A Long Time Coming
by Marian Allen
“Mum! Mum!” Elgin stood on tiptoe, as if that would help a six-year-old see over the heads of adults. His mother, in the way of mothers, distinguished his voice through the hubbub and worked her way unerringly through the crowd.
He took her hand protectively. “You must stay close,” he scolded. “I thought we’d lost you.”
Mrs. Meachum knew her husband wouldn’t be far from their son, and found him, exchanging fond glances with him over their boy’s superior manner.
“We’re quite lucky, Penelope,” said Mr. Meachum. “We drew a location on Layer One! First on, first off, so we can accept first shift and be home for a good, wholesome English dinner and our favorite programmes on the telly.”
“Hoorah!” Elgin had taken a great deal of teasing from his mates about his coming banishment to a diet of snails, and looked forward to rubbing their snouts in their error.
Mrs. Meachum smiled weakly. “I do wish we could find work in England. Commuting is so tiresome.”
Elgin scoffed. “Oh, Mum! Imagine if we had to do it by road! The Channel Streamer is faster than driving from one side of London to the other.” He said this as if they hadn’t all read the brochures and contracts, hadn’t all watched the recruitment video together, hadn’t been discussing it endlessly for months. “And, since it rides above the water, it’s unaffected by rough weather and the gyros won’t let it tip or sink.”
Together, the Meachums and the members of the surrounding crowd who had been enjoying Elgin’s parroting of the video all said, “There in a flash, back in a flash. Voila!”
From somewhere high above, something that was programmed to sound like a steam whistle blew. The crowd on the dock cheered and threw confetti and streamers.
“They won’t do that every day, will they?” Mrs. Meachum disapproved of untidiness.
A nearby man, heavy and wearing blue denim coveralls, said, “Oh, yes. Paid to, you know, by the Streamer company to make it all look like a jolly adventure.”
“Silly,” said Mrs. Meachum.
“I think it’s rather nice,” said a young woman – little more than a girl – with Peg stitched on the pocket of her blouse. “Almost like we’re going on holiday, isn’t it?”
“Dunno about you,” said the heavy man, “but I’ve got ten long hours ahead of me over amongst the Froggies. Some holiday, eh?”
They all chuckled politely and let the subject slide.
Eleven hours later, Layer One First Shift disembarked in England. Ten hours of catering to English-speaking tourists who refused to learn French for the adults and ten hours of school, recess, and homework in the English workers’ compound for their children had left them all exhausted.
“At least we did get home quickly,” Mrs. Meachum conceded.
“It’ll all get easier as we grow accustomed to it,” Mr. Meachum consoled her with more hope than conviction.
“Bread and cheese for lunch?” Elgin was still outraged. “Mum, can I take my lunch tomorrow? Potted meat sandwich and a tin of fruit cocktail?”
“Of course, dear,” said Mrs. Meachum.
Mr. Meachum clapped his son on the shoulder with fatherly pride. “That’s the spirit,” he said. “None of that nasty foreign muck for us, eh?”
“Snails, indeed!” said Mrs. Meachum, as she stepped thankfully onto good, honest, English soil.
A WRITING PROMPT FROM THE SPAM FILE: This has obviously been a long time coming, but given the economic conditions of many of the city. Although hiring a good moving company for your shipping needs is one way of mitigating the anxiety of moving overseas, there are other ways of ensuring smooth sailing for your international removal. And there are a large number of families who relocate from the UK to France almost daily. Seven layers are what the OSI model is built on and the counting usually begins from bottom to the top. The atmosphere around the docks is very festive for all.