Keith Landrum, 3/18/2019

Current Occupation: Design Manager
Former Occupation: Machine Operator
Contact Information:  Keith Landrum paints, writes, works, and drinks in Chattanooga, TN.

 

#

Monday
 
we put our heads together
and smelled each other's bad breath
 
and together
we said
 
in unison
 
death is so
ruthlessly efficient
 
and then
we went back
to work
 
 

Dawn Corrigan, 3/11/2019

Current Occupation: Program Manager in the Housing industry
Former Occupation(s): Editor, Tech Writer, Tech Support Manager, Administrative Assistant, Web Content Writer, Researcher, Customer Support Specialist, New Media Specialist, Operations Manager
Contact Information: Dawn Corrigan's debut novel, an environmental mystery called Mitigating Circumstances was published by Five Star/Cengage in January 2014. She recently finished, and is currently shopping, The Nose Inside the Beehive, a family saga about the economic rise and fall of an immigrant family, following the expansion and contraction of the American middle class. She lives in the Myrtle Grove neighborhood of Pensacola with her husband.

#

Notable Government Employees in Fiction*

 

Charon (Classical mythology)

Works 24/7. Never discriminates on basis of race, color, disability, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Hasn’t raised ticket prices in 2,619 years.

 

Soviet Militia (The Master and Margarita)

Ask helpful questions like, “What’s the trouble, citizens?” Restore order without resorting to violence. Clean up messes created by Satan and his retinue. Portrayed as less oppressive than both secret police of Roman Empire and literary establishment of Moscow.

 

Winston Smith and Julia (Nineteen Eighty-Four)

Use love and intimacy to fight repressive regime. Know 2 + 2 = 4. Endure months of torture without breaking. Draw very reasonable line at having rats eat face.

 

Juno (Beetlejuice)

Case worker for most vulnerable of populations: the recently deceased. Wrote definitive handbook for dealing with death. Mentors a high school football team. Chain smokes at her desk.

 

Lieu (Law & Order)

Tough but fair. Cracks glass ceiling; fights discrimination in workplace. Prohibits excessive force and perjury on her team. Uncovers fraudulent practices, even at risk of own reputation.

 

Agents J and K (Men in Black)

Help migrants and refugees assimilate in new home. Never blame larger community of immigrants for bad behavior of few. Willing to be swallowed whole by bug in line of duty.

 

Bob Ogden (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)

Dismissive of pointless class distinctions. Protects young woman from abusive brother and father. Champion of ordinary folk facing those who wish to abuse power.

 

Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation)

Loves job and community. Believes government serves the people; therefore called optimist. Fosters teamwork. Runs for office. Invented a holiday. Compliment game strong.

 

My Coworkers

*Except for my coworkers, who are hard-working, helpful, reasonable, funny, fair, brave, protective, idealistic, and very real.

 

 

Lani Cox, 3/4/2019

Current Occupation: English Teacher in Thailand
Former Occupations: Pizza maker, Archaeologist, Waldorf teacher, and many office jobs from bookkeeper to receptionist for various businesses such as a purveyor of fine meats, a nonprofit Internet service provider, and a company that shipped large animals around the world.
Contact Information: Lani wrote a book that about ten people were interested in reading, but she wrote it anyway. the missing teacher is about getting fired when you want to fit in, and getting back up when you’d rather stay down. The audio version in on Gumroad.
 
#
Office Work Poem
 

Vampire

Succubus

Leech

 

Drain

 

My

 

Soul

 

Stab

 

Me

 

Repeatedly

 

Drain

 

Me

 

Of creativity

 

Living undead

Paper pusher

 

Lie back in my coffin

Clock watcher

 

Best years of my life

Best years of my life

Best years of my life

My life

 

The meetings

Meetings of mindlessness

Meaningless meetings

A puddle of saliva hits my arm

 

The tomb

Is cold

 

It's Halloween every day

 

It's office work

 

 

 

 



 

Kim Ann, 2/25/2019

Current Occupation: Call Center Representative.
Former Occupation: Credit Representative and a Tax Representative.
Contact Information: Kim Ann lives in Northern Nevada with her family. She has had good jobs in the past. Kim has been published in Reno News & Review and  Sparks Tribune and online at BLUNTmoms, StyleThrive, Twisted Sister Lit Mag, Mad Swirl, and Peeking Cat Poetry.

 

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The Tune of Work

Timidly, to the one Human Resources Representative the small call center employs, I advise of the man on the other side of me singing and using his desk as a drum for the past two hours. I mention he actually has been doing it for over a year but he never sat so close to me before.

I ask if I am being unreasonable. She replied that it's my reality.

