The newspaper shot against the kitchen wall and crumpled in a heap on the lino. Harry let out a frustrated groan when he saw that it has fallen open at the ‘Latest Jobs’ section again, just where he’d abandoned it. He felt its mockery, from each and every one of the 47 weeks that had passed without a single successful application.

He looked out of the window at the apartments opposite, where the lazy late morning sun showed up the cracks in the peeling, yellowed weatherboarding. Behind curtains and blinds, the windows were keeping their rooms hidden in darkness. He fleetingly wondered if he might catch a glimpse of that comfortingly round brunette getting changed behind the net curtains. He’d looked out often enough to know they were much more transparent than she realised. Or maybe she did, and just didn’t care. He used to look away out of respect to her, and to his girlfriend Becky, but since she’d moved on to bigger and better things in the shape of a buzz-cut, square-headed soldier named Rick, he figured it didn’t matter anymore. But his clock rang dully for 11am now and he realised her plump little legs had probably bounced her dark brown curls down to her job at the pharmacy by now. He’d have to wait another day before his morale could be lifted by the tingle of a little immorality again.

He got up haphazardly, knocking the unsteady table and spilling the top quarter of his lukewarm coffee over the sides. The new addition to his collection of brown ring stains on the table barely registered. He flung himself onto the sofa like an exhausted athlete at the end of a marathon. Except he’d been nowhere and done nothing. There were no medals for biding your time and waiting for the right opportunity. Hell, ANY opportunity he thought sourly.

Harry was no workshy freeloader, nor was he lazy, stupid or irresponsible. He was a good, hard worker and loved getting his hands dirty, whatever muck was thrown at him. He always had time for people and they always got into the habit of liking him for that, so much that his female colleagues had regularly put him at the top of the occasional ‘Which co-worker would you sleep with?’ list. Nothing had really gone wrong for him except that somewhere in a head office, some weaselly, anxious middle-manager had imposed on a balding, sweaty jackass to say, “You know, Mr. Wienerburger, if we replace this sector of our workforce with this new digital system they’ve developed in Norway, we can make a saving of 17.2%”.

“17.2,” Wienerburger would have mused. “Good work, Smith”,

“Um, it’s Cocking, sir.”

“That’s what I said.”

“Right. But unfortunately it’d mean a lot of redundancies.”

“Well, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs,” he would have said, his fatty breath remembering his breakfast that morning. “Make it happen, Smith and keep me updated on the profit projections.”

And with the dismissive sweep of a sausage-fingered hand, he would have returned his gaze to his computer screen and started clicking as if he was doing something much more important than losing at Solitaire, until his lackey-boy had gone. He then would have sat back a few seconds contemplating, before leaning over to his intercom to call his young, short-skirted assistant Cathy to fetch his pet, ‘malleable Martin’, from accounts to deliberate how this new saving could be best put to use. He would probably start with the budget for Directors’ Christmas bonuses. The boys on the board would give him a good hearty pat on the back for this one. Merry Christmas boys, hampers and whores all round. `

Some things never change, but technology never stops. This time, it stopped Harry’s prospects like an accelerating wheel getting punctured by a broken beer bottle shard. They had been smashed by some exec like Wienerburger, who could snort at the ironic epiphany of having more than he needs, but nothing he wants. Harry could afford barely anything he needed let alone anything he wanted. Harry was only in his early thirties and already he felt as obsolete as an OAP whose only skill had been fixing typewriters. He’d worked 10 years of his young life at the local multiplex cinema where he’d been trained early on as a projectionist, which made him a skilled professional and an asset to the company. He was well on his way to becoming Head of the Department, they told him.

But meanwhile somewhere in a small engineering company in Norway a thin-rimmed spectacled man called Lars was amassing his forces against him. He was leading his little troop with great Scandinavian efficiency on the development of the CineColor TITAN Quad+ 2000 HD high definition digital cinema projector, working on target for release into the marketplace within the next four years. Then the rival cinema chain Visimax would pick up the shiny new piece of kit and trial it across five of its minor sites for 6 months. It would prove such a cost-saving success that by the time Mr. Cocking proposed the idea to Mr. Wienerburger the idea was far from original. This didn’t trouble Cocking at all, because he still got a raise for his pioneering idea, long before someone on the board mentioned a rumour that nearly all their competitors had already rolled out the TITANS across the country.

So now, thanks to Lars and co., Harry was redundant. He had a specific skill working the complicated mechanisms of 35mm machinery, an art-form to be counted within the spectrum of cinematography, as the projectionist’s society had called it. It had been doing the job for the best part of a hundred years, and now it was never coming back. Instead they would now rely on managers to press the ‘play’ button, and to pray that nothing goes wrong, otherwise the single repairs engineer that covered five counties would have to be called out. Fizzy drinks would be flat and hotdogs would long be cold before he could get there to provide a happy ending to a movie story in stasis.

But that wasn’t Harry’s problem anymore. It was time to move on, and he gladly would if he only knew where. He closed his eyes and dreamed once again that he was lying on a yacht in a warm, Mediterranean breeze. Maybe tomorrow would show him the way to get there.

 

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