4) The Collector by Peter Winy.


4 Fast food
Half an hour later. The police car isn't here now. And it isn't raining. It's afternoon. I'm hungry. Where can I get some food? There's a restaurant near the supermarket. It has big red and yellow signs outside. They say 'Fast Food'. Maybe I can get some food there.
The restaurant is expensive. Well, it's expensive for me. It sells hamburgers. I need to be careful about twentieth-century food. Maybe I can't eat hamburgers. My arm is still hurting from the vaccinations, but the vaccinations don't work for bad food. Usually you don't eat in the twentieth century. My two one-pound coins are in my hand. I need £1.79 for tomorrow. What can I buy for twenty-one pence? The menu is short. Hamburger, cheeseburger, egg and cheeseburger, chips, tea, coffee, chocolate milkshake, cola, milk, ice-cream. There's nothing for twenty-one pence. Well, there's ketchup for ten pence. But I can't eat only ketchup! There's a small sign in the window.

$ 4.00 PER HOUR

Four pounds for one hour! That's fantastic! Maybe I can work for one or two hours. Then I can buy some chips - a lot of chips. Chips and ketchup and ice-cream! And tomorrow I can buy two packets of cornflakes, or maybe three! I walk into the restaurant. There's a young woman near the door. She's wearing a white coat. There's ketchup on the coat ... and chocolate milkshake and tea. There's a sign on her coat, too. It says, 'Linda. Manager'.
Me Excuse me. Are you Linda Manager?
Linda Well, my name's Linda, and I'm the manager. Can I help you?
Me Yes. I want a job. And four pounds an hour. I can work for two hours or maybe three.
Linda You? You're not a table cleaner! Not in that suit!
I look down at my suit. Maybe an expensive suit isn't the right thing for 1993.
Me I can clean tables very well.
Linda But the job's for a week. Four pounds an hour. Thirty-five hours a week. That's ?140. We need a table cleaner for a week ... not for two or three hours. A week! In this cold, dirty country! How can they live here?
Linda But we are busy today ... do you want two hours' work?
Me Oh, yes, please! Very much!
Linda OK. Come and get a coat.
We go into a small room. There are a lot of white coats. I take my jacket off, and I put it on a chair. I put on a white coat. It isn't very clean. There's ketchup and milkshake and some egg and hamburger on it.
Linda You put the dirty things in there, and clean the tables. That's all.
The first table is very dirty. There are some dirty paper cups, and there's some tea and coffee and sugar and ketchup on the table. There's something under my shoe. It's a chip. I'm cleaning the table very carefully.
Linda What are you doing?
Me I'm cleaning the table. It's hard work.
Linda Just take the dirty things off the table and clean it quickly. Like this!
Me  It isn't very clean.
Linda It's OK!
I put the dirty things in black bags. It's strange. Some of the things are very expensive at home. There are packets and cups with pictures. I put one ketchup packet in my pocket. I work for two hours. Linda isn't happy with me.
Linda You can go. We aren't very busy now. Here's five pounds.
Me The sign says, 'four pounds an hour'.
Linda That's for a week. Then you pay tax and insurance and everything. Five pounds is all I'm going to pay you. And you can have a hamburger.
We're in the small room. It's Linda's office. Linda is giving me a blue banknote. A banknote! I take the dirty white coat off.
Me Where's my jacket? It isn't on the chair.
Linda No, it isn't. Anyone can come in here. And it's an expensive jacket. It's in the cupboard. It's over there. I go to the cupboard and open it. I take my jacket, and put it on. Linda is watching me.
Linda OK. You can go and get a hamburger.
Me  Can I have chips, too? Linda All right. Chips, too.