I notice she offers no resolution so I ask if I can tell him to stop. She said I can if I am comfortable in doing so. Does she not realize that is why I came to her? My rationale thought she would send out a memo stating that we are at work not home and professional behavior is a must. I guess karaoke is professional.

Of course I am not comfortable and I now know I'm not getting any assistance. Highly disappointed, I go back to my desk. The drumming continues and actually shakes my tiny desk. I huff and puff trying to alert the singing co-worker but if he gets the hint, he could care less.

I brainstorm and head back to HR. I ask if I can move my computer and phone. The call center forbids any personal items so I have no plants or pens to box up to move. She gives me permission.  In five minutes, I'm now a row away from the loud singer.

It helps my desk from shaking but not my ears. This dude is loud and does sound effects.

The director stops at my new location and asks me if I didn't like my old spot. I whisper that the guy sings and drums. She smiles, nods, and moves on. What?!

HR is on her way to a smoke break and I frantically wave her over. She kneels down and I tell her to listen. She says yes that would annoy her.

I take a break myself and while I'm in the lunch room, a supervisor approaches me. I know it's about my complaint so I worry. He asks if I would like to move to the back of the room so I'm comfortable. While it's a gesture and I agree, I'm still in shock that the singing is allowed to continue and I'm the one to sacrifice.










 

Ron Singer, 2/18/2019

Current Occupation: Self-employed writer and volunteer for New Sanctuary Coalition.
Former Occupation: teacher
Your Short Biographical Statement: Ron Singer (www.ronsinger.net) is both a New-York City lifer and citizen of the world. That is, he has lived. worked and travelled in various parts of the U.S., and beyond. Among his publications that reflect this dual allegiance are A Voice for My Grandmother/Betty & Estelle, a memoir about his immigrant grandparents; Look to Mountains, Look to Sea, a collection of poems about Maine; many poems, essays, and stories in magazines across the English-speaking world; and Uhuru Revisited: Interviews with African Pro-Democracy Leaders.

 

#

 
 
Bellhop, Nevele Hotel, Ellenville, N.Y. 1956-60 (summers).
 
A paper route paid for my saxophone.
(My parents sprang for the violin.)
The route also forestalled college loans.
But my dad did the math (depend on him!)
and, declaring I needed a “real” job,
pulled strings at a hotel, a den of sin.
My roommate was George Ramos, the barber,
a toothless old man, and Playboy addict.
If my mother only knew, god bless her!
George’s son was a bellhop and hipster,
also no teeth. There were twelve of us,
working in fours: three eight-hour shifts.
My protector was the giant, Les,
who could hoist four cases at a time
–four packed, full-sized suitcases, that is.
“How tall is that guy?” The joke was prime.
“About six-five, or six-six, mo’ or less.”
Les stooped, from shame, or from a curved spine.
Unflappably affable, the best-
natured bellhop, the kindest by far,
unlike us other jokers and pests,
Les consoled me once. Loading a car,
a fur I had dropped lay in the dust.
“No problem,” he winked, “they’re still in the bar.”
I can hardly leave the Nevele
without mentioning its other ghosts:
glass washers, gardeners, and now that he’s toast,
sporting a loud vest, the waddling Em-Cee.
#
English/Squash Teacher, New York, N.Y. 1974-2008
 
A teacher, jusqu’au bout des fingernails,
this logo-meister, this master of words,
spouted for fifty years, a language whale.
Through classroom walls, Stentor’s voice could be heard
(though he used neither mike nor megaphone).
“ ‘Dative’? No! Front-leaning rest position!”
the former M.P. would bark. “You moron!”
He’d also bark at himself  –“Fat old man!”–
when he became too slow to reach a shot
on the squash court. We played thirty-some years,
my mentor and I, knowledge sweetly bought.
His idiom, profane, his thinking, pure,
to our weak pablum culture, a shock cure.
“You slackers will pay. Of that, rest assured!”

Lea Baker, 2/11/2019

Current Occupation: Writing Instructor
Former Occupations: Nanny, Physical Therapy Technician, Lights and Sound Technician, Box Office Attendant, Student
Contact Information: Lea Baker is a fiction writer and educator from California. Her writing is often inspired by the many jobs she has filled on the way to becoming a teacher. Baker’s previous publications have appeared in Fiction International and O-Dark-Thirty.

 

#

Company Downsizing

 

    Oblivion has a cafe owned by a woman named Jane.

    John ended up in oblivion the day he was laid off from his job working on the centrifuge.

    “Too costly,” the supervisor said. He had meant to comfort John, but it didn’t work.

    John missed the bus home and wandered into space. Eventually he found himself at Jane’s counter.

