SHORT STORIES: ‘Hurt Like Hell’

Hurt Like Hell

The garden was spread out like a bedsheet before them. In the early morning sunlight the four men stood, gazing out, drinking in its beauty. For a split second they shared a moment of pride. This was theirs! They were the Gods who had created this paradise! Then reality resumed:

“That turf’s sunk over there.” That was Steve from Peterborough.
“Aye, so it has. I’ll get that fixed up in a min.” Dave, from Stoke-on-Trent.
“What’s he want doing today?” Mark , from Blackburn.
“Dunno, keeps changing his bastard mind, doesn’t he? We’ll ask him when he comes. In the meantime, let’s have a look at that turf.” Terry, the unofficial leader. Older than the rest; also from Stoke.

Dave remembered when he’d first met Terry in the lounge of the Sheet Anchor on Birches Head Road. He’d known Mick from work. “You should get over there, mate,” Terry had said over a pint of Worthy’s. “Both of you should. I’m going. My mate Rick as is over there now reckons as they need reliable blokes as aren’t afraid of a bit of hard work. Money’s bloody good too. You should try it.”

That had been one and a half years ago. Dave had tried it. Mick hadn’t though. It was because he’d tried it that he was in the garden with Terry. “That turf’s alright now,” said Mark.
“Aye,” agreed Terry.

Twenty minutes later, Shef arrived. “Zdrasti bey!” Terry called. ‘Bey’ means the same as ‘mate’. Terry’s mate Rick had told them that when they arrived. Just after he told them that the dead cert job had fallen through. They all used ‘bey’ now, even amongst themselves. It was a sign of brotherhood. “K’vo pravish, Shef?” Terry asked.
“Dobre,” replied the boss. So, the boss was ok today. Good.

Shef explained to Terry what he wanted doing. Dave could follow some of the conversation but not all. Despite being a bit of a prick, Terry seemed to have a gift with the language. He’d picked it up in no time. Well, either that or he was just bullshitting, pretending to understand what the boss was on about. Knowing Terry, he probably was blagging it.

“Shef wants this piece here clearing of all the crap, then rotivating and seeding,” Terry announced at last. Inwardly, though never outwardly, the men groaned. Rotivating was the worst job of all. It fucked your shoulders and arms up something rotten. They hurt like hell the day after. But no one would ever admit to being so unmanly as being scared by the prospect of course.

Shef – the boss – was a sound enough bloke. His name was Ivanov, Georgi Ivanov, and he was a self-made millionaire. He’d started off as a worker himself, so he knew what it was like. The men respected him for that. On saints’ days and stuff he provided free rakiya and kebabs for the men to eat.

They started clearing the ‘crap’. It was weeds mostly, but some roots that needed to be pulled out and a few bits of rubbish as well. The ground was stony as fuck. It would be a bastard to rotivate.

Yeah, Shef was alright. The other one was a tosser though. Ovcharov his name was. He owned the country club whose gardens they were landscaping you see. Shef was the boss of the landscaping company but he was doing a job for Ovcharov.

Ovcharov was one of those BNP types. He hadn’t liked it when he found out that Shef had foreigners working for him. Petkov – the guy who mows the lawns – had told Terry that. Ovcharov had apparently bankrolled the BNP candidate and so didn’t want foreigners working on his land. “What the fuck else does he expect, the prices that he’s prepared to pay for a job?” Steve had pointed out. That was a good point that was.

There was a load of them, Bulgarian National Party types. Sometimes they even worked alongside them. ‘Bulgaria for the Bulgarians!’ they cried. They hated foreigners and resented them coming in and ‘nicking’ their jobs. They’d got more vocal during the elections but they’d still lost by a mile. “I don’t mind you so much,” one guy who’d been bricking had said. “At least you’re European and white. It’s the fucking Gypsies and Muslims that I hate. They don’t mix you see.” His was the attitude of most Bulgarians. Dave could understand it. No one liked Gypsies and Muslims at home either.

“I’m gonna have a fucking good night tonight!” It was Mark. Mark had a fucking good night every Friday. He went down into down where the action was and invariably ended up shagging some slag. Leastways, that was his version. “I’ve got me eye on one,” he continued. “She’s in every week and was flirting something rotten last Friday. I’m in there! I tell you lads, we’re in a country and a half here; full of great gash it is.” They spent half their time looking at and commenting upon the local gash.

“Not so good as back home though.” That was Steve. For Steve nothing was as good as back home. Dave often wondered why he ever fucking left if everything was so good.
“Bollocks bey, how can you say that? How can you compare them dark-eyed beauties with the fat mingers back home?”
Steve was indignant. “You’ve never been to Peterborough, bey,” he replied.

The conversation was suddenly cut short. “She’s here lads!” announced Terry.
They all stopped work and watched. Antonina, Ovcharov’s daughter drew up in her little Toyota sports car, got out and strolled across the lawn to the gym. As she walked her breasts jiggled under her tiny top and her buttocks moved invitingly in the skin-tight jeans. “She’d get it anytime,” said Terry.
“I’d do her,” agreed Mark.
“Well then, you take the mouth, Terry can have the arse and I’ll do th’other hole!” said Dave.

They all laughed at this sick fantasy and then set back to work. As he bent down and tore up the weeds and roots, Dave savoured in his mind the image of Antonina Ovcharova being done by three Englishmen at once. He liked it. Although it was sick and cruel, in that fantasy for once he was in control, they were victorious over the Bulgarians. Day after day they had to endure desultory glances, pay packets several leva short, snide comments about how they could learn a lot from their hosts and time after time he’d longed to scream out “It’s not my fault that Britain’s poor, that we had a terrible regime that we had to shake off! It’s not because we’re stupid that we lost the Cold War; that no one speaks our language or feels any need to learn it! We’re cultured too you know – we’ve got Shakespeare, Dickens, Orwell and Wordsworth, but you wouldn’t know would you, ‘cos no one outside of Britain ever reads them! Do you think that we wanted to come here, to travel for three days across the Continent in a hot and crowded bus, hassled at every border, viewed with suspicion everywhere, only to be dumped out at Ruse and wait on street corners at five in the morning for employers to hire you ‘cos the job that you were promised fell through? You don’t know what it’s like you bastards, to stand for six hours like cattle in a line, waiting for a visa that they may or may not grant you; to have a sister writing letters asking for money to help with medical bills or to buy clothes for the kids? Your families know you and understand your lives ‘cos they’re a part of them, not one thousand bloody kilometres away living under the misconception that their brother or son has found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when really he’s eking out a dismal existence as a semi-legal landscape gardener in a country that’s expensive, lonely and far away from happiness. With grievances like those, one needs fantasies of doing the boss’s daughter just to keep going, to score one goal back when your opposition is already six in front!”

Dave smiled at the image of Antonina and his tiny victory.

“Oi Dave, get the rotivator and start doing this bit, bey!” ordered Terry.

Dave knew that it would hurt like hell the next morning.

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