It was hot, the hottest day Benjamin Bannister could remember. He wiped his brow yet again with a dirty rag, wet through from previous wipings. The sun streamed through the cab windscreen and the air blowing in through the open windows was oven hot. It wasn’t helped by the fact he’d been shunting goods along the dock all morning without a break and the engine had been running non-stop. He felt sweat crawling down his back as he began yet another run down to the loading dock. Christ, how big were the holds on this goddamn ship, The Orion? He crossed himself. Jesus, let this be the last run before lunch!
Suddenly, he slammed the brakes on. There, lying on the track about a hundred metres away was what appeared to be a young woman, wearing a white dress and hat. The shunter ground to a halt and he jumped out. A blast of roasting summer air hit him in the face. Man, was it hot!
He approached the woman. Her eyes were open. He thought she was the prettiest thing he’d ever seen. Early twenties, huge blue eyes, high cheekbones and full lips.
She gave a weak smile, showing pearly white teeth. Her dazed vision took in a hulk of a man, wearing shorts and a fluorescent yellow jacket, beads of sweat glistening on a bare, muscled chest. His face wasn’t young, but kind-looking. “Hi,” she murmured.
“Hi, I’m Benjamin, you can call me Ben. Let me help you. This heat’s somethin’ else ain’t it?” He bent down and picked her up under the knees and behind her neck, recoiling from the burning concrete beneath her. He could smell a faint floral perfume on the hot air. To a man who spent his days driving a shunter and lifting heavy boxes, she felt like a leaf. A young, vibrant, yearning leaf. He carried her across the dockside to a restroom, stumbling on a coil of rope lying there for no reason but to trip him up.
Inside it was cool. Thank God! The air-con at the limit and a ceiling fan whirling around like a chopper on a deadly mission in ‘Nam.
“Hiya, Ben, who’ve you got there?” said Koby, a workmate, a man in his thirties and blacker than the ace of Spades. He looked concerned. “She OK?”
“She’ll be fine. Guess she fainted cos of this damned heat, though she shouldn’t have been where she was. Guess she was taking a shortcut.”
“Hang on, I know this gal. It’s Ellie-Rose Medina! The gal from Gangland Grafters on TV!”
The girl smiled weakly. “Do you have some water please?”
Benjamin deposited the young woman in an armchair, transfixed by the sight of the moist outline through her lemon-coloured panties, before she crossed her legs, whether aware of his gaze or not, he couldn’t tell.
He felt his body reacting. Get a grip for Christ’s sake! It was this goddamn incessant heat, he told himself, going to the tap and pouring a glass. “Will you be OK; do you want me to call a doctor?”
She gave a weak laugh, “I’ll be OK, I was just trying to avoid the autograph hunters and fans, I wasn’t in the mood. That doesn’t sound too good, I guess.”
Koby laughed, “It ain’t somethin’ me and Ben have a problem with! But I guess I can understan’”
They sat and chatted as Ellie-Rose recovered, telling them stories of filming Gangland Grafters and the creeps who tried to molest her on a daily basis.
Suddenly, the door crashed open, letting in a blast of baking hot air, and there stood Marvin Haltermeir, the loading-master. He was chomping on a cigar like he wanted to eat it and his eyes were almost popping out of his head. They took in the sight of a pretty, young, giggling woman and the two dock-hands, semi-naked in their shorts and open vests. “What the flying fuck are you two morons playing at? The Orion’s sailing in thirty minutes and that last load’s sitting at the back of your fucking shunter!”
Benjamin answered. “I’m sorry, sir, this young woman had fainted and ….”
“Listen I don’t give a fuck about her – sorry ma’am, no offence. You’d better beat the record for this last load, Bannister, or you can pick up your papers!” He exited, slamming the door behind him.
Ellie-Rose smiled. “He seems a bit upset. Well, you can bust a gut for him or I can get you a job as an extra on Gangland Grafters. Your call.” She winked at Benjamin.
Without a word, Koby hurried from the room, heading for the abandoned shunter, leaving the two of them alone together.
Featured in the book, Flash Friction: To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. III: 72 Little Stories
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