"Man's Work": Martin Acland is a vegetarian. His father is a butcher. Every morning, Martin listens to his father's morning routine beginning, and thinks with some disgust that his father's cheerfulness must mean that today will be another killing day. Archie Acland heads in to work and makes a
- 'Strewth, Chap -- Looks like you need a steak for that shiner.
Appearing in "Man's Work"
- Archibald Acland
- Mrs. Acland
Synopsis for "Man's Work"
Martin Acland is a vegetarian. His father is a butcher. Every morning, Martin listens to his father's morning routine beginning, and thinks with some disgust that his father's cheerfulness must mean that today will be another killing day. Archie Acland heads in to work and makes a large cut of meat. He brings it home to his wife and orders her to cook it up for their son. He warns that if Martin complains about the meat, he will beat him - birthday or not.
Martin feebly refuses to eat the meat, as his father smears the steak against his face. Weakly, his mother protests, and Archie blames her for their son's failings. He warns that today, Martin will be coming to the slaughter house with him, as its time he learned to do a man's work.
Elsewhere, Marj and Mercury's van has broken down next to a wildlife preserve, and they have enlisted John Constantine to help repair it. Underneath the van, John and Marj argue about the proper way to fix the machine, as Mercury sneaks over the nearby fence. It was she who brought them there, despite John's complaints that there is nothing in East Anglia but sugarbeet and U.S. air-bases. Inwardly, she regrets having tried to push John toward his fear as she had. His demeanour had improved after some time on the road.
Hope had led Mercury to this place - this place of nature. However, she feels too exposed in the open, and realizes that someone's watching her. She sneaks around, and catches Martin Acland peaking through the bushes with his binoculars. She takes him by surprise, but they are trusting of one another. He explains that the binoculars were a birthday present from his mother. The black eye he is sporting is a present from his father. Borrowing the binoculars for a moment, Mercury realizes that John and Marj are looking for her at the van. Smiling, she invites Martin to join her at the van for a bit, and see if she can do anything to help his eye.
With Martin's arrival at the van, Marj finds it hard to mask her frustration at the arrival of yet another stray. Even so, when she and John see the way Mercury treats Martin's eye, John comments that the girl's instincts are probably not wrong.
Outside, Martin explains that he doesn't leave home because he's afraid to leave his mother with his father. Unfortunately, Martin's father arrives soon after in his truck, and beckons his son away. He is disgusted with his son's having taken up with apparent peaceniks, and drags Martin into the cab. John tries to intervene, but Archie sets his big dog to growling threateningly at them, and John steps back. As the butcher drives off, Mercury's words make it clear that she has something of a crush on Martin, and Marj worries about what kind of trouble that will mean for them. Marj tries to talk it out with her daughter, but Mercury is determined to stay and wait for Martin to come back. Marj and John need to go into town for a new part for the van, and Marj thinks her daughter should come too. John suggests that they leave it up to Mercury as to what she does.
Archie takes Martin to the place where he slaughters his pigs, introducing him to his friends. Martin believes that the squeals of the pigs in the truck are cries of fear, like they can sense their own death coming. His mind drifts to Mercury, when he realizes that, for the first time, he is able to think of somewhere he'd rather be than here. He obeys the commands he's given, knowing that the pigs will be killed either way. However, when the truck is backed up to the barn, he opens up the wrong end of the truck, and the pigs escape into the yard.
Mercury still has Martin's binoculars. She wonders how she can feel so infatuated with Martin, given that his father is mad. Even so, she senses that he is the reason she brought her family there. He is the thing that is trapped that needs freeing. She wanders out into a nearby field with the binoculars and uses them to see as far as the slaughter house, where she can see Martin watching in horror while Archie and his friends mistreat the doomed pigs. She promises to help him, and runs toward them.
Angry at Martin's attempt to thwart the slaughter, Archie tosses his son into the pen with the pigs, claiming that if the boy loves them so much, he should be treated like one. Martin squirms through the stressed pigs to the corner of the pen as his father hangs the first pig by its feet and slices its neck open. The other pigs are as desperate as he is to be away from his father and his father's knife.
- The van's name "Heart of Gold" is a reference to the spaceship of the same name from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
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