by Hannah Rose
Outside Selfridges on Oxford street at 5am Boxing Day morning, a queue had already formed. The sales could not start soon enough for some shoppers. At the same time, Aleksander’s father was waking his son up. He handed him a pile of thermal underwear and a hard hat and told him to get ready so they could go and ‘explore’ the site.
“Can I really see where you are working, dad!?”
“Of course, but you will have to stay in the cabin for a while as I have some large girders to move with the crane. If you stay in there you can watch out of the window. Bring your tablet and learn some English words while you wait, ok?”
Antoni took his son’s hand as they walked towards the site. I shouldn’t be working today, he said to himself, but if I can just get these two girders in place then things can start up again tomorrow. It’ll keep Tim happy and he’ll get my men back and working again in no time. He thought of his son’s education, his future, spooling out in front of them like a length of golden thread and tugging at his heart.
Aleksander was allowed to sit in the crane with his father before the work started, he showed him the controls and let him move the gear stick up and down and they looked across London as it woke up, the sun rising above the city and spilling light everywhere.
“It’s amazing up here, dad!”
“It’s quite a view isn’t it! Ok, now you’ve had your fix I’ll take you down to the cabin.”
They climbed down and Aleksander took a seat by the window to watch the girders being lifted and put in place. This would be the hotel bar by the pool, where the richest people in the world would gather and toast each other’s success one day.
It’s so exciting here! Thought Aleksander. He swelled with pride as he watched his father lower the crane to lift the first girder. But he couldn’t quite see where it was going; he wanted to watch the whole thing being put in place so he could describe it to his friends when he returned to school. The cabin—an ex shipping container—had a low window which cut out the view. Aleksander stepped outside to look up, wandering out into the site. He watched the immense girder swing above the city, his father a tiny speck in the control cabin. Aleksander waved his arms at his father.
Antoni took a breath as he tightened the chain at the top of the crane, which would hold the hook in place and lift the girder. I really need someone down there to guide me, he thought. I shouldn’t be doing this on my own. He heard the hook clunk into place and he exhaled. He enjoyed crane work, being high up, but he also knew how dangerous it could be. This had better work. He looked down at the space where the girder was meant to be and saw his son step outside the cabin into it, waving his arms in the air. “Aleksander! No!” Antoni called “Move away!” He felt the pull of the chain which was keeping the girder suspended. He had just a few moments before it had to be lowered, or the chain would snap. Aleksander could not hear his father shouting for him to move away. “What are you doing!?” he shouted, angry now. Perhaps his son was in trouble, that’s why he had come out. A million scenarios raced through Antoni’s mind: a fire, a stranger trying to take his son from him. Antoni lost his grip on the lever—he’d forgotten to put the safety catch on—and he heard the chain spilling loose and the girder hurtle towards the ground.
Aleksander saw that something was wrong from below—the girder was swinging from left to right. Suddenly aware that he was standing below the girder in the space where it was meant to be, Aleksander ran back into the cabin. I didn’t think, dad, he said to himself. I just didn’t think.
The jolt from the lost girder shook the crane violently. Antoni had not strapped himself in. I didn’t think, Aleksander, he said to himself, I just didn’t think, as he fell from the cabin, watching London fall past him.
When the girder hit the ground it sent a huge cloud of dust into the air; the people of Clapham could see it. At first they thought it was a bomb and the rumours soon spread that a terrorist attack had taken place.
The real terrorists however, were sitting in their ministerial homes and loosening their ties, getting quite sozzled on red wine.
For goodness sake, The PM said to herself as she reread the ‘new’ Brexit Impact Assessment she ordered the head of Brexit studies to amend. I said delete any extraneous interviews, don’t just make them up! She made a quick call to him and ordered him to take the interview out, before anyone read it.
The girder also made an almighty crashing thud which blew out the windows in the cabin where Alex was hiding beneath a table. He hadn’t covered his ears, and the last thing that Aleksander heard was a sound like thunder so close it made his insides rattle.
Then the world was forever silent, and it was like Aleksander had never even had a name in the first place.
Featured image CC0 via Pexels
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