The Extraordinary Sloggings of Gunther Glock

(to be edited over the next day or so -see it now in all its raw and awful ignominy)

The Extraordinary Sloggings of Gunther Glock

It was half past seven, the barges were tooting and the shipsmen were gathering at the docks to begin unloading the asparagus shipment. Gunther Glock had been out of work for 7 months, and it was his first day at the pier. He wondered how bad 600 tonnes of asparagus would stink. The sun was shining and the breeze was stiff and cool.

“Twenty-three ships,” cried the foreman, “a new record for asparagus!” The barges were creaking and banging into one another at the edge of the docks. Huzzahs went up from the dockworkers – they were proud to be among the elite in vegetable commerce. Gunther was impressed; he was in good company, and finally in the midst of better luck. “Tonight,” he said to himself, “I shall provide asparagus burgers for the entire house."

Glock, with his heart of gold, was a bit of a doofus. He often shook his fist at the common folk, and yet he was no better than a magician or a breeder of condors, which in his country-Pawtucket, Massachusetts-was not a noble profession. He hadn’t wanted to work at all, yet now he found himself dealing with the biggest asparagus shipment in the world. He hoped it was destiny, not just a come-by-chance greenery.

Eight hours of slogging flew by; the asparagus stank not as bad as he feared and Gunther Glock went home that day and to his family, who were overjoyed. Little Tessa, his daughter who had polio, was able to walk again in sheer joy at the food bits tendered forth from Gunther’s proud arms. Gunther had a newfound respect for work ethic.

The next day Gunther was excited to surpass his previous day on the job hauling asparagus. What a surprise then, when the ship came in full not of asparagus but flax seed! It was unexpected, but Gunther Glock was nothing if not adaptable. "This is what happens in a global society: capital and production shift by the hour.” Gunther Glock had read The Economist and he was acquainted with theories that bore nothing in common with reality and economists no better than common astrologers, making predictions based on the vagaries not of birds and stars but on nonsensical money market fluctuations and other exchange mechanisms producing inflation but very little real wealth. “How great it would have been to have traded in securities," cried Gunther. But today at least he would have to content himself with flax seed.

Flax does not a tasty burger make, and Little Tessa did not dance upon Gunther’s return that evening. “I promise, my young one,” promised Gunther, “I will cure your polio." And she looked at him. He continued, "For I have heard there is a vaccine.” Now Gunther did not often call upon physicians, because he was proud and he thought Tessa would get better if she just did more homework and sat up straight at the dinner table (Tess’s table manners were atrocious). But life at the dockyard has reduced Gunther's pride; he saw beyond his own foibles and decided to contact a physician.

Dr Morgan Busybody was a very busy physician, and he took care of the staff of Coca-Cola Incorporated. They called him a 'fizzician' which is a poor joke, or should I say coke. Dr. Busybody wanted desperately to see Tessa, because he was convinced polio was making a big pathological comeback; Tessa could be his guinea pig for a new treatment that would render the old vaccines obsolete, and the Busybody Solution would have to be adopted by the Medical Association. “Little Tessa will dance again,” said Busybody in a meeting with Glock. Glock was worried: would Busybody, a busy man, respect him - a mere hauler of flax seed?

“Calm yourself my friend," said Busybody, "for I have taken the Hippocratic Oath, and that means every patient is like a jewel, and I will polish Little Tessa until she shines, and dances like somebody who never had polio in the first place.”

Glock went home and told Little Tessa all that had been promised. All she wanted was an asparagus sandwich; Glock pulled out a flax burger, and Tessa was so disappointed she collapsed to the floor, twitching with polio.

For an entire week Glock slogged at the shipyards. In came bauxite in boxes, and it was moved by Glock and his coworkers sweating beneath the port’s stiff humid air. There was zinc by the barrelful, and much uranium, which was dangerous to handle. Glock kept a smile on his face, thinking how his wages would go toward the good doctor’s cure. He happily smiled even when a crates of rhubarb came crashing down beside him, pratically smushing his foot. A crane collapsed with seven men stuck inside; the entire rig fell into the water and all the men drowned. Glock was frightened at how the workers were treated. He feared an accident on the job. If he got hurt he would be unable to cure Little Tessa, for his wages and burgers were essential. Glock's colleagues sensed he was a leader and they wanted him to stand up to management for them. But Glock was not inclined to become a unionist.

