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Wayne Dean-Richards

A father’s advice to a son sent to Coventry to build the Ring Road - 1958


A peppery sort

but with a good heart

the old man’s words came at him fast.


“Tell him your name

and don’t correct him if he mispronounces it:

bosses don’t like to be corrected.


“He’ll have nicotine stains on his fingers

but don’t stare:

bosses don’t like to be stared at.


“Whatever you do don’t listen to

Heartbreak Hotel before your interview:

that Elvis Presley will set you on the wrong road for sure!


“Wear a clean white shirt,

put creases in your trousers like razor blades and

don’t forget to shine your shoes.


“Stand up straight

and call him sir,

don’t speak unless you’re spoken to.


“If there’s a view of that new Cathedral they’re building

and the boss points to it,

be sure and say something nice about it.


“Your hands are made

to build roads like this ring road they want building:

so, make sure the boss sees them.


“If you get a chance

tell him you know

about building.


“If he asks,

the ratio of sand to cement

is 3 to 1.


“But make sure, son

for God’s sake:

that you don’t mention that other building you do!”


The old man’s words circled like crows,

and still I said

to the boss,


“Oh I’ve all sorts of building experience

including, just recently,

building a model Heinkel He 111.”


The boss’ nicotine-stained fingers tensed

and he said,

“You’ve apparently got a sense of humour, lad.”


From his window

was a view of

the old St Michael’s


a monument

to

madness.


The boss puffed on his Woodbine and said,

“But I like a lad with a sense of humour,

you start tomorrow.”