Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Bone Crushing By Tara Gould

Job Centre Plus, adorned with soft cornered furniture and primary colours looked like a nursery and felt like a morgue. Through the automatic glass doors limped a mature, bird-like woman in a raincoat, her lilac hair, pinned in a spiral, glistened with raindrops.

Mr Caige tapped a keyboard and the woman sat down in front of him on a green, vinyl cube. The queuing people, seated nearby, half stood to intervene, but when the woman pulled a pair of blood stained ballet shoes from a Nike shoe box and dangled them in front of his face, they slowly sat back down.

‘You accused me of being a malingerer. These shoes prove I am not!’

Mr. Caige looked up wearily. He pushed the bloodied shoes to one side.

‘I didn’t accuse you personally, but you only made three job applications last week, this could be interpreted as a reluctance to work, which would result in the suspension of your JSA.’

‘Ten hours a day I danced en pointe. We slept in the wings between performances. The pay was poor, I wasn’t a soloist, I was a jobbing ballerina.’

Caige raised an eyebrow and pursed his lips.

‘Then, the dance school where I taught closed because of funding cuts.’

‘Ms Faracy, you fail to demonstrate a commitment to finding work.’

‘I don’t mind doing punishing work with a purpose. But twenty-four job applications in a week, where I won’t even get an interview because I’m too old is senseless unpaid labour of the most demoralising kind!’

‘Universal Job Search is designed to support you, five job applications a day is perfectly reasonable.’ he spoke slowly, as if to a child.

‘In the Victorian workhouse, inmates crushed bones,’ Ms Faracy caressed her bloodied shoes as she spoke, ‘it was pitiless labour. Less Eligibility – Poor Law Policy in 1834. 2017? Same principal. You need to make me experience more discomfort, more humiliation than a person with even the hardest, crappiest, low paid job.’

She pulled a pair of battered Nike trainers from the box.

‘I used to only wear Nike. My feet are crushed – these were comfortable. I used to put my comfort before my morals.’

She pointed to the ‘Just do it’ phrase over the red swoosh.

‘The copywriter stole that from the mouth of a murderer facing execution, made a neat six figure sum out of it. In the Bangladeshi sweatshops they earn nine dollars a week, nothing improved, they just don’t use children anymore. The top FTSE 100 CEOs make in a day what a person on minimum wage earns in a year, which is probably you, isn’t it Mr Caige, despite your superior air? We both inhabit this world. Don’t demean me.’

She packed her shoes away. The people in the queue began to clap. She stood, performed three fouetté turns, bowed and left. For a moment, Job Centre Plus seemed a more human place.

Mr Caige, red from the neck up, began the process of having her JSA suspended.

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