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Monday, July 29


I’ve made some money and gone vegan.


We’ve been here for three weeks, but it wasn’t until this morning that I saw the horrors involved in this job.


In the postmodern era, horror is no longer a holocaust, it’s something far more personal and painstaking. I’ve reread some of my diary entries and get the impression horror is actually a metaphor for something else.


They picked me because I’ve had a driver’s license the longest. I was about to turn down the gig and send it all to hell when Élodie informed me drivers actually get paid for their time on the road, so I said yes (even though it was a day job, meaning, ten euros an hour instead of thirteen; we clocked in a six in the morning, just when the hourly rate was marked down, and clocked out at one in the afternoon). The category was le pulé and the subcategory—new to me—was la vaccination.


In the car I finally understood why everyone drives so fast. There were five of us: four complete strangers and me. None of the guys could come; la vaccination is considered a privilege (it’s several hours of work in a row) and I was just “ucky” they’d been short a driver. We were following two other cars. I lost sight of them pretty fast, but Élodie had the good sense to stick this guy called Michel in the car with me, and he knew the way. Michel is blond, but his skin is dark from working in the sun. He has the sort of craggy skin where every wrinkle is visible; this just makes him more beautiful. He is extremely tall and very strong and broad-shouldered. His head is small and he has blue eyes.


About five minutes in, I caught on to something obvious: transportation isn’t paid by the hour but by the kilometer, so it doesn’t make sense to drive at the speed limit, at least from a financial standpoint. I stepped on the gas. Ernesto’s mom’s car—read: one of Ernesto’s mom’s cars—is a Suzuki Swift, which is light and skids if you speed on the curves. The faster I drove that morning, the better I understood Fabrice and the rest of the guys: The life of an AST worker (I wonder how many ASTs there are in France, and in the rest of the world) consists of two things, sleeping badly and rounding up frightened animals. All other activities—sex, food, driving, whatever—have become secondary. This means that everything needs to last as little as possible, except for work (which will last however long it has to for maximal profit) and sleep (which never lasts long enough). Still—I may as well say it—I wouldn’t have minded dying that morning. It wasn’t long before we gained on the others and overtook them; in the end we had to wait a quarter hour for them to arrive at our destination.




Extract from Munir Hachemi’s Cosas vivas (Living Things)