Fucking white gloves, not work gloves like he should have worn, more like a pair of girl’s communion gloves and he was abysmal, he was useless. The others accepted this from a trainee priest, made some sort of mental compensation for his holiness putting this on the credit side, but the other kid who was the same age, thought him a total and utter looser. It was high summer, in a real summer, and they were working outdoors. He’d just completed a long penance, gone back to college, passed his exams and was chemical about a girl. So the pretend priest was a saintly nuisance.
Jim was a Victor Mature type, tall, silver haired, a good looking man and he was the gaffer, the best gaffer ever. When you’re nineteen and an adult includes you in on the joke, well that makes you a cool adult. Jim had a burn scar on his neck and chest which he never hid under his white open necked shirt, he’d come home one night steamed up, had a cup of tea and cigarette and fell asleep. He was major laid back about time keeping and had his own Monday morning habit. He never got stressed out which stressed the other bosses and always got the job done which freaked them more. Sometimes you get a boss who works hard at being popular and people sneer behind his back. Jim was just popular.
Sam made the tea. To make tea, he had to build a fire which he did quickly. He drove the funny specialised machinery for fixing railways. Sam was talented and low sized, bald only when he took his hat off which was rare, and was in his sixties. He always smiled. He loved Sam but so did everybody.
The Kerryman was a moody presence. A big burly lump of a man, seriously strong, not built of the city stuff the others were. Something happened way back and the boys were told to keep clear which was difficult in the intimacy of the van in which they travelled. Jim mostly sat beside him, he could handle him. The Kerryman was to the fore when lifting and moving happened, but for the rest he was left to his own devices and sat alone, away from the group.
Jimmy was even happier then his father Sam, and had joined the permanent way in the past year. Jimmy had Sam’s smile but with good strong teeth. He beamed where Sam glinted. Cliff Richard had a hit that summer which Jimmy loved, and so did the rest come autumn.
There were a couple more hands that June Sunday morning, and a monumental collective hangover. They loaded up with the barest of efforts. There were no raised voices. The destination was known to all but the students, one of whom, the one with the girly gloves, was visibly nauseated by the stench. The other smiled. Most slept the journey’s hour.
It was just another stretch of railway line needing a rail swap out. Sam lit a fire and got the tea going and slowly the work took shape. They set charges on the line a half mile out either side, just in case the oncoming driver didn’t see the red flags or hadn’t read his notes. They had their breakfast and soon finished the job.
But here’s the thing. They finished but they didn’t. You see Sunday is double bubble, all day. And the kid listened for sound and heard none cept birdsong, and felt the sun on his back. He put away his working gear and looked over at the lads in the meadow, and Jim was leaning back, hands behind his head smoking a cigarette and laughing. They were all laughing. Sam had made more tea and there was no intention of leaving. No cards, just idle chat and banter. And laughing. It was double bubble but more then that, it was life.