This story is by Antonia Bryan and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
“Hey mate, how’s it going?”
That was how Antwain knew his shift started. He worked the graveyard shift as a security guard at a warehouse, specializing in pharmaceuticals.
Beejay, as usual, greeted him with his heavy Australian accent outside the large roller doors at the warehouse front. The smell of Marlboro vapored the chilling night air around the sweaty warehouse worker and Antwain tried not to cringe at how badly Beejay reeked. He did cough; he hated the smell of tobacco.
“Good thanks, how are you?” he replied with quick reflexes. Beejay answered his question with a loud laugh and he started to ramble about god knew what.
Antwain never really paid attention to his coworkers; he just acted friendly so he could get his next paycheck. This security job was an in-between job while he figured out his next move and bills did not go away. He watched Beejay’s thin face move for the next couple of minutes.
Antwain didn’t know much about his coworkers and they in return didn’t know much about him and he was happy with that arrangement. The warehouse crew didn’t seem to share his interests. Antwain was a straight edged kind of guy. He didn’t do drugs, smoke or drink. He just worked out at the gym to keep up his security gig.
The warehouse crew was mostly a bunch of smokers who loved to drown their sorrows in gambling apps and alcohol at the end of the working week, and they loved to talk about themselves. They seemed like quite the arrogant lot so Antwain was happy to keep his detached distance.
“Anyway, this bloke is thirsty,” Beejay chucked him the keys to the warehouse and he stomped his smoke on the ground.
“Off to the bar we go. See you tomorrow mate.”
Antwain waved and he watched Beejay crawl into his beat-up Holden Commodore and speed away into the night. Only Antwain’s Corolla hatchback remained in the parking lot, covered in a sea of cigarette butts.
“Grubby wankers,” Antwain grumbled. He genuinely pitied the soul who had to clean up the parking lot. The warehouse crew loved to cash in a million ‘smokos’ a day.
With that thought, Antwain walked into the deserted warehouse and closed the roller doors. He easily fell into his graveyard shift routine. He put his snacks for the night away and brewed some fresh coffee. Then he did a quick lonely sweep of the warehouse’s interior before he went to his office.
There were six-security feeds setup on his desk and two computers. Antwain as usual glanced at the security feeds while he checked his work emails. He got ‘cc’d in a few memos concerning lunch the following Friday. The directors were planning to host a massive barbecue for the staff and they had the guts to ask him to come in extra early for it. Antwain frowned at the suggestion. Daylight hours were his time to sleep and recover for the next graveyard shift. They also requested that he brought a plate of food. Typical Australian etiquette.
With his French background, he didn’t understand the concept of bringing a plate of food. In his culture, the host provided all of the food and drinks at no extra charge to the guests. Antwain mumbled a series of French curses while he replied to the memo. He made up an excuse that he had a dentist appointment and couldn’t come in.
Done and dusted.
The next couple of hours flew by as silently as they came. Nothing out of the usual happened. Antwain kept his eyes peeled on the security feeds while he played games on his phone and searched for new jobs. He thought something in mechanics would suit him best.
At twenty-seven, he was over working security gigs. The hours were long and the nights were uneventful. Nothing exciting ever happened and in a way, he wished that could charge. He wouldn’t mind a nice possum wrecking havoc on the boxes to deal with to be honest.
Antwain then took his first fifteen-minute tea break and he got back on the phone, searching for car parts. Some idiot nicked one of the black grills at the front of his car. Now he was driving around in a one-eyed car. He looked like the poster boy for piracy on the road and professionally that would not help his image when he rocked up to a job interview to become a certified mechanic.
“Grubby wankers,” he grumbled for the second time that night. His watch then beeped with its first set of alarms for his shift. The alarms reminded him to patrol the area on foot and Antwain grabbed his flashlight and keys with a sigh.
“I am so tired of this crap.”
It was at that moment that his phone started to beep due to having a low battery.
“Rats,” Antwain cursed. He thought he charged it fully before he left home and he plugged his phone into a charger connected to the computer. Nothing every happened on his patrols around the warehouse so he felt safe leaving the office without it. Antwain flashed on all of the lights inside the warehouse and it took him twenty minutes to patrol the inside thoroughly. He then checked the offices upstairs and helped himself to a cookie.
He slowly made his way back downstairs and headed towards the downstairs kitchen and merchandise showroom. Everything looked the same until he walked passed the dark kitchen’s clear sliding doors.
Antwain froze in his tracks. There he spotted four burly shaped men in full black, ski masks included, around the barbecue resting on the outside patio. They were stealing the barbecue and Antwain couldn’t help but stand there in silent amazement. This was a warehouse full of pharmaceutical products and they were stealing a barbecue?
