Ben, Pete, Ted, Brian
the boss was Jack
with men’s names – doing men’s work
when printing was hot and dirty.
They called me son or boy
at 16 I could have been – and was.
their conversation peppered with blue anecdotes
and black words
they loved to make me blush
easily done at that age
but kind to the schoolboy working in his holidays
the fifth man they called him.
Nobby. Distracted and distant – not as productive
they carried him I now know.
On the third Monday Nobby is absent
“ hasn’t happened for a while,” said one
nothing further is added.
Tuesday’s absence draws dilute surprise
Wednesday! – never before apparently
at lunchtime Jack went to Nobby’s house
and found him. Dead. Drunk.