The Crack

Let the Time Come

Manny Eslick wished he hadn’t overdone Friday’s cele­bra­tion at the end of a great week in Paris. He had ruined Saturday’s train journey home.

Back in his flat he swore at phone messages urging him into the vaccine lab for some overtime. He would have been thankful for the contribution to his mort­gage repayments but now it soured a romantic spring break.

And romantic it had been. That little café by Sainte Clothilde, so different from the hustle of the cupboard they had booked near Gare du Nord, which was again so different from the cupboard he had bought in Guildford. Both cupboards shared with his girlfriend, so that was OK really.

So, grim-faced, he was carrying a tray full of Perspex flasks, whose conical shape reminded him of Lucy. Her hips and how she had lowered herself on him in that cinema… where was it? Rue Apollinaire or some such. They had been quite alone…

Stop it! Hadn’t a week’s French screwing been enough? He had to concentrate. At his, disposal end of the research lab, care, not speed, was everything. Elsewhere alacrity was of the essence to get the right vaccine for the right disease at the right time. All Manny had to do was get shot of the waste.

His head… he began to wonder if the alcohol were solely responsible. Previous hangovers had generally improved as the day had worn on but this one was deteriorating.

In his distraction Manny tripped and the flasks tottered and swayed. One surrendered to gravity and plummeted. It bounced on the floor, bounced again, then came to a rolling equilibrium. Side to side, side to side. Manny had not been quick enough to catch it but he was fast in scooping up and replacing it on the tray.

Shit. He should report it but the flask didn’t appear damaged and it was only low-grade waste. He returned to concentrating on the job of delivering his payload to the incinerator.

As usual, security waved him through without bothering to check the flasks. It was only on Manny’s return trip that one of the officers mentioned the damp patch on Manny’s boilersuit.

Double shit. Now he would have to report the incident. But first, he was feeling so ghastly that a trip to the toilet was urgent. It had been a few years since he’d resorted to vomiting out a hangover. His girlfriend had cured him of that.

Manny retched so miserably that he forgot the ruptured flask and his only thought was of signing off sick. He shrugged out of his coverall and dumped it none too carefully with the other dirties. Then on with his civvies and a retreat to his sickbed.

It would be a full week before the Incident Investigation Team would interview the security officer. He would remember the damp suit and so would come to light a hairline tear in the, by then, perfectly dry garment.