    “What can I get you?”

    “Nothing. Coffee I suppose.”

    Oblivion can be disorienting, which is why John looked around, unsure.

    Others sat at tables with low hanging Coca Cola light fixtures and some stooped on stools along the counter. Everyone sat alone, head down, hands clasped on the surface in front of them.

    “Here you go, hon.”

    The coffee was poured. John bowed his head before the ceramic mug.

    His once busy world was now one long red counter, swivel seats, and checkered floor tiles.

 

 

 

Vincent Casaregola, 2/4/2019

Current Occupation: College Teacher
Former Occupation(s): Fast Food Worker, Library Worker, Factory Worker, Retail Sales Worker, Government Worker, Tech Writer, Marketing Writer, High School Teacher,
Contact Information: Vincent Casaregola teaches Literature, Writing, and Film at Saint Louis University.  He has been teaching in high school or college, at different institutions, for over thirty years.  He has published poetry in a number of places, but he is still trying to publish a book-length collection.

 

#

The Right Ingredients
 
[Transcription from an actual job interview conversation overheard in the coffee shop.]
 
“The question is—
do you have the right ingredients? 
That’s what they care about.
 
“Because when they get you,
they’re going to take you
and pour you into this mold,
and turn you into
this amazing selling machine
that’s going to make
an enormous amount of money. 
 
“But the question is—
do you have the right ingredients?”

Meghan Louise Wagner, 1/28/2019

Current Occupation: Chef/Student
Former Occupation: Office Temp
Contact Information: Meghan Louise Wagner is a fiction writer and professional chef from Cleveland, OH. She is currently pursuing an MFA in creative writing from Cleveland State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Umbrella Factory Magazine, Literally Stories, and Flash Fiction Magazine.

 

#

Brokers

Adam got pranked first. I heard him through the thin wall that separated our cubicles. “Hi,” he said, “I’m looking for Mariah.”


        I didn’t think anything of it until the broker behind me kicked the back of my chair and spun me around. I saw planes take off from John Wayne as he pulled my chair along the windows like I was a little kid in a shopping cart. He parked me next to another assistant, a skinny smoke eyed girl who wore white blouses and red pumps. The broker driving her chair looked like a guy who might flip houses on HGTV.


        The other brokers pushed their chairs from their desks so a semi-circle formed around that side of the office. Adam remained oblivious. “Sorry, I mean, Myra,” he said. “Is Myra there?”


        He thumped his fingers against the desk. “Her name,” he said, “is Myra.” He thumped again. “Myra Mains.”


        The pressure popped and the brokers squealed. The fifties something guy with frosted tips and Elvis Costello glasses got close enough to jab his elbow into my arm. The fat guy who always smelled like cigarettes and peroxide kept his hand on my shoulder.


        Adam hung up the phone and pushed himself away from the desk. He waved a lead in his hand like it was a paper fan and said, “that was a funeral parlor. They never heard of the chick.”


        Two days later, the broker with the frosted tips dropped a stack of leads on my desk. “Just got those in,” he said. “It’s your lucky day.” He smiled at me longer than I liked. I wasn’t hot enough to get hit on by the cute brokers like the girl with the smoke eyes.


        Most people I called didn’t answer. Wasn’t difficult to spend an hour calling names without talking to a single precise human being. “Is Oliver there?” I asked.


        “Oliver was my dad,” a female voice said, spraying verbal mustard gas through my headset. “You people are monsters.”


        A quarter of the way through the stack, I got another Oliver. Probably another wrong one. “Hi,” I said, watching lines of exhaust trail behind 747s. “Is Oliver there?”


        “Oliver who?” said the person, also irate and female.


        I looked at the lead. It was printed in the same format as all the others. “Oliver Kloughsoff,” I said, tapping my phone against the edge of my cubicle and looking up at MSNBC on the flat screen tv.


        “This is a strip club,” she said, “dumb bitch.”


        It clicked in my head right before I heard the smirks. Hands patted my shoulders and roamed my back. Grown men giggled between cubicles. Snickers turned to riotous guffaws. One hand lingered longer than I liked and burned into my arm like a capsaicin patch.


        I glanced past the partition and saw Adam lean back in his chair. He was the only one looking out the window at the planes swirling above John Wayne.


        “I’m so sorry,” I said to the woman through the headset. Men laughed behind me and I tried to keep a straight face. “I’m so sorry for the mistake.”