But management heard rumblings of dissent and a very stern word was put out.
“There shall not be any gatherings or meeting of workers on company property after the yards are closed down," read a sign posted by the foreman. The management foreman was Wallins McSmashmouth.

McSmashmouth was an aging ex-mariner who had a leg bitten off by a hippopotamus in the Congo river. He was working for the Farming Port Contingency – the trade name of Glock’s firm - but he longed to be back on the ships. He took out his frustrations on the workers, who in secret called him 'Wantins to McSmashhisfacein'. The hippo’s bite seemed to have been infectious, for McSmashmouth was every bit as ornery and rumbling as the river horse what had felled him. Gunther Glock was deferential in most matters with management, but it seemed he could not avoid getting tripped up in controversy with this quarrelsome amputee.

“Mr Glock,” cried the foreman one day in the dock kitchen – and it was looking like a deliberate public confrontation – “you like to stir up trouble, don’t you?” And the workers looked up at the unfolding scene. Glock was taken by surprise. Continued McSmashmouth, “we don’t need trouble Glock; nobody does. Nobody ought to put it with it, And nobody here will. No sir, no trouble.” Now Glock had a mouthful of string beans. He took a glass of water and put it back, trying to swallow. “You know Glock, you have the promise of a a good worker. It seems you really enjoy this job, moving bauxite and flax seed and asparagus – let’s not forget that delicious asparagus...” Glock had trouble swallowing. He asked for more water. “… and Lord knows it must be hard take care of an unwell daughter..." Now Glock was choking. “Quiet today, aren’t you Glock?” Gunther Glock knocked over the chair and made a 'Heimlich gesture'. “Well well, run along then. Have a good one. We’re all watching you Glock."

Glock awoke in the infirmary. It was worse than a polio attack: he had choked on a dozen stringbeans and the glass of water had not helped. There was also the matter of his public dressing-down by MCSmashmouth, but that embarrassment would hit later. The nurses had put an ice-pack on his fingers and shoved a popsicle down his throat. the staff also removed his wristwatch and had attached it to a respirator. He asked "What time is it?" and he pointed to his watch. “Or should I say, is there any hope for my watch?” The nurses diffused his fears. “We simply put your watch there to amuse the children watching at home, Mr. Glock. “Smile, you're on reality television!” And Glock stared at the camera dangling before him. “This is how hospitals must raise money these days,” said the nurse, "it’s a very lucrative concept, and our ratings are through the roof!” Glock tried to smile, but he was also thinking he should get back to work. “Can I have my clothes back, ma’am? I must go unload the crates of figs.” The nurse smiled, “Sure thing Mr. Glock, we’ve put a chip in your brain to track you, so if there’s any problems we’ll know about it.” That was very considerate of them, thought Glock, though perhaps irksome they had not consulted with him first, - but then again the medical field had its ways. “Thank you," said Glock, "it’s better than a chip on my shoulder,” and they both laughed. Glock had a lame sense of humour. He wondered whether the transistor in his brain would set off metal detectors, but decided it was best not to think about it, which in itself is ironic.

Boxes and crates had to be unloaded in a hurry. Because of his choking fit Glock was behind schedule and he had to make up time. That night he went home more exhausted than usual. Little Tessa was not well at all. She was upset about her continuing polio and also a poor grade she had received in gym class. “Teacher says kids with polio can’t play volleyvball,” she explained through tears, “but I tried to play anyway and kept getting tripeed up.” She cried in Glock’s arms. Life was never easy.

The next day there was more confrontation with the foreman. “Glock” he cried on the docks, shoving a page in our hero’s face. “What is the meaning of this report? Your brain transistor has cost us half a fortune!" McSmashmouth showed Glock an invoice for $900 for a brain implant. "It’s coming out of your paycheque. Hope you’re happy working like a slave this week... And don’t think I don’t know about you trying to organizing the men afterhours at Stoolie’s bar."

Stoolie's was a hangout for the dockworkers, it was a diner greasy place with a lot of scum underneath the linoleum tables.

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