A short story by Bob Collins (Stumpy)

Rogue was a character of a type that normal people rarely meet and never read about. Slight in stature and slim, his face was as long and thin as a knife edge. His features were not enhanced by severely crossed eyes one of which remained permanently open while the other blinked incessantly and seemed without direction.

He had a nervous twitch in his left cheek, his prominent front upper teeth beneath that thin hooked nose were as crossed and as yellow as his eyes. He walked with a jerky high kneed action which synchronised with his sharp elbow movement while his lower limbs appeared totally out of control, thus giving him “Pinocchio” like movement.

Rogue was employed as a sawmill cleaner, his tools of trade a large square mouthed shovel and a wheelbarrow, his job to keep the working floor and the machinery of the mill clear of bark and sawdust and waste pieces of wood.

But Rogue never seemed to do much at all. On rare occasions he could be seen shovelling debris into his half full barrow and sometimes he would wheel the full barrow out of the mill, but mostly he just stood around, leaning on his shovel beside his empty barrow, looking at both ends of the mill at once with those crossed eyes, chain smoking ‘Roll your own’ cigarettes.

The sawmill was a pretty efficient unit which never broke down and had a high productive output. The sawmill manager conceded that Rogue was “Neither use nor ornament,” but kept him on the payroll at a minimum rate, because “the poor devil would never get employment anywhere else, and that’s for sure.”

Rogue held the job year in year out, with never a change of pace. All this came to an end when Rogue purely by accident discovered the mill manager had recently raised the wage rate of a couple of new mill hands, so strutted up in his jerky gait to demand a pay rise for himself. The manager astounded at this first sign of rebellion from Rogue in ten years of employment, flatly refused to even entertain the idea of a rise in pay, pointing out in explanation, the man was already drawing a good wage for doing nothing much at all!

This opinion proved too much for a man of mana such as Rogue, who with remarkable politeness and dignity resigned from his job, to strut off with much jerking and twitching to the earth floored hovel down the valley, his ancestral home.

He then began to eek out a poor existence, living off the land and the dole. The sawmill manager, relieved to see the back of what he considered to be the sawmill’s worst asset, replaced Rogue with a strong young fellow to do the cleaning job. The young fellow worked manfully sweated profusely, dirtied his clothes and hands, exhausted himself but could not keep the mill as tidy as it once was.

The manager becoming a bit sour, put on a second young cleaner, but to no avail. Soon, the mill began to break down, sawdust clogged the underfloor conveyors, wood pieces jambed the chain sprockets, men complained of the debris underfoot making the workplace dangerous, production dropped, and dropped, and dropped. Finally, in desperation, the sawmill manager went down to the hovel, swallowed his pride, begged Rogue to return to work with the pay rise.

Still with his dignity intact Rogue returned to work reclaiming his shovel and wheel barrow from the exhausted young fellows. Two days later the sawmill manager stood on the catwalk above the sorting table where he could overview the whole mill interior. The mill was running like a sewing machine, production back to normal the men happy.

Near the centre of all the activity stood Rogue, leaning on his shovel beside his empty wheelbarrow, as usual doing nothing but smoking his “roll you owns” and with those cross eyes looking at both ends of the mill at once. The mill manager was thinking: “He’s still no ornament by heck, but I was wrong when I said he was no use, he’s worth his weight in gold, that Rogue!”