“Mary Dilworth. The Factory“
I have always hated the factory. It has a gaunt steel frame like a skeleton. I've often imagined it
without its red bricks, just an etching of black against a red sky.
Of course, I've never said anything about this to anyone. Especially to Eric. You see, he
5 loves the factory. He would like to put up his sign in those flashing neon lights that the city firms
can afford. He saw a rainbow once over a petrol station there. I think he would have sold almost
anything to have one of those on his roof.
Every day he is up early. He sings in the shower and eats his breakfast quietly. He always reads
the business section of the newspaper, then quarters it neatly.
10 His days are like that. In four parts.
The first is the morning, which I've mentioned. Then there's the day at the factory.
That's in two: the morning and the afternoon. He uses the telephone to tell me when it's time for lunch. Just
two rings. That's his code. Then five minutes later he's at the door, letting himself in.
He reads at lunch, usually one of the classics. He didn't have much education.
15 In fact, that's why I met him. We worked at the same factory, ten miles out of town. It
manufactured shoes and boots. I was the boss's secretary, and Eric worked the floor.
I'll always remember that first day. He was nervous, tried not to show it, but his hands shook.
His hair was brown, his eyes were brown, and the factory overalls were brown. He almost faded
into the background of brown leather shoes. Which was quite funny at the time.
20 But I was describing his day. And he's not brown any more. Streaks of gray and a balding patch
which he rakes over, spreading the hairs thinly across it. And he wears a suit. Usually gray, with a
red handkerchief in the pocket. I suppose his eyes are still the same color, but I can't tell you. If
you asked me, 1 just couldn't tell you.
I did notice they were red tonight, which was unusual, but then the whole day was different.
25 As though the four quarters came together and just rolled away.
I could draw the second half of his day with my eyes closed.
In the afternoon, he has a cup of tea in his office, then he works until six o'clock.
Two rings on the telephone mean he's coming home for dinner. He has a good appetite and
enjoys his food.
30 In the evening he likes quiet. He always says that after such a busy day at the factory, he
needs to sit and think. Which he does, with his eyes closed, his elbow on the chair, and his thumb
and one finger pressed against his forehead. Or sometimes he just sits and stares into space.
Eric always goes to bed early. He feels fresh then for the next day.
But now the next day won't come. It won't be Eric's day, and his eyes are red. I've never seen
35 him cry before.
I said this day was different. It's night now, and soon the dawn will come. In the night, the sky
was red. A brilliant red. That was beautiful. Black against red. Like a devil with horns or the
final crashing chords of a great concerto.
I loved it. Black skeleton of steel in a fiery night. Of course the fire brigade came. I didn't call
40 them. It was beautiful just watching the sky burning. I don't think I will ever forget it. Eric was
They came to tell us as soon as they arrived. Eric knew straight away it was all over.
I love the night. Sometimes I stay up for hours, savoring it. The stars and that great arc of sky.
The immense pattern, the changing moods of wind.
45 Tonight it was special. It was different. And I feel very tired. But happy. An exhilarated feeling, a
prickling right down my spine.
Nobody knows how the fire started. Accidental, they say. It happens all the time.
1 gaunt very thin - frame here: interior structure made of bars - 2 brick stone used for building houses -
etching picture printed from a metal plate; here: outline - 9 to quarter to fold up twice, to a quarter of its size -
neat tidy, careful - 16 to work the floor (AE) to have a job as an ordinary worker - 18 to fade here: to
20 streak [i:l long stripe - gray (AE) grey (BE) - balding beginning to lose the hair on the head - patch spot -
21 to rake over to cover - 31 elbow the part of the arm connecting the upper and lower half - thumb the short
thick finger that is set apart from the other four - 32 forehead the part of the face above the eyes and below the
hair - 38 chord Akkord - 42 straight away at once - 43 to savor (AE)/savour (BE) to enjoy - arc part of a
circle, curve - 44 immense very large - pattern regularly repeated form (Muster)- 45 exhilarated very happy
and excited - 46 spine row of bones down s.o.'s back that supports the body - 47 accidental not intended