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Excerpt from Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen

Factory Girls

by Michelle Gallen
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Mary picked up a form and glared at it as if it was filthy with sin. "This is an equal opportunities form. Ye're required to fill it in but ye can rest assured it's anonymous and confidential. No one'll ever know what you've put down." She grabbed another, longer form. "These are the factory forms. They'll give us the measure of ye." She pinioned the forms to a clipboard that she passed to Maeve. "Ah'm away out fer a cuppa tay. Get them done before ah'm back."

Maeve read the equal opportunities questions regarding sex, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation and ticked the "Male," "Black," "Jewish" and "Lesbian" boxes. Then she wrote her name, address, age, marital status, number of kids and next of kin on the factory forms, creating the sort of dossier that she knew paramilitaries often battered office workers to get hold of. "That's it!" she said, tossing her clipboard onto Mary's desk. "That's me signed up as a factory girl."

"Me, too," Aoife said, gently placing her clipboard on top of Maeve's. "Though it's just for the summer. We'll be university students by September, won't we?"

Maeve's breath caught in her chest. She wasn't sure that she'd become a proper student; that she'd swap the town for London and escape the dole for a career as a journalist. Only the high grey factory walls felt real.

Mary slapped back into the room in her Scholls, clutching a mug of tea so strong Maeve could smell it over the reek of stale fags. "Are yeez done?"

Caroline — "Female," "White," "Roman Catholic" and "Heterosexual" — placed her clipboard on the table.

"Right," Mary said, collapsing into her seat. "Yeez'll work a forty-hour week over four days."

Maeve remembered her da working five-day weeks when he was in the pig factory. Great pay he'd got for that. But the fifty hours of work on top of ten hours sat packed into a smoky factory bus morning and evening eventually took its toll. She was glad she'd only be working over the road from home, doing a short week in a factory that didn't have enough work stacked up to sustain a full week.

"Clock in's on the dot of eight each morning," Mary continued. "Clock out's at half six. Ye'll get a fifteen-minute break morning and afternoon. Lunch's half an hour. Yer basic wage is seventy quid a week."

All the chat of clocks and hours and breaks and bells did frig all for Maeve. But the mention of money put a firework up her arse. Seventy quid, week in, week out, for the thirteen weeks between now and the day she'd move to London. She pictured the CDs, clothes and books she'd be able to buy. She tried not to count how many days the same money'd buy her in London.

"Overtime's by arrangement only — ye'll get nothing extra for hanging your arse over the toilet after the last bell. I work out yer wages and bonus on Thursday evening. Youse come in Friday morning tae lift yer checks. Any questions?"

Maeve waited for Aoife to pipe up. Aoife always piped up.

"What'll we be doing?"

"Well, ye were born yesterday if ye don't know we make shirts," Mary said. "Andy decides who does what. Anything else?" She glared, daring them to speak. "Well, if youse are done ye can head on and let me finish my tay in peace."

They chorused, "Thanks a million," and left.

As Maeve walked through the factory gates arm in arm with Caroline and Aoife, she got the feeling Andy was watching them from behind the blinds of his office window. And she liked that.

Excerpted from Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen. Copyright © 2022 by Michelle Gallen. Excerpted by permission of Algonquin Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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