Dave rolls out of bed after stopping the alarm for the fourth time. His feet his the floor with a thump and he drifts upright, his head lightening as he ascends. As luck would have it, he is spared to worst pressures of vertigo by his diminutive stature. He stumbles to towards the door, switching on the light as he exits the room and makes his way to the toilet.

 

He returns, walks to his small kitchenette, rubs sleep from his eyes, farts loudly, and makes coffee. He walks back into the bedroom, and proceeds to switch on the large, hulking, dark, and generally impressive Array occupying perhaps half a wall of his bedroom. He hears the coffee boiling, and exits while his machinery warms up.

 

“Thank god for Saturdays… I say…” he mumbles as he makes his way back to the Array. He checks the hard-visual display. He taps the cable modem to ensure the lights are flickering correctly. As is his habit he checks the Bathing helmet, ensuring the ports are properly and tightly connected, putting it on briefly to check that no light or noise pollution is leaking in. He seats himself in his chair and sighs, tapping at the hard-keys on the chair arm. He leans forward to look a little more closely at the hard-visual, “Well then Mr. Computer,” he mutters, “who do you have for me today?”

 

Drinking coffee while he dons his one piece Bathing suit, Dave plugs the suit into the Array. A tingle descends from neck to hands and toes, and he hits the verify button. With the suit ‘green’, Dave takes up the helmet, inserts the mouthguard and bites down gently. The taste of coffee is immediately replaced by artificial cherries. His hits verify again, switches off the light in his room, sits in his chair, and places the immersion helmet on. The virtual-keys appears, and he taps ‘Enter’.

 

He taps through the various options his Array offers him. They roll fairly quickly. A blonde in Rio, heading out to meet a friend, he pauses momentarily, then flicks to the next offer. A greengrocer in Vietnam arguing with a number of street urchins. A cycle courier in London. “Man…” Dave says, “How many of these guys have to get wasted in traffic before that is no longer entertainment… stupid noob bathers…” He stops. A Dishwasher?

 

* * *

The noise is incredible.

 

A machine to the right of Gavin is roaring loudly as waver arms inside it spray high-pressure water across filthy cups and crockery. A extractor fan above the machine is working overtime to contain the heat and steam from the shining square contraption, acting in competition to a huge extractor directly behind and above Gavin. As a result, hot air from a doorway just beyond the washer is being sucked into the room and past Gavin’s legs. It adds to the heat of the stove-top hobs and the pushes the room up into the low 50s. Sweat trickling from his forehead and into his eyes. It’s trickling down his back past his buttocks and hamstrings, drying as it hits his calves. The Transmitter’s Bathing suit he is wearing is ramping up his body temperature and he’s drinking litres of water per hour. He is tall, very tall, meaning he has to lean almost doubled over to reach in the deep commercial sink and haul plates out of a 60cm deep stew of tepid, murky, scum-filled water. His back aches, so he leans on one arm occasionally before wiping great swathes of left-over food into huge 50litre buckets and dropping the plates into filthy water, drawing them out only slightly cleaner so the washer can sterilise them.

 

To his left the chefs are working. Broken, depraved, foul-mouthed lunatics with calloused, burnt, cut and hairy dinner-plate mitts. They yell and abuse the seemingly endless numbers of waiting staff running to and from the servery with effete foot work and prissy, annoyed, self-righteous smirks. Pans are hitting stove-tops, trays are hitting oven-racks and oven-doors are slamming. Knives are hitting chopping boards and plates are hitting steel bench tops. Senior chefs are yelling at junior chefs to increase the pace and junior chefs are screaming at waiters to get the food out faster. The maître de is yelling at the senior chefs, the junior chefs and the waiters. Through the open doors of the kitchen customers are chatting, drinking, chewing, banging cutlery on plates, dropping wine glasses, staring at the décor in anticipation of service, politely ignoring their spouses, reading menus in poor light, waving at passers-by, making passes at the cutest of the waiters, carefully tasting wines, sniffing food at the end of their forks. The owner is sitting out front among the customers drinking wine, watching the bum of a waitress, the cleavage of a patron, and money passing the till.

 

In the centre of all this Gavin stands, the eye of the storm.

 

A half-hour of chaos passes. The owner walks into the kitchen, sees Gavin and yells, “Christssake’s dishpig!! What the fuckinhell are you wearing that damn Outsuit for?! Don’t I fuckin pay you enough?!”

“No boss!”

“Fair enough then…” He turns and yells at the head chef, “You… yeah you, you fuckin useless excuse for a burger-flipping arse monkey. If this useless cunt passes out from heat exhaustion, stick the prick in a bin out back.” He smiles and walks out.

The frying pan narrowly misses Gavins head, bounces off a wall, and lands in the mucky sink. It hisses loudly as the water cools it.

