Current Occupation: Writer, Editor, Wordpool Press, Activities Assistant for a retirement community, Owner, “Putting the Funk in Junk”- Antiques, vintage, painted furniture.
Former Occupation: Adjunct Faculty Member
Contact Information: Colleen Wells’ work has appeared most recently in The Ryder Magazine, The Voices Project, and Workzine. She has an essay forthcoming in An Inkslinger’s Observance. Wells is the author of Dinner with Doppelgangers – A True Story of Madness & Recovery and editor of One in Four – a collection of student narratives about mental illness and a collection of elder poetry called Dirty Birds – These are our Words.  She believes a bad day can get better with a pen, paintbrush, and some beads, or by watching vintage Saturday Night Live skits.

 

#

Bread

Normally I drive the fourteen-seat bus on our grocery outings, but the brakes are failing so today I am taking the retirement home residents in the mini-van. Bi-Lo is our destination. It’s a store in close proximity so we can take multiple trips to accommodate all of them if needed. Usually we visit Kroger which is a longer drive. In a lot of ways, the elderly people I work with in our small South Carolina town are like school children. For example, they can struggle with changes in their daily routines.

A small group of them gather on the long southern porch flanked with white columns several minutes before it’s time to go. They check their watches and scout around. Typically I drop ten of them off to shop for an hour and they line up at the bus when finished. There can be as many as thirty paper bags to mark with names and room numbers. Getting them buckled in safely and making space for the bags amongst walkers, canes, and motorized wheelchairs is a chore. The trip today will be a cinch. 

 

One of the perks of the grocery trip is picking up a few things for myself while the citizens of our retirement community shop.

I am ringing up my groceries at the automated check-out area when Ms. Lentz, pushes her cart to the teller behind me. She has never used the automatic check-out. I pause in my own transaction to assist her at the station next to me. As soon as I swipe her bread across the scanner she yells, “God-Dammit!” Her hands clench into fists, her face turns tomato red. Ms. Lentz’s white hair is rolled at the top like Nurse Ratchet in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She shakes her hair and glasses askew. A tiny woman with stooped shoulders, as she rages at the ceiling while continuing with a litany of curse words, she no longer seems diminutive. 

My own neglected transaction informs me in robot-speak to “please place the item in the bag.” The people lined up behind us watch the scene unfold. I don’t know whether Mrs. Lentz is having some sort of a spell or just having a bad day, but I try to calm her with a reassuring voice.

“What’s going on?” I ask.

“This bread rang up more than it was marked,” she hollers.

“Oh. Well that’s not good,” I say.

I take the bread to the clerk overseeing the machines. She re-rings the purchase as the advertised price which saves her fifteen cents, and I finish my transaction. Despite the correction, Ms. Lentz cannot be consoled. “This place is a clip-joint. I’m never coming back here again!”

As we leave the store she inhales deeply; then, like a toddler losing the fight to take a nap, Ms. Lentz slows her tirade, but keeps grumbling, “This place is a clip-joint!” 

Everyone is inside the van and I start the engine. I overhear Ms. Stockwell tell Ms. Lentz what she thought of the store.

“I found everything I needed.”

“Well, I thought it was terrible. It was a bloody clip-joint.” 

Several weeks pass and Ms. Lentz doesn’t go on the grocery trip even though the bus is fixed and we’re back to our normal routine.

I begin to wonder what it must be like for the residents to monitor their pennies so closely. The majority of elderly people want to keep on living like the rest of us, only they have the burden of a fixed income. As is the case with Ms. Lentz who is in her late eighties, there is no possibility to get even a part-time job.

The Great Depression has left an imprint on the people we serve at the care home. In the public bathrooms there are signs reading, “Please don’t remove the rolls of toilet paper.” When we put candy or cookies in the lobby, the goodies are quickly slipped into pockets to be put with the other stashes of food items in their rooms. Many of them don’t eat all their lunch, instead filling up on salads and saving the mashed potatoes, meat, and bread for later. And when they win at Bingo, they receive quarters, palming them like 3-karat diamonds. 

Weeks pass, and to my surprise, Ms. Lentz boards the bus for Kroger. I thought maybe the clip-joint experience had turned her away from grocery shopping all together.

 “You look familiar,” she says, making me realize she’s forgotten me. 

