>We all worked down there, but I was the only one allowed to pull out the wire brush at the end of the night and poke around after those fucken critters who gave us our bad name. I’d feel the real satisfying pop of one of them shells cracking and I’d give myself a little smile, the kind I only let out when no one was around. I’d feel them little pieces of my soul returning as I worked by myself at night, the pieces that always fell away through the day. I’d get out the hose when I felt I’d finished, washing away all those little bodies, watching them spin like leftover crazy rubber ducks disappearing down a plughole. As I’d lock the warehouse, I’d know they’d just be all back tomorrow, same as ever.
We kept on with a good few legal battles—or at least the top brass did—trying to recoup our losses from the people what sold us the land, from the insecticide men—a whole fucken procession of them—as well as wholesalers who’d dropped out of contracts with us quick smart over when some fucker blabbed about the whole “Pyrrhocoris apterus” thing. ‘Course he didn’t call them that. He used what they call the common name, the one that gives anybody round here the willies. Firebugs.
Firebugs on account of their red colour, which isn’t even a hot red, more like an orange, with a black circle on their back like an evil eye staring back at you. What looks like fire is when they get in the machines and done get smashed up with all the cotton. We seen so many of these fucken bugs every day now it ain’t even an issue, but back when they was first arrived and no one knew what they were, it was like sparks from the fucken devil dotting all that sweet white. I remember standing on the classing floor when the first palette rolled in for the day and someone says somethin bout rust in the harvesters cause there’s all these little red dots but when we think to stop laughing and start looking we realise they’s all little creatures, all dead little creatures with legs n feelers n everything.
Now, course, those bugs are as common as mud. We set ourselves everyday to ignore them, pick them out, hope to hell that people gonna start liking cotton that’s got a tinge of fucken red in it. And there’s me, at the end of every day, working like I give a damn I don’t get payed extra, picking and flushen every last goddam one of them useless little cotton stainers from my machines. As if it’s ever gonna make goddam fucken difference. Amen to that. Amen to life.