The Beginning, Number 6 – The Old Guard

Friday 24 April 2009

The old guard returned from his rounds to the booth by the gate. He put down his torch then carefully poured himself a hot cup of coffee from his thermos. “Don’t forget the sheet,” he said out loud. His husky voice echoed hollow in the silence of the night. From a nail on the wall the guard reached down a clipboard and proceeded to fill in the form. Site round – nil report, 4:06 am, he wrote in his cursive hand, then signed his entry: J Scottland, #04864. Satisfied he rehung the board and settled down to enjoy his coffee. 

“Another quiet night,” he said as he sipped his drink. Not the best coffee, he thought – his wife could never make a good cup of coffee – but it was warm and gave him something to do. Not that he minded doing the night duty – he’d been doing it for so long that these dark hours were now his waking days – but sometimes the shifts were long. There is nothing more dull than routine.

The old guard looked at the wall clock – 4:12. Not long now, he thought. On cue, he heard the soft rumble of the approaching truck on the thin cold air. He swigged down the rest of his coffee and waited patiently for the truck to arrive. 

“Howdy Louis,” he said to the driver. “I see you’ve got little Dom with you. Hello Dom.”

“Yeah, g’day Jasper,” replied the driver. “Yeah, it’s school holidays and it’s my turn to have Dom. Say ‘hello’ Dom.” The boy mumbled a reply. “He doesn’t enjoy these night shifts but it can’t be helped.”

“Nope, can’t be helped,” said the guard as he switched open the large wire gate. “Can’t be helped.” 

The driver gave a short nod and a wink then started the truck through the gates and on towards the buildings. The guard clicked closed the gate before again taking down the clipboard. Waste truck arrived, 4:22 am, J Scottland, #04864. Now again the night was silent.

He sighed, then from his lunchbox took out a ham and cheese sandwich. “Another quiet night,” repeated Jasper Scottland, the old guard, and proceeded to unwrap his sandwich.

9 to go …