Ms. Lentz is the first one to finish shopping. As I reach for her bag she says, “I couldn’t find those Little Debbie cookies I like so much.”

“I’ll go look for you,” I offer.

“Oh, would you? They’re the little chocolate sandwich ones with the swirls. You know which ones I mean.” I do know what she means. My sons won’t even eat those cookies. She hands me two dollars.

When I return with her cookies, she is surprised to see change. I got her the senior citizen discount.

She beams at me and chucks me under the chin.

“You do a good job.” 

Then she opens the box and hands me a cookie. The little cellophane wrapper crunches in my hands as I accept the gift.

“Thank you. I’ll enjoy it later,” I say, placing it inside my purse. 

 

Current Occupation: Food Service Shift Manager at a Convenience Store/Gas Station
Former Occupation:
* Kitchen Staff at a Nursing Home
* Lemonade Girl at a Medieval Faire
* Cashier at a Retail Store
* Cashier at a Fast Food Place
* Temporary Library Staff at a Public Library
* Housekeeper at a Hotel
Contact Information: Linda M. Crate's works have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies both online and in print. She is the author of six poetry chapbooks, the latest of which is: More Than Bone Music (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, March 2019). She's also the author of the novel Phoenix Tears (Czykmate Books, June 2018). Recently she has published two full-length poetry collections Vampire Daughter (Dark Gatekeeper Gaming, February 2020) and The Sweetest Blood (Cyberwit, February 2020).

 

#

 

about to throw in the towel 

i can't do this work forever

that much i know

seven years have come and gone,

but my loyalty means nothing;

 

always passed up for promotions and pushed

in a corner despite the praise i am given

& people missing me being there on my days off

because the day after becomes a disaster

when i'm gone—

 

if i matter so much then why treat me 

with so little regard or respect?

 

i am so tired of working hard

only to be thrown scraps

i deserve more money for all the aggravation

thrown my way

 

customer service work isn't for the faint of heart,

all this entitlement from customers and higher ups alike

is an exhausting journey;

and i'm about to throw in the towel

because i cannot cope with all the headaches i'm given.




 

corporate america is a dirge 

i am tired,

and it's written on 

my face;

 

working with the public

is hard

especially when you are an introvert

who'd rather be writing

than making someone's dream sandwich—

 

i'd love nothing more

than if the company tanked,

if i am honest,

because at least then i could get some rest;

 

they don't care about our mental or physical health

always pushing for more and more

demanding we sacrifice our time as if we don't have

plans when someone decides they've got more

important things to do than this job—

 

but i am done so done with all of this

corporate america is a dirge i will gladly slay with these

fair hands because i have always been a warrior,

i will right the wrongs of this world with or without help.




 

one day i'll leave 

there's no joy 

in this 

job,

but as an old friend used to say

this is a job

not an occupation;

 

there's absolutely no one

dreaming of this

i assure you—

 

we're all in it for the money

because we've all got bills to pay,

and if you think anyone enjoys 

working customer service

you must be joking;

 

managers and customers alike are 

entitled and rude thinking they shouldn't

have to work and put in as many hours as the

people they take advantage of—

 

this may be someone's dream,

but it isn't mine;

this isn't where i'll always be

 

i promise you that.




 

Current Occupation: Retired Civil Engineer/Superintendent doing some part time estimating
Former Occupation: Civil Engineer
Contact Information: Paul Smith is a civil engineer who has worked in the construction racket for many years. He has traveled all over the place and met lots of people. Some have enriched his life. Others made him wish he or they were all dead. He likes writing poetry and fiction. He also likes Newcastle Brown Ale. If you see him, buy him one. His poetry and fiction have been published in Convergence, Missouri Review, Literary Orphans and other lit mags.

 

#

Co-op Student

In my fourth year of school at the big university north of Chicago, I was a pre-Senior.  Only engineering students got to be Pre-Seniors.  It was because we were co-op students, students who went five years instead of four.  We worked a quarter, skipped a quarter, adding another year to our time at school.  We earned money to help pay for our high-priced schooling.  Being a co-op was one more thing that put us even farther out of the mainstream, further out than the other engineering students.  I knew nearly nothing about the adult world.  Here was a chance to learn.