Thomas O. Davenport, 1/21/2019

Current Occupation: Independent consultant and writer
Former Occupation: Consultant
Contact Information: Tom is a poet and independent business advisor living in San Francisco. He spent 32 years as a human resource consultant for a global consulting organization. He has written three business books and many serious articles and now writes sardonic verse, much of it commenting on business practices he observed (and helped create) and on social phenomena that amuse and bemuse him. You can read his writings (verse and other) at http://www.worklodes.com.

 

#

 

Robots and Fossils
Our robots are a boon, this we believe
They willingly do tasks we can’t abide
From drudgery and toil they give relief
By taking on what tarnishes our pride
They do just what they’re told – they’re businesslike
We’ve come to count on them, production-wise
They never file complaints or go on strike
No robot ever thought to unionize
With AI brains their talents are profuse
From building boats to authoring essays
The latest kitchen models reproduce
Chef Paolo’s pesto, chef Bertrand’s béarnaise
Will robots render humans obsolete
Removing all work’s value from our lives
Then leaving us outmoded and effete
Mere fossils who don’t know we’re fossilized?
We’ve been seduced by all that they perform
Machine ubiquity we can’t avoid
They’ll work and leisure will become our norm
Another word we’ll use is “unemployed”
 
#
Menagerie
I work in a menagerie, a big safari park
We’re just a bunch of animals, a modern Noah’s ark
The CEO’s a pachyderm – he’s an imposing sight
The CFO, a small gray squirrel, hides nuts just out of sight
The HR guy’s a teddy bear, the warm and fuzzy type
A peacock heads our marketing, a specialist in hype
Our sales VP is like a hawk – intense, a bit high strung
Our legal head’s a sneaky snake – you’ll see his forkéd tongue
And me, I’m just a rodent, just a furry little ball
A racing rat, a hamster wheel’d, a mazed mouse brown and small
My plans, it’s true, go oft astray – I’m trivial, it seems
But though I am diminutive, don’t think I have no dreams
For while my role is minor – I just gather bits of cheese –
If I should fail, the others fall, they crumble to their knees
A circled life is what we live within this corporate herd
Each one depends up on the other – mammal, reptile, bird
And mice are great at one more thing – forgive my arrogance
Despite our size (perhaps because?), we frighten elephants
 
 

Bradford Middleton, 1/14/2019

Current Occupation:  Low-grade sales assistant for big supermarket company.


Former Occupation: Student, Music PR, writer, admin serf.


Contact Information: Bradford Middleton lives in Brighton on England's south coast.  When he isn't writing stories and poems he can often be found on the check-out at a local supermarket.  For more from him follow @beatnikbraduk on Twitter.

 

#

WORK IS KILLING ME
The times at work grow hard
As hard as the veins clogging up my heart
For which a donation tin has been placed
Next to the checkouts where it appears
Where I can always be found,
Working, taking other people's money
As I never have any of my own,
Spending money on things I shall never
Be able to afford for a company who
To put it bluntly pay me a pittance.
The worst thing at the moment though is
Beyond any shadow of doubt the thieving
Bastards who treat our shop as their own
One-stop shop always leaving with armfuls
Having never paid a penny.   They come in,
Some more than once a day, and take what
They want, leaving me feeling angry
Frustrated to my soul as I can't even afford
The stuff they steal.  My boss tells me
Don't stress it, just let them take what they want
It's not your responsibility.  This makes me
Think to myself, if it ain't mine whose it is?
Of course the answer to that tells you all you
Need to know, it's his problem, his responsibility
And from where I stand he don't care which
Makes me even angrier until something happened
Two weeks ago now I was stood on the check-out
As usual and the good shoppers were lining up
Waiting to pay when I spotted the latest in a long
Line come in, help themselves, and leave.  I
Felt my heart begin to hurt and I could do nothing
But grab my chest whilst my free hand moved in
Hoping for the best.  The next time it happened
Though it really freaked me out, especially once
I remembered the amount of men in my family who'd
Died or just, barely, survived problems with their heart.
Two days later I was signed off for a week and now
All I want is to get out, go anywhere else just to keep
The slow influx of money coming on in as I can't
Bring myself to go back, not to that place that has
Now left me almost knowing it's killing me.  No job is
Worth that, least of all one that pays barely minimum-wage
On part-time hours and clearly doesn't give two shits
About the well-being of its staff begging them to work
Their way to an early grave, so fuck them sign me off
Until I can get out, a transfer already set in motion.
 