“A red-hot one chef!” Gavin yells, not looking up.

“Shut the fuck up dishy! Where the fuck are my fucking pans! PANS!!”

Gavin opens the washing machine, a tray of fresh pans contained within, magically produced for the chefs. The head chef grins.

“Swear to god mate, if you weren’t so fucking good, I’d have burnt real good you long ago”

“I know chef… I know.”

 

The shift rolls on. Gavin hauls 40kg stinking, buckets of muck out back and empties them into great bins of rotting food. He hauls towering piles of plates over to chefs. He leans low and drops stacks of plates into warming drawers. He hauls great trays of cutlery out to waiters to polish and place on tables. He empties huge crates of bottles out to glass bins. He hauls 20kg sacks of potatoes into the kitchen and peels emergency supplies. He bandages other’s cuts. He flirts with waitresses. He loans his cold taps to scalded chefs. He blinks to clear his eyes of smoke from burning food. He shares filthy jokes with the guys during their breaks. He runs up and down stairs bringing supplies; cooking oil, spices, frozen foods, cooking wines, obscure ingredients. He hauls pre-prepared ingredients from the coolroom; cured meats, fish, crustaceans, soups, pasta, rice, bread, sauces, entire carcasses. He makes sure every member of staff in the place has what they need, when they need it, where it’s useful.

 

After ten hours he stops. The porous Transmitter suit is saturated and begins to cool, sticking slightly to his skin. He sits in his apron and workboots on the staircase he’s run dozens of times that evening drinking a cold beer, resting his eyes and waiting for the remainder of the staff to bring the last of the items for him to clean before he can go home. The head chef sits down a few steps beneath Gavin, and takes off his hat, wipes his sweaty brow and looks up.

“Mate, why do you wear that Outsuit in this temperature?”

“She’s hard times chef. Man told me if I wear this five days this week I’ll be paid out big time this evening.”

“For real? People actually wanna Bathe in the life of a dishpig?”

“Must be” Gavin replies, “Guess not everyone wants to see someone getting humped real good.”

Head chef laughs his greasy laugh, “Yeah, guess it takes all kinds.” He stands and makes to walk past Gavin upstairs to the changing rooms near the dry-store on the second level, patting him on the shoulder as he passes, “Take it easy dishpig. Hope that payout is as good as promised”.

“No worries chef, see you tomorrow.”

 

He’s had a few wines with the waiting staff at the end of the night, regaling them with stories from the kitchen and listening to them complain about the chefs. They’ve joked about the owner and his penchant for watching as things turn to custard on the restaurant floor, waiters flying across the room like harriers, customers waving arms for attention, food going cold in the servery. He stands shakily. His back is agony and his knees aren’t what they used to be. The waiters cry for him to stay for one last drink, but he makes his excuses, gathers his gear, staggers a little from the fatigue, and is out into the warm night.

 

It’s dark on the streets, but he’s in familiar territory, so he cuts along the back-roads a little on his way to his small apartment. The city is highly active, and even here in the out of the way places people are enjoying the balmy air. Couples sit on verandah smoking and drinking, groups of youths are drinking, laughing and heading to some local bar. A couple of louts are playing football in a dimly-lit park. Gavin stops to watch them for a minute, and wonders, “What in the hell do these Bathers actually pay to see? Must be some kind of boring life to wanna see me working and heading home to sleep…”

 

He doesn’t actually see where the first blow comes from. It lands on the side of his head and pushes the Transmitter suit’s camera deeply into his temple. He can feel the cut begin to bleed immediately, and turns his head towards the punch in time to catch another square on his lips. He can taste blood in his mouth and his eyesight is foggy. A further punch lands in the small of his back and he winches in pain before swinging a blow at the figure he can just make out in front of him. His assailant has misjudged his reach and and Gavin’s fist connects with what must be a throat, the figure coughing violently and doubling over. Gavin spins around an sees that two large men are standing behind him, another swinging a punch into his stomach. Gavin collapses from the punch and they start to kick him about the body. One produces a knife, a plunges it into Gavin’s chest, blood instantly bubbling into his lungs as he gasps in horror.

 

* * *

 

Dave lurches from the chair, hauling off the helmet. The smell of Gavin’s vomit is fresh in his nose from the scent-mitter, the taste of blood in his mouth. His kidneys are throbbing from the concussion pads in his Bathing suit, and his back aching from the sympathetic receptors pressuring him over the 10 hour stretch. His ears are still ringing from the kitchen noise and he needs urinate. The sharp shock to his ribs is fading, but still smarts. He staggers away from his Array and himself vomits in the bathroom.

 

He walks back into the bedroom, finds the remainder of his coffee and washes the acrid taste away.

“Damn…” he mutters, “wasn’t expecting a snuff…”

Advertisements