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Jeff polished his boot with care, just as his dad had shown him. 'Keep your head down, do your job and be reliable.' His dad had told him. 'You've got a nice little job here, no heavy lifting, no stress. Look after it.'
Jeff had looked after it for nearly fifty years. He had been the first in every morning, with his boots polished and his uniform pressed. He had always filled in on his day off for those that didn't show and who weren't looking after their jobs. He had always come in to cover holidays and sick days. He had worked 48 hours straight more than once, because some of the lads were not reliable and he always was.
Hetty had never understood that he needed to be reliable for his job. She had divorced him 1978, saying that she couldn't compete with a security guard's job. Julie had divorced him in 1994. Jeff had never understood that. She had said in the dating advert that she was looking for a reliable man. He was reliable. His bosses had relied on him for fifty years and he had never let them down. The kids were the same. He had always been there for them. When they were young he had always paid for holidays even though he didn't go with them, just in case. He had paid for his girls' weddings and he had paid for the suits when the lads got married. He'd helped with the girl's house deposits and he had bought the lads their first car. He hardly saw them these days.
Jeff picked up the second boot and started laying on the polish, brushing it off. One of the lads had turned up in trainers last week. How were they going to manage. He knew everything about the firm, all its history, all the gossip. He remembered the boss's grandfather doing the rounds, just like young Mr Delaney did now. They had always been able to rely on him, and he had been able to rely on them. It was the current boss's grandfather who had found him somewhere to sleep when Hetty threw him out. It was the current boss's father who had put him on to the little garage where he had got the reliable first cars for his lads. They had always been there for him and the firm were putting on a slap up dinner tonight, everything paid for.
Jeff glanced up at the clock. He had not been late in fifty years and he was not going to be late on his last day. He carefully put the boot down on the newspaper on the table. His uniform was pressed and brushed, just the same as always and he had his lunch packed ready. Now all he had to do was not think about who he was going to be reliable for tomorrow.