THE DIRTY CITY

*All works of fiction published on this blog are written by and are the property of Morgan Chandler*

My Father was an electrician and my Mother was a homemaker. They had one child together. My paternal Grandfather was a builder and my paternal Grandmother was a homemaker. They had two children together. My maternal Grandfather was a factory worker and my maternal Grandmother was a homemaker. They had three children together. They were all ordinary people with ordinary jobs. None of them had much money and they all lived on the outskirts of the Dirty City.

When I was younger my father said to me: “This city is a clock and we are all cogs. Together we make the hands tick and the clock work and that clock is what keeps this city on time. No one sees us working behind it’s face of shiny gold and ivory and brass, but we are there and without us the clock would stop working and if the clock stops working then the Dirty City dies”. He would take me to work with him and I would sit in the corner of a glittering house with sweeping stair cases, shining banisters and velvet lounges. I would sit and he would work. He would work tirelessly, squinting his eyes and furrowing his brow looking at wires and leads and plugs and circuits.

He would always try to be thorough. “Do the job well rather than do the job quickly, Jack” he would say to me. And at the end a lady or a man or whoever lived in the house would come over and make a remark about how long he had taken to fix whatever appliance had been broken and huff and puff and irritably hand over the charge of the whole affair and complain that it was ‘far too expensive’ and that they could’ve done the job themselves in ‘half the time’. My Father would never fail to be nice, no matter how rude the customer was. Afterwards, we would show ourselves out of the house and get in his van and drive to the next job until it got dark, at which point we would drive for the best part of an hour all the way home.

Past the railway lines, past the rubbish dumps, past all the tall buildings with their coffee shops and restaurants. We would drive all the way to the Outskirts where our little house made of brick sat on tufty overgrown grass with glowing yellow light emanating from the windows and smoke billowing from the chimney. My mother would cook. We would eat. I would go to bed.

When I turned sixteen my father bought me a van with all the savings he had and said to me: “Jack, it’s your time to be a cog in the clock”. I grabbed the keys and sat in the driver’s seat of the rusty white automobile. I slid the key in and turned the ignition on. It spluttered and rumbled to life. I drove it down the highway and into the bowels of the Dirty City. It was on that day I saw it for the first time. The tall tower with the clock at the top. Golden and shining. A beacon of light, ticking and chiming and telling the time. It was then I realised I didn’t want to be a cog, I didn’t want to be unseen, dirty and grimy, tired and clunking. I wanted to glitter, to shine. I wanted to be the face that everyone saw.

I took the van and sold it to a man who said he was going to use it for its ‘parts’. It made me a pretty penny, but it wasn’t much. I took the bus around town going from job to job. Any work I could find was good enough: building, mowing lawns, walking dogs, fixing electronics, I did them all. I slept on park benches and in railways stations. I told my parents what I was doing and they stopped talking to me. “This isn’t how we raised you” they said, “don’t come home if this doesn’t work out”.

 I clawed my way up and up. I went from working laborious jobs, menial tasks, mediocre duties to finally edging my way into the hubs and epicentres of the Dirty City. I began working for a man who dealt in the Stock Market. I ran errands for him and took care of his personal duties. In return I learned the ropes of the trade by witnessing first hand stock brokers trading, buying, signalling, talking in their pepped up tones and watching numbers and graphs like vultures circling dying prey.

Eventually I was able to become a stock broker myself. And I was damn good at it. I wore a suit, I had a briefcase, I had a big house with glittering bannisters and sprawling manicured yards. In time the Outskirts where I had originated from began to grey and blur and slip my mind..

But one day my home computer refused to switch on and I could not trade stocks. I called an electrician.

“Hello Jack” said my father as he walked through my front doors.

He was curled in a hunch and his skin was grubby and crinkled with lines. He carried his tool box and walked over to my computer. I left him to it and went upstairs for a bath. I returned an hour later to see him standing next to the computer. I pressed the power button. It turned on and operated seamlessly. I paid him in cash and he walked towards the front door.

As he reached for the doorknob he turned around and placed a hand on my shoulder. He looked at me and said: “Don’t forget Jack, without the cogs, the clock would never tick”.

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