by moving his arm up, down, and around in exact rhythm to the bolt tightener. Although perfectly normal for the machine, it was a strange movement for a man to make.
His arm and shoulder appeared to be disconnected from the rest of his body, like a mechanical arm. Up and down, and around ... up down around. The movement was so hypnotic that it took a minute for Mrs. Laboria to comprehend the absurdity of her husbands's actions.
"Jerry, are you okay? What are you doing?" She shouted through the microphone. Usually, when she used the intercom system, he would respond to her through his corresponding microphone at his computer station, but not this time. I
Instead, he kept moving his arm ... up down and around. Up down and around. Jule Laboria thought that maybe he hadn't heard because the volume wasn't high enough. She cranked the sound as high as possible, and shouted, "Honey, please stop working and come home with me to Christmas!" The loudspeaker was so loud that a cake of dust blew off the left-hand speaker. There was no way he could not have heard the voice.
"He almost seemed to be part of the machine."
Part of the Machine
There was no change in his movement. Julie looked around in vain to see if there might be some stray worker who might be able to investigate, and see what was going on. When she turned to look at her husband again, he seemed to be changing colour. His shirt looked silverish - and so did his hair. His legs, too, were seeming to be more and more square. He almost seemed to be part of the machine.
Julie looked away, blaming fatigue and frustration for causing her to have hallucinations. When she looked again, his eyes looked like opening for bolts, and his legs seemed to be bolted to the ground! In fact, she wasn't even sure if it was for him until he noticed a blue tie wrapped around some metal. His arms were still moving in perfect timing ... up down and around.
Julie saw that she no longer had a husband. It was too bad. She had so much wished that he would come home for Christmas. She turned to go ... she would pick up Chinese food on the way home. (He hated Chinese food, and never let her have it. ) She would miss her husband terribly, but she was already used to being alone. She had grieved for over twenty years for the husband she had wished she had: now it was time to live.