I took the train to downtown Chicago.  The engineering company that took me on had offices in the Chicago & Northwestern Station Building on Madison Street.  That was pretty convenient.  I got off the train, walked about a half mile through diesel fumes into an elevator that took me up to floor with hundreds of people doing what I thought I might be doing in a few years.  Their heads were down.   They concentrated, they drew straight lines, curved lines, lines that required templates to be drawn, all put on sheets of plastic paper called vellum or mylar.  I was taught how to erase the right way.  I was taught by patient older men who stared at me, wondering at my awkwardness, my half-eager, half-resentful approach to a new world I could see would take years to master.

I met Vito. Vito was from Italy.  He was a lawyer there once.  Here he was a draftsman.  All the legal things he learned in Italy didn’t apply here.  He told me why he left home.  I forgot the details.  He had to scrape up a job.  Somebody liked him and got him a job here.  I liked Vito, but I just didn’t like sitting next to him.  We both faced a glass partition.  The other side of this wall was a corridor.  All I saw was the opaque window and the side of Vito’s head. 

I didn’t like the other engineers, either.  They were OK, I guess.  I was going to be like one of them.  Maybe I would design dams like they did, dams all over the world, sitting at a drafting table looking at a non-translucent partition, wondering what was on the other side.

“You know what this is?” Vito asked me.  He held up a flat metal thing with holes in it.  I sort of remembered it from our engineering drawing class two years ago.  “It’s an eraser shield.  When you erase, use this thing.  You cover up what you don’t want to erase, and erase just what you want.”  He was showing me the ropes.  Vito had a large oval head, specks of hair and a wart toward the back of his bald head, glasses, thick lips and a soft voice.  Whatever he had done in his life had made him patient and tolerant and willing to explain things to young people like me.  Everyone liked Vito.

I liked Vito, but I didn’t like the partition, or the corridor I couldn’t see, or the large heavy sheets of mylar, or the prints made from them that checkers would mark up in red pencil when errors were found on the originals.  Vito got these paper copies hauled back to him, full of red ink.  He would take his eraser shield and his eraser, erase everything wrong, and then draw and print new lines in its place and send the originals back to someone to check it again.  Vito would do this the rest of his life.

I was not going to do this the rest of my life.  I was going to do this until I got through school.  What I would do after that I didn’t know.  I would not take the train in from Evanston to downtown and walk to the elevator the rest of my life, staring at the pretty girls in the vast open rotunda of the Chicago & Northwestern Train Station, inhaling the burnt smell of Garrett’s Caramel-Crisp popcorn sold in the terminal, smelling smoke from the diesel locomotives, watching shafts of sunlight descend to the marble floor from the rotunda’s upper windows, smelling the sweat of thousands of people making a living doing things maybe they didn’t really like.  I had nothing to put in its place, though, and that was a nagging question.  I didn’t like the cafeteria.  I didn’t like the freight elevator.  I liked the sound of the girl’s voice on the office intercom.  It was a voice that sounded like mine, young and inexperienced.  I liked it when she said, “Paging Mr. Hans Hasen.”

Hans Hasen was a tall, strict German or Austrian engineer with a thick accent who had assigned me to work next to Vito.  I guess I was afraid of him.  I knew he knew I was totally green and had to be shown nearly everything.  I saw him about once a week, when he would show up and say something like, “And how is the co-op student today, Vito?  Is the student cooperating?”

I guess this was high humor up in the high Alps or wherever Hans Hasen was from.  I would smile at Mr. Hasen and was always left thinking I didn’t smile a big enough smile, because his mouth always seemed to turn to a frown.  Vito would nod and smile.  I almost looked forward to being Vito’s age, when a half-smile would be enough to get by on.  It was nice when Mr. Hasen left.

After a month of staring at the glazed partition and Vito’s left cheek and left ear, I had enough.  I went to Hans Hasen’s office and told him I wanted another drafting table, one behind where I sat. That way I could look to my left and see the other engineers down the aisle, a long aisle that eventually led to a window.  The window overlooked downtown Chicago.  If I sat at this other drafting table, I couldn’t really see much of downtown, but I would be remotely connected to it.  That’s all I wanted, a small link to the outside world where I would belong some day.

“So you will like seeing the back of Vito’s head instead of the side?” Hans Hasen asked.

