The spider and the bench
Within the confines of the warehouse there were many spiders. They hid among the boxes and probably roamed the empty building at night in search of prey.
A monster of a spider, as large and hairy as any tarantula, though possessing much longer and spindly legs, had been captured by one of the regular lads. He kept it shut up in a box. It was his special pet and he delighted in tormenting us with it.
At tea-break we would all go along to the canteen. There was a great long trestle table. We would sit along the sides on benches and share stories and jokes while we drank our tea.
The discourse was nowhere near as erudite as I was later to find among the council workers. The road-sweepers and bin-men seemed a hot-bed of socialist politics and were well-read into the bargain. In the café with the council workers I was bombarded with illustrated accounts of social history and urged to read C P Snow and Robert Tressell. In the warehouse there was no such content. The humour was of an earthy nature and level of conversation mundane.
My sixteen year old body was merely grateful for a rest. My muscles ached from hefting heavy boxes.
But that place was rarely restful. Most times the lad would bring his box to the table and release his pet spider to scuttle up and down. He delighted in the shrieks it produced from the girls. The lads did not shriek. They merely watched it with bored expressions and drank tea from their mugs.
Despite my terror of spiders I feigned the same indifference. I well knew that if I was to let on that I was uneasy about that monstrous, evil arachnid I would have been the focus of special attention and my life would become unbearable. The last thing I wanted was to have that monster thrown in my face, or worse, put down my neck.
Tea-breaks were an ordeal.
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