An under cover anthropologist investigates poorly paid work meets extraordinary character.
|It was the first thing that came to mind all that time ago when the Institute asked him to describe Kev O'Hara and he saw now that he hadn't been entirely fair but for McCabe it was the voice that acted as a window into the soul then if that were true and if you can tell anything truthfully about anyone which is a lot to ask but if you could then since his voice was as broad as the moors they had tramped through, as rasping as the rain that would lash them and as stout as many a dry stone wall they would piss up against - then Kevin O'Hara was as gruff as they came.
McCabe met them all where he had been summoned during the sham interview, eight thirty sharp at the pub car-park down the foot of Scar Lane. Danny, Brummy-Rich, Teabag and Welsh were already there and they eyed him with suspicion for a while as they put their hi-rez vests on, got the hoses connected to the packs then smoked and argued and wrestled and the sun already hard at work - for nearly every day that Summer, it was to be a savagely hot eight hours – shone its account onto them.
McCabe didn't notice O'Hara at first. It's strange how some people take their time to emerge from their surroundings. He must have been there when McCabe had got there because O'Hara was an honest type and took unkindly to the boss's accusation so he'd squared up and shouted because I saw new feller turn up an' he gave Danny a fag then sat on rock over there. Little boss Nick squinted at McCabe and said is this true and McCabe told him it was and O'Hara scanned McCabe then with a look like a boxer weighing something up.
Watch yourself with him, Little boss nodded at O'Hara who had loped across the road shrugging his narrow bristling frame with Teabag in tow nodding in reflected outrage, you're working with him like the last guy did. And the one before that, one of the two boss's bastards said. They called O'Hara Mister Clean because he had the look of the feller on the washing up bottle and in the caf, were they would convene of a morning, he would sit apart from the conversations about what would be done with the women who owned the smoky cabin and frown then when he fetched his fag to his face you could read a lot into those stained bashed about fingers.
The two bosses didn't know how to deal with him because he was funnier and never quite late but never really on time then again one of their best workers but one who loathed them all the same and that first day after the van dropped him and McCabe off in a lone dusty yonder he got McCabe right about not exercising much and how they'd look like Laurel and Hardy, he were a comedian, but showed him how to get the gear on and took the street map from a side pocket of his ragged cargo pants. You can read maps can you? Ay and they were off then down the silvery road that fell down the hill in a long dappled line through the stubborn greenery into a faraway estate and O'Hara, Kevin O'Hara KOH potassium hydroxide a real tough substance plunged away from McCabe on the opposite kerb and was gone.
The third week everyone cried O'Hara told McCabe and then not to worry and that when he'd lost his job as a joiner he'd nearly done same but it were when he were a professional rugby player he told him - one star blasted afternoon on Thothmoor Top – that he'd let his emotions run away with him and had stiff armed that stand-off in the semi-final and on telly and had got sent off and finished it all. So now he were here sprinkling Round-up from a whirring lance and they were just flowers in the wrong place like Coco the Clown boss said and body of Christ blood of Christ he would incant whilst they poisoned the land and McCabe crossed off the roads on the map but wondered why they didn't just pretend and by a bench overlooking another steep valley with its mill and cottages O'Hara told him that them and their boss's bitches weren't daft and they checked up. The gunge kills the plants in about two week so all we've done up to now, they'll be having a look. It means we can toss it off when Summer turns though.
But it didn't work out like that. Turns out he'd lied on his application form and who doesn't McCabe said one day whilst they sheltered from the heat in an abandoned church drinking Special Brew but I'm a diabetic type two and McCabe didn't even bother mentioning the drink even when Kev said for him not to tell Nick or James then McCabe said what do you take me for and later O'Hara'd looked at McCabe with out of focus blue eyes then told him how Coco and co had humiliated him and how he was going to get revenge just you wait but McCabe had thought nothing of it and Summer rolled on until everyone got what was coming to them.
That Friday KOH had his stroke. He was working with Danny. He had not taken his medicine. Danny had run into a school, amidst an assembly, babbling about his curled up colleague by the kerb. McCabe called on his sister's, where Kev lived, later that month. It's like he's not really there, she said. Silent now. What about his stand-up routine? She pulled a face. His revenge was final. He'd substituted 'SuperGrow' in the cannisters, she said. It was in the papers. Ay, said McCabe and walked back to town through the six foot tall forests of flowers.