“I want to see more than just that partition.”  He made it sound like I had something against Vito.  I didn’t.  I just felt claustrophobic.

“Very well,” he concluded.  “Move your things to your new desk.  “And have Vito show you how to draw that anchor bolt detail for the powerhouse, the standard detail.”

That went great.  Now I would draw an entire anchor bolt detail, embedded in concrete for a big dam in Venezuela.  This was more than just making changes on rebar lengths.  I was excited and decided to ask Vito about the anchor bolt detail before moving my things to the next desk back.  He showed me a detail from another dam in Washington State.  It was on copy paper, with no red corrections.  “Make one just like this.”

Then I moved my few things to the desk in back and told Vito, “I’m tired of looking at that glass wall.”  Vito nodded slowly like he understood.  Then he went back to work.

Word got out that I liked the sound of our switchboard operator’s voice.  Now that I could see more of the other engineers, I talked to them more.  So one day I heard this soft, silky voice call my name over the public address system with a request to call the switchboard.  So I did.  I called and gave my name.

“It’s me,” I said.

“Who is this?”

I repeated my name.

“Someone asked for you,” she said.  Her voice stopped.  Here was my chance to talk to her.  

My throat was dry.  I didn’t know anything to say.  “It’s really hot out today, isn’t it?” I said.

“What?”

I put down the phone, red-faced.  The whole aisle full of engineers exploded with laughter.  Even Vito laughed.  It was the first time I’d seen him laugh.  Genuine mirth overtook his face.  It was like he had completely forgotten he’d been a lawyer once and now did drafting.  His belly rolled like the ocean he’d crossed to get here.  Then his jolliness was gone, and Vito went back to work.

What I liked best was getting off work and taking the freight elevator down to the terminal.  There was no front door on the elevator, which was always crowded because everyone, not just me, liked getting off work at five o’clock.  It descended rapidly.  I never liked standing in front because just one little nudge from someone behind me would push me into the guillotine of floors rushing past and would decapitate me.  But everyone stood stock still in it.  I got to realize that trust was part of this adult world, trust that your fellow workers would not hurt you, trust the elevator would work properly, trust that your train would arrive and depart on time, trust that the terminal would smell the same way day after day, trust that you felt good inside after doing something eight hours you didn’t like a whole lot.  

At school we learned nothing about trust.  We were engineering students.  We learned structural mechanics, vectors, strength of materials, unsaturated soil mechanics, calculus.  I had a chance for an elective junior year and wanted to take Russian Literature and was surprised when the university approved my request.  I thought they might say no just for the fun of it.  I didn’t know people weren’t like that.  Other engineers didn’t take Russian literature.  They took more engineering courses. 

I worked on my anchor bolt detail for two days.  It looked exactly like the one from the dam in Washington State.  I proudly showed it to Vito, who nodded.  I’d expected him to say something nice about it, but all he did was nod.  He told me to wrap it up with a rubber band and put it in our ‘out’ tray.  Then someone would retrieve it, check it, and I’d get it back soon.  If there were any corrections, they would be in red.  In the meantime, Vito gave me other copies of drawings with the red marks, and I made small corrections, under his tutelage.  Drawings were for dams all over the world – Washington, Oregon, Pakistan, Wisconsin.  Sometimes my mind got excited thinking of all the places I could go to some day as a civil engineer, places other than this building, with its fluorescent lights, tile floors and public address system.  That other world, the one I wanted to be a part of, seemed remote and far away.  One day we were showed a short film in a meeting room about how the contractor had started the Venezuela dam.  The film showed some of our engineers eating lunch near the Rio Caroní.  They were eating plantains, a kind of banana and fish.  I never heard of anyone eating fried bananas.  Maybe, as I explored the world, I would go everywhere except Venezuela.  I wasn’t eating any fried bananas.

The next day my anchor bolt drawing came back.  Actually, it was the paper copy of it, all marked up in red.

The copy was full of red ink.  I had done everything wrong.  I could feel my temples break out in a sweat I was so taken aback.  I sat at my drafting table, contemplating Vito’s head.  It was bulbous and melon-like, with a fringe of grey/white hair that went from one side to the other.  I hesitated showing him the red-inked drawing, but had to.  Maybe he knew who corrected my drawing, the drawing I’d worked so hard on.

“Well, you have to make some corrections,” he said.  “That won’t take long.”

