21: Lunch Break

Garry is still working hard on the barricade when Linda approaches him. He notices she has his cling film in the front pocket of his dungarees, but he doesn't ask her for it. He smiles. Cling-film has never been further from his mind. He looks at his hands and they are smeared with dust and ink and his heart is beating fast and there is sweat on the back of his neck and he does not mind at all.

Garry knows his antibacterial hand gel is still in his bag, but he isn't tempted to go and get it. His immune system is pumping. He can feel healthy bacteria and white blood cells multiplying in his arteries. His blood is pure vitamin C. His feelings are only about 2% anxiety, which is a personal best. A few minutes ago, Bob clapped him on the back so hard he nearly fell over, and when Garry looked at him, wondering what was going to come next, Bob just made a fist and held it out to him.

'Good man,' he'd said, 'glad to have you on my team.'

Garry had slowly lifted his own fist and knocked it against Bob's, who had nodded. The words 'Good Man' and 'Team' glowed into all the dark places inside Garry and lit them up like a buzzing fluorescent sign.

He wiped his forehead on his sleeve and turned back to the barricade. He didn't wonder what it was all for. The music was a kind of rhythm that kept him working and filled him with special manly strength. He heard John scream, but only vaguely, and it didn't seem the kind of noise (a distinctly un-manly sound, Garry thought, thinking in the new Style of Bob) that he needed to worry about or pay any attention to. When Linda motioned for him to come away from the barricade and follow her into the children's part of the library, he left his post only reluctantly.

'You didn't finish your induction,' Linda says. She taps the roll of cling film against her arm, as if it was a baton or a baseball bat. Her hair has fallen out of its ribbon and is sticking to her damp cheeks. 'I take My Position as New Staff Mentor very seriously,' she explains quietly, 'even in The Present Circumstances. For example,' she says, 'I notice you've not had a break. You are legally entitled to a Lunch Break.'

Garry is about to tell Linda that he doesn't need a break, that the building itself is going to be food and water to him from now on, for the rest of his life, but Linda pushes him backwards and he falls into a soft bean-bag. The bean-bag is covered in a pattern of caterpillars reading books, and Garry has time to wonder if they are actually book worms, which would make sense, before Linda thrusts a large black hardback volume at him. It looks like a Bible.

'The Boss did most of this herself, although I have made a few additions when Circumstances Have Called for Them,' Linda says proudly. 'You need to have a lunch break, and you need to read this.'

Linda turns away, but she doesn't go far. She walks to a soft chair that looks like a throne, and starts pulling up the cushions and patting at the upholstery with the palms of her hands. After a few minutes, she pulls out a green bottle from under the seat, and ambles away. Garry takes his lunch out of his back-pack and opens the book.

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