They must not be drug dealers then, he figured. Then it was just his luck that one of the guys spotted his blank mug by glancing upwards. The repercussions were instantaneous. The guy alerted his partners in crime and they charged at the sliding door with crowbars.
“Merde!” Antwain freaked out in French.
The men yelled at each other and one of them cracked the glass in the sliding door. He slipped his gloved hand through the hole and flipped the lock on the door. Adrenaline finally kicked into Antwain’s system and he knew he had to get to his phone as soon as possible. In his panic, he walked backwards into the wall behind him and knocked the back of his head. The blow propelled him forward towards the kitchen’s entrance and that was when he heard the sliding door open. Two of the men forced their way in and with quick thinking, Antwain reached to close the kitchen door.
He lodged his key into the lock and ran for his office. Glass broke again and Antwain damned his employers for installing doors with windows throughout the building. One of the men, no doubt, broke the glass above the doorknob and Antwain got his answer when he heard the heavy pounding of feet gaining ground on him.
The thieves chased him past the parked forklifts and down the long aisle of five story high pallets. His office was down the back on the left. This whole experience was teaching him not to wish for anything exciting to happen at work again.
“Get him, Bob!” One of the men yelled behind him but Antwain kept his focus on his office. The door appeared on his left and he turned his body towards it. That was when the pain at the back of his head started to catch up to him with a painful throb. He really did bust something up.
Antwain suddenly got the wind knocked out of his stomach when one of the men finally managed to tackle and pin him down on the grubby and cold floor. He tired to fight against the hold, the thief had on his locked arms but the man was much stronger than him. The man then sat on his back with his knee and Antwain scowled at the pressure.
“I take it this lanky bloke doesn’t play much rugby league. He went down so easily with that tackle,” Another man that wasn’t Bob remarked and Bob made a growling sound in the back of his throat.
“Quit mucking about and deal with this muppet,” Bob ordered and Antwain felt something plastic be tied around his wrists. A bag of some sort went over his head to blind his vision and Bob, unless he thought it was Bob knocked him out cold with a mean right hook.
Beejay was always the last to leave and the first to arrive at the warehouse. He liked to chill out with a couple of smokes on the patio before he started his shift.
Old school RnB pumped through his car’s speakers and he continued to sing-a-long while he parked up next to Antwain’s car, which was usual for a Thursday morning.
Beejay walked around the front of the warehouse for the back patio and saw nothing out of the ordinary. He still nurtured his usual tired and stuck in the hole that was the nine to five work grind.
Thank goodness tomorrow was Friday, he thought and then he wondered where the barbecue was. His cigarette dropped to the floor.
Beejay yelled for Antwain when he saw the smashed in sliding door and he ran into the kitchen in a mad panic. The room was stripped clean of all appliances too and then he saw more glass leading into the warehouse. He searched the interior and the security office but saw no sign of Antwain.
He wondered what happened to the quiet Frenchman and grew deeply concerned so he rang for the emergency services. He didn’t bother calling Antwain’s phone, he saw the device charging on the security guard’s desk.
The police promised to send a squad car right away so Beejay went back to the parking lot to wait for them. He leaned up against Antwain’s Corolla hatchback and lit up a new cigarette. He took in a deep drag to calm his nerves and that was when he noticed that Antwain was missing both grills at the front of his car. The car wasn’t a pirate of the road anymore.
Beejay then exhaled and that was when he heard someone cough a rather familiar sounding cough.
“Antwain?” Beejay raised his voice at the car.
“I’m in here!” Antwain yelled back and it sounded like it came from the boot.
“Bloody hell mate!” Beejay freaked out when he realized just where Antwain was.
“Just get me out of here!” Antwain yelled again and then it sounded like he struggled to breath.
“Hold on, mate!”
Beejay ran to the warehouse and grabbed a sledgehammer. He broke the driver’s side window and pulled the lever for the boot. Antwain kicked it open. Beejay helped him out and he looked worse for wear. He was drenched in sweat and gasping for fresh air. The man nearly died from heat stress. Beejay frantically called emergency services for an ambulance while Antwain passed out again.
When he came too and eventually healed, Antwain surprised the whole company by claiming worker’s compensation for the robbery and resigning when he won his claim in court. He bought a new car with his winnings.
The judge saw the placement of the barbecue outside on the patio an infringement to Antwain’s safety along with the glass windowed doors. He also ordered the directors to store the next barbecue they got inside the warehouse and to replace the doors.
But the directors decided against the barbecue and Antwain strangely felt delighted by that. He hated barbecues even more now and that’s when he realized a powerful lesson: sometimes when you do the right thing, it does not make everybody happy, just the people who need it the most like yourself.