“But I copied exactly what you showed me.  Who made all these corrections?  I want to talk to him.”

“I don’t know,” he said.  “No big thing.  You have your eraser shield?  You know how to use it.”

“Where’s that drawing I copied from?  What dam was that – Priest Rapids?”

“I don’t know where I put it.  Probably back in document control.  Just make the changes.”

I was pissed.  I did a perfect job drawing an anchor bolt in concrete.  I had a perfect little hook on the bottom of the bolt and a lot of the little flecks you draw to show concrete.  I stared at the red ink.  The handwriting was distinctive.  I’d seen it before.  Who made corrections like that?

It was Vito.  Vito did this.

It wasn’t a big thing.  It was just a small, lousy anchor bolt that I trusted myself to draw correctly, then trusted a checker to check the right way and give an honest assessment of how it looked.  I could have asked Vito directly, but didn’t.  The next day I just stared some more at the back of his head, thinking of how I didn’t really like Italians or Austrians.  I didn’t like Europe very much.  I sort of liked Russia because they had good literature in Russia, the eastern part.  Staring at Vito’s oblong, kidney-shaped ears, I decided I should confirm what I thought, that somewhere at his drafting table was the original anchor bolt drawing, maybe in a bunch of rolled-up drawings in a pile below it on the floor.  So that night, when all the engineers and the draftsmen piled into the freight elevator and went down to the terminal, I stayed behind.  I stayed behind and looked at all the drawings Vito had rolled up and stashed by his drafting table.  

And there it was – the Priest Rapids anchor bolt drawing, on white paper with no markups.   I compared mine to it.  They were the same.  I looked at other drawing copies, paper copies Vito had corrected with his red ink.  The handwriting was exactly the same.  I took the Priest Rapids drawing, rolled it up and put it at the foot of my drafting table.

The next morning at eight o’clock I confronted Vito.  “Here is my drawing, and here is the one I copied it from.  They’re the same.  And you made the corrections.”

Vito’s eyes narrowed.  “Where did you get that drawing?”

“Your table.”

“You went through my things because you didn’t want to change your anchor bolt drawing?’

“I wanted to prove a point.”

“You never go through my things,” he said, holding up a finger in my face.  “You never touch my things.  In Palermo, you know what we do?  I don’t tell you.”  He squinted even more at me.  “You be careful on that elevator.”  Then Vito stomped down the aisle and was gone the rest of the day.

The next morning Hans Hasen called me into his office.  “You’re going to the Planning Department on the ninth floor.  See Jim.  He’ll show you what to do.  No more anchor bolts.”  He smiled a very Austrian smile.  I thought about asking whether I was getting punished, but decided not to.  I was afraid of Mr. Hasen.  I spoke up to Vito.  If I spoke up to Hasen, things might be drastically worse.  Hans Hasen had big thick glasses that seemed to take up all the light in the room and throw it back at you like you were being interrogated.  I looked at him, and all I saw was glare.  He looked comfortable, like he had just rid himself of a problem.

I went to the ninth floor and met the engineer named Jim.  He was a tall, round-shouldered man with a humble demeanor representing another type of person I didn’t want to be when I got out of school.  They had nothing for me to do just yet, so I was told to go to the company library and read up on some technical journals and get familiar with some dam projects around the world.  I read about Francis, Kaplan and Pelton Wheel turbines.  The company library had a window overlooking the rail yard at the Chicago & Northwestern Station.  I could look all the way towards the suburb I came from and beyond.  There were ribbons of steel carrying trains to and from Chicago, expressways full of cars taking people all over the Midwest.  The sky was late summer hazy, a sullen, resentful heat blanketing the city, stretching as far as the eye could see.  And the library had a clock.  All I had to do was watch those hands go around, and pretty soon they would be at five o’clock and I could walk out of here the same way I would walk out in two months to study indeterminate structural analysis, fluid mechanics II, properties of concrete and environmental microbiology.  I had time to think.  What would my good Russian friend Lermontov do?  Challenge Vito to a duel?  No, I had already confronted him.  I put on my thinking cap.

So I did one more thing.