#
FESTERING IN MY HEART
Another day back at the shit tip called work
First one back since being signed off with an extreme case
Chest pains and thoughts of heart disease
When my boss turns to me upon my arrival
Got to do your return to work, he says to me
And I know this is my chance.
An hour later he calls me down and we begin
To talk, talk, talk
All he wants me to do is get back on with my work
But I have other plans, plans to escape
Plans to fuck him over just to show him up
As the stupid damn fool who got me in this
Situation in the first place.
"Was your sickness due to work?" he asks
To which my reply is easy, "Yes," I say
"About 90%" and he gets on a speech about
Responsibility and doing it the right way
Which I guess means me leaving without
Making any enemies.
But as we round things up I suggest a radical
Plan, something I should have done at least a
Month ago.
"I just want to do my contract hours from now on"
I tell him as he turns away to scan the CCTV to
No doubt watch another shoplifter in progress.
There is no response but I know I got it out there
And then it was time to go back to work, back to
The check-outs, cursing my god damn luck at being
Here now.
The next time I go in a new weekly schedule has gone
Up and as I flick through the pages I finally come to mine
And I can't believe my eyes.  After all I'd said
He's scheduled me for 33 hours, twice what I'm due
Believing this is a ploy to get me to lose my shit or
Simple confirmation he's the worst boss I've ever known.
So I get on the check-out again and begin writing furiously
Line after line, page after page, telling our new boss
Who I still think don't know my name, about my plan and
How his underling has fucked me up with too many hours
And how from this moment on I'm doing only my contract
Hours, bringing the moment of truth into sharp focus.
8pm Wednesday and that's it, I'm done and I'll leave and head
Straight to my dealers to sooth the rage that festers in my heart.
 
 
#
ANOTHER DAY AT WORK
Just a short walk down the road and life
Has changed, changed so much for the better
As the work comes easily and a nine-hour
Shift, just like today, passes in the blink of
An eye…
The customers, my colleagues are all so
Friendly, how will I ever write a poem
About struggling through a meagre four-
Hour shift just like I used to do, I don't
Know and in all honesty I don't care
Cos life right now couldn't really be better
I just wish I had more time to
Drink, write, smoke and go mad at the
Thought that tomorrow I got more work
Driving me ever closer to death's door.

Adina Ferguson, 1/7/2019

Current Occupation: writer w/ a day job in higher ed administration
Former Occupation: same as above
Contact Information: Adina Ferguson is a proud DC native, and the author of the essay collection, I Don’t Want to be Your Bridesmaid. Her work has been published in Nia Magazine, Soar, The Avenue, The Underemployed Life and more. You can find her at www.adinathewriter.com, on IG @adinathewriter, or on the couch watching Martin reruns.

#

How to Use a Vacuum Cleaner in a Fishbowl

Step1: Spot black bug on cream-colored wall next to your desk.

Step 2: Stare at it until co-worker carefully examines and determines, “Umm, that’s a roach.”

Step 3: Grab newspaper from recycle bin and smush bug to death.

Step 4: Watch it slide down the wall in slow motion.

Step 5: Jump back.

Step 6: Guide roach down onto ugly brown patterned carpet with the newspaper.

Step 7: Lose sight of it and stare at the carpet like it’s an ink blot.

Step 8: Lose hope.

Step 9: Watch as same co-worker immediately finds bug and points.

Step 10: Ask, “Where? I don’t see it.”

Step 11: Watch him point harder.

Step 12: Lose more hope.

Step 13: Bend down and locate the enemy.

Step 14: Attempt to scoop it into the newspaper.

Step 15: Fail.

Step 16: Hear office door open and feel a force stare at you.

Step 17: Have an out-of-body encounter and watch things unfold.

Step 18: Listen to the force as it speaks. “So, you’re just going to leave it on the floor?”

Step 19: Respond with a matter-of-factly, Yes”.

Step 20: Feel guilty, feel stupid, feel like this isn’t your damn house.

Step 21: Obey the force’s command and get dusty vacuum cleaner from the closet.

Step 22: Search for power button for what feels like forever.

Step 23: Watch as snooty force finds button that was right in your face.

Step 24: Roll your eyes as force asks, “What did you get your degree in?”

Step 25: Proudly remind the room, “English”.

Step 26: Suck roach into vacuum, return it to closet, wash and dry hands.

Step 27: Sit ass back down and ask for a raise (in your head).

 

#

 An Unfortunate Tuesday in the Registrar’s Office   

“I’m Being charged for something and I want to know why.”

“Have you been in touch with the Bursar’s Office?”

“Yes, and they transferred me to you.”

“How much is it for?”

“$65.”

“What’s your ID number?”

Student recites number.

“It’s for an application fee.”

“Why am I being charged if I’m not taking classes?!”

“That doesn’t matter. Anyone who submits an application is charged the fee.”

“But I’m not enrolled.”

Internal sigh.

“They have to review your application. That’s the first step. I can transfer you to Admissions if you like. They assess the app fee.

“Yes, please.”