Joseph lay sleeping in an armchair in the staff room, his chest rising and falling in time with his gentle snoring. The late shift always took its toll on Joseph; he would rather be tucked up in bed with Marji, his better half for nearly forty years. An open book rested across his chest while a radio played soft blues music.
Bill, Joseph’s friend and colleague for many years, walked into the staffroom. He looked down at Joseph sleeping and smiled. He crouched down and shook him gently by the shoulder.
‘Come on mate, it’s time to go home.’
Joseph’s eyes slowly opened. He looked around. Realising where he was he looked up at Bill and rubbed his eyes sleepily. ‘Oh. sorry Bill. I was dreaming I was back home in Trinidad.’
Bill laughed. ‘Wishful thinking mate.’
Joseph sighed. ‘Yeah, but it was a beautiful dream.’
As Bill straightened up his knees popped loudly.
‘I’m getting too old for this night work.’ He walked over to a bank of lockers at the far wall. ‘You’ll be back home for real next week. Come on you old codger, let’s get off before the white coats send up another job.’
‘What time is it?’
‘Ten to two.’
Joseph pushed himself out of the chair, groaning. He stretched his arms over his head and walked over to the lockers. ‘I can’t wait to see my family again and lay on that beautiful white sandy beach. I’ll be drinking a cool glass of white rum and looking out over the clear blue water while you slaving away here.’
Bill took off his overall, slipped off his shoes and put them in his locker. ‘Two weeks will soon go mate. Then you’ll be back here with me and the other poor schmucks.’
‘Yeah, but think of all that rum I’ll be drinking, with a gentle breeze to cool me down.’
Bill took out his coat and trainers, got dressed, then grabbed his rucksack from the locker and shut the door. ‘Don’t rub it in you lucky bugger.’
Joseph grabbed his bag and put his book inside. He got changed and shut the locker.
Reaching into his rucksack Bill pulled out two bicycle clips, folded his trouser bottoms and put them on. He stood up straight and threw the rucksack over one shoulder. ’You ready then?
‘Why don’t you let me give you a ride home? You’re getting too old to be riding that stupid bike. You’ll get yourself killed on it one of these days.’
‘I’ll stick to the bike thanks. It costs me nothing to get around and I’m home in twenty minutes. Not like that oversized gas guzzling monster of yours.’
‘That monster you refer to is a classic car,’ Joseph said, feigning anger. ‘When I retire next year it’s coming back to Trinidad with me.’
‘That’s going to cost a bit.’
‘I don’t care what it cost. Me and Marji are going to be driving around the island like a King and Queen.’
‘Come on. Let’s go, or are you staying on for overtime?’
‘I’m coming. Keep your shirt on.’
They walked down the corridor towards the service lift.
‘It’s still a gas guzzler and it don’t do much to help the environment, does it? Just remember mate, everywhere will be affected by global warming, and when it does get worse it’ll be all your fault.’
Joseph laughed and gave Bill a friendly slap on the back. ‘Yeah well, if it gets any hotter in Trinidad I’ll love it even more. I’ll just have to drink more rum to chill out.’
‘While the rest of us freeze our bloody butts off.’
They reached the double doors at the end of the corridor and pushed open the doors leading to the service lift lobby.
Joseph pressed the button for the lift. The doors opened and Joseph held out his arm.
‘Age before beauty.’
They both hustled into the lift together, laughing. Bill pressed the button for the ground floor.
‘Hey Bill, I meant to say. We’re having a barbie on Sunday. Why don’t you come over with Irene? I’ll make you some of that Trinidad style chicken you like, and I got a special bottle of white rum my brother sent me. This one will knock your socks off.’
‘We’d love to. Irene was only saying yesterday that she hasn’t seen you or Marji for ages.’
The lift doors opened and Joseph and Bill entered the lobby. They walked along to the foyer where a large circular reception desk took centre stage. Jack, the night security guard, was staring at a portable TV.
‘Morning Jack, you just come on have you?’
‘Hello Bill. Yeah, all ready for another exciting night guarding empty rooms and corridors. I hate the graveyard shift, gives me the bloody creeps sitting here on my own all night.’ Jack pushed an open ledger towards them. ‘Sign the book and you two can get off home to your warm beds. Lucky sods.’
‘We’re on that shift next week, so don’t feel too hard done by. Then this lucky buggers off to Trinidad for a fortnight. They better get someone to cover for him or I’ll be on my bloody own, mind you the amount he sleeps I might as well be on my own anyway.’
‘Hey, I pull my weight you know. I can’t help it if I’m a great thinker. Jack, we’re having a Barbie on Sunday. Why don’t you come over? Bring those lovely daughters of yours and the grandchildren. Bill and Irene are coming and you can babysit him when he’s had some of my white lightning.’
Jack pointed at Bill with his pen. ‘Only if I get some of what he’s having.’
Bill snatched the pen from Jacks hand and signed the book.
Joseph took the pen. ‘We’ll all have a good time. See you Sunday then Jack.’
‘I’ll look forward to it.’
‘See you Jack. Hope you have a quiet night.’
‘Yeah, see you Bill.’
As they headed for the doors Jack pushed a button behind the desk to open the electronic lock. Bill and Joseph walked out into a crisp August night. They walked over to a bike rack at the side of the car park lit by a large illuminated neon sign on the front of the building.
Joseph waited while Bill unlocked his bike. They walked over to Joseph’s gleaming black BMW. Moonlight reflected off its deep wax finish and the sight of it never failed to bring a smile to Joseph’s face.
‘You sure you don’t want a lift home? It’s no trouble.’
‘No thanks mate.’ Bill got on his bike. ‘You get off home.’
‘Okay. I get the message,’ Joseph said, pretending to be offended.
Bill laughed. They’d had the same conversation many times in the past. He and Joseph had been friends for more than twenty years and Bill knew all of Joseph’s funny little ways. He put his rucksack over both arms. ‘See you Sunday.’
Bill rode off towards the car park exit, waving one arm as he disappeared into the night. Joseph stood for a moment, admiring the car. He got in and shut the door and sat breathing in the rich smell of leather. The powerful, well-tuned engine purred into life. Joseph drove slowly out through the car-park exit.