On the day I got transferred to the Planning Department I stayed late again.  I went to my old drafting table on the floor below and found the marked-up anchor bolt drawing.  I worked late to make the changes on the mylar and put it on Vito’s desk.  This seemed to be the grownup thing to do.  On a separate sheet I added a sketch of the back of Vito’s head, including his tufts of hair, the back of his pendulum-shaped ears and his fuzzy dingleberry of a wart, all in red ink.

That’s how they do it in Russia.

 

 

Current Occupation: Co-founder, co-editor, Gobshite Quarterly and Reprobate/GobQ Books
Former Occupations: Co-founder co-editor, Gobshite Quarterly
Contact Information: M. F. McAuliffe is the author of 1.75 books of poetry, two books of fiction, and co-author of the limited edition artists’ book, Golems Waiting Redux. Her verse and stories have appeared in The Clarion Awards, The Writing Disorder, Australian Short Stories, The Merida Review, Poezija (Zagreb), Prairie Schooner, as well as in WORK. Her most recent publication is 25 Poems on the Death of Ursula K. Le Guin, available through any bookstore connected to the Web. She is the co-founder and co-editor of the multilingual journal Gobshite Quarterly and its sister press, Reprobate/GobQ Books.

 

#

Untitled


 

In the lighted room

the editors

at their sleek

brown desks

surrounded by

open carpet and neon

 

sit sideways

to the windows

 

Their bookcases

murmur

with hanging gardens

green

falling

like waterfalls

 

the editors dream of

walking in old growth forest

 

In the darker room

cluttered, crowded

metal cans of computer-tape

floor to ceiling

data entry sit

with their backs to the window

 

The walls are covered

with five-foot posters of basketball stars

climbing the air

in shoes like rock, in shoes like concrete

 

Data entry can’t move in the crush

 

dream of

bursting upwards,

 

becoming stars.



 

Previous Occupation: Level I Technical Support
Current Occupation: LSAT Prep Instructor at Auburn University
Business Law Adjunct at Judson College
Contact Information: Luisa Kay Reyes has had pieces featured in "The Raven Chronicles", "The Windmill", "The Foliate Oak", "The Eastern Iowa Review",  and other literary magazines.  Her essay, "Thank You", is the winner of the April 2017 memoir contest of "The Dead Mule School Of Southern Literature".  And her Christmas poem was a first place winner in the 16th Annual Stark County District Library Poetry Contest. Additionally, her essay "My Border Crossing" received a Pushcart Prize nomination from the Port Yonder Press.  And two of her essays have been nominated for the "Best of the Net" anthology. With one of her essays recently being featured on "The Dirty Spoon" radio hour.

 

#

Password Reset

 

    “I finally paid off my car!”  I couldn’t believe it as I repeated the words over and over to myself.  For I was able to pay it off even earlier than I expected.  And before too long, Honda financial would be sending me the title in my own name for my Silver Honda Civic.  It was a gift to me from my mother and my dream was to be able to keep it for at least ten years.  After all, Hondas are known for being good cars.  And since I regularly took it to the dealership for all of the oil changes and check ups, I was certain that my Honda Civic would last me at least that long if not longer.   

 

I breathed a sigh of relief.  It would be so nice not to have the monthly pressure of making my car payments haunting me in my sleep.  And now I could freely look forward to the road trips I might be able to take with my car.  Some friends and I even talked about maybe driving up to Tennessee one day and taking in the sights there.  It was all so very exciting and full of seemingly endless possibilities.  

 

    Well, the first road trip I ended up taking in my just recently paid-off-in-full Honda Civic, was a drive all the way to Austin, Texas from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  The directions claimed it could take as little as fourteen hours to make the trip, but it took us nearly seventeen.  And while driving across a bridge in a small town in Louisiana, I was ticketed for speeding, having been caught by surprise by the speed trap tactic of rapidly decreasing the speed limit once one came off of the bridge.  Nevertheless, we continued our journey westward.  Since my brother and his family had recently moved to Austin, Texas and my mother was ever so eager to be close to my delightful little nephew.  

 

    It was quite a risk we were taking, since we were making the move with the hopes that we would find jobs once we got there.  And we were making our trek westward without having any work lined up for us immediately upon our arrival.  However, even when we were living up in Ohio, the word was that Austin was where all of the young people were moving to find jobs. To hear people tell it, the capital of Texas was the treasure trove of workplaces.  But, during this long drive of ours, I was already beginning wonder if this job seekers’ paradise was as full of promise as we had been led to believe. After all, I had already been turned down from some library positions I applied for online.  However, with everybody we knew being so convinced that Austin was the land of plenty as far as jobs were concerned, I decided to refrain from yielding to my reservations.  

 

    Once we moved in to our very humble abode in Austin, the first thing we set out to do was find jobs.  “Get a job!  Work!” were the first words my brother told us upon our entry into town.  And it seemed like I could even hear his disdainful incriminating voice echoing those words in the shower, while changing my clothes, and even in my sleep.  For the famous Austin jobs of nationwide lore, didn’t manifest themselves to us right away.  Leading me to end up substitute teaching in an effort to earn some meager income in the meantime.  While I applied for everything from a clerk in a mail store to working at a gift shop in the mall to working as an assistant in the justice department.  There wasn’t a job announcement anywhere too ambitious or too low for me to apply for.  And apply, I did.  Followed by the classic form letter rejection letters in the long white envelopes arriving in the mail on a nearly daily basis.

 

    Deciding we still wanted to enjoy the city in spite of this frantic job hunt of ours, we joined some foreign language conversation clubs.  Including the German Stammtisch and the Portuguese conversation club.  When I told the German Stammtisch that I was looking for a job; one lady, who was a retired realtor, told us that in Austin the only work that could be found was “flipping burgers at McDonald’s”.  And maybe a little bit of construction.  That sure isn’t the reputation it has, I thought to myself.  But, often the reality of a place differs greatly from its legend.  And I was quickly learning that in Austin, such was certainly the case.  

 

    Finally, there was an email sent out to the members of the Portuguese language roundtable from a temp agency that was looking for Portuguese speakers.  Since we’d lived in Brazil for six months and I was conversant in Portuguese, I applied for the position.  With the result, that I received a phone call from the former-college-fraternity-boy sounding recruiter within a few days.  During which time he told me in a very upbeat manner that they were looking for Portuguese speakers to do password resets for one of the big major American automobile manufacturing companies in town.  I remember thinking to myself, But don’t most places do that automatically on the computer? However, the smooth talking recruiter did his job well.  Leaving me no opportunities to interject and ask any questions in-between his effusive statements about what a wonderful boon it was to work for a major American automobile manufacturer.

 

    Within a few days of my phone interview with the recruiter, I was called in to the in-person interview with the two heads of the department we would be working in.  They were both legacies of the automobile company.  With the two of them having multiple generations and extended family members who had worked for the company over the past several decades.  They were very optimistic about us working for this company, although, they did drop the first hint to us that we’d be doing something a little bit more than simply resetting passwords.  For they asked us in the interview if we’d ever worked with a knowledgement database before.  I had no clue what that was, but it didn’t seem to deter them from later offering the job to me and the Brazilian girl who was interviewed immediately before me.  

 

In the early morning, on the very first day we were to report for our new contractor positions, everybody was both fighting the sleepiness that hung in the air over us all and eagerly trying to meet all of our new work colleagues.  The Brazilian girl I had met in the interview was excited that I was there, too.  And we both found ourselves looking forward to our first training session.  When asked why we had taken on this new position, nearly everyone responded by stating how “excited” they were to be working for “such a prestigious” automobile company.  However, our trainers wasted no time in correcting us.  We were not actually employees of the auto corporation, but were still employees of the temp agency who just happened to be assigning us to fulfill our duties with the auto company.  The disillusionment of everyone in our training session abounded.  

 

After such a disappointment, the Brazilian native I had first met in the interview even asked me how I thought she should list her new place of employment on her social media and professional web pages.  All I knew to tell her was what they had just told us.  That we were temporary workers assigned to the auto company.  She frowned, for it was definitely not what she nor anybody else had expected.  

 

It quickly became evident through our week long training session, that if we reset passwords, it would only be because we happened to stumble upon the kind fortune of having an easy call come through.  As the actual duties of our position entailed providing level one technical support for over 140 different in-house web based applications.  Since we were divided up by which languages we spoke, the assumption when we were hired was that we would be providing the support in our specific languages.  Once we moved upstairs to our actual cubicles, however, we soon learned that our boss decided she wasn’t going to be hampered by such minute details.  As she forced some of my Spanish speaking colleagues, who didn’t know English well and