Another short prose piece, dealing with some old exploits of Ray Doyle, the narrator of my debut novel 'Stumbles and Half Slips', published by Epic Rites Press available from Amazon.com.
Stankevitch was probably the most xenophobic man I had ever met. Many people might have found that strange, given his name. He didn't know what ethnic origin he was though when I asked. He just said his name was "foreign, which is funny, 'cause I 'ate foreigners!" Then laugh with an exaggerated wheeziness, as if to demonstrate just how unhealthy he was and how proud he was of it.
He was probably no more stupid than anyone else in the place. Certainly, when it came to doing his job, which was making sure that all work was allocated properly, he was excellent. No one could complain about unfair treatment either, even the foreign workers.
Of course, there wasn't quite the same fuss about Muslims that there is now, not back then. All that kind of thing had settled down a bit, what with the E and that. Everyone seemed to get on in the yard, and Stankevitch probably contributed to that. He was good for morale, if not for improving conversation. He wore a vest in most weathers, showing off a badly inked and faded Union Jack tattoo on wiry, pale brown arms, tanned from years of unloading and loading trucks in all weathers.
And he never missed an opportunity to point out how stupid foreigners were, viewing the arrival of a shipment from abroad as a chance to laugh and mock at people who were not there. His wheezy delivery and simian face made him funny though, so everyone laughed.
But Stankevitch, though capable and competent, perhaps even kind, could never really be described as clever. He followed the rules and enforced them capably. He found thinking beyond the strictures placed on him by his worshipful boss comforting, they gave him safety and a kind of comfortable joy.
Anything out of the ordinary though tended to confuse him, as long as it was completely unrelated to work. Science in particular was a baffling thing he did not believe in. His fear and mistrust echoed the kind of thing parents feel when they learn that their adult daughter has joined a religious cult.
He was reading The Sun one day when he came across a report of an Unidentified Flying Object. There had been a series of lights in the sky over Somerset, and some cider drinkers were yakking in the paper about how they'd thought it was aliens.
Stankevitch's first reaction was, "How the bloody hell do they know it's UFOs. They can't prove that it's the aliens!"
Raj put him right.
"No mate, UFO just means Unidentified Flying Object. It means that they don't know what it is. Not that it's spacemen."
Stankevitch's tiny brown eyes looked up and down several times. He said,"Well, they can't be much good then if they don't even know that it's a UFO or not."
"But they have said it's a UFO," Raj replied. "But the fact that's Unidentified means that they can't classify it yet according to known phenomena."
There was a pause for several seconds. "Stupid pricks," said Stankevitch, "can't even work that out. What the fuck do we pay them for?"
Raj looked blank, his lips moving as he sought for words that weren't there. He genuinely didn't know what to say. Stankevitch slapped the paper shut and barked some commands. We got on with unloading two trucks that had pulled in that morning.
A couple of days later Stankevitch was doing some further research on the mysterious lights over Somerset. By reading The Sun again, he found that scientists had decided that they were caused by space debris. He announced this with great sarcasm and harshness of tone, his wheeze almost becoming a smoky bray as laughed.
"Ha ha fucking ha!" he said, "they call it space debris. That's just bloody shorthand for they don't what to call it. They don't know anything these scientists. I could have looked at the sky and said that. All that and they can't even identify it as a proper UFO. What do we pay them for?"
Then he slapped Raj matily on the back, as though he had just won an important but friendly debate. There was no answer any of us wanted to give him anyway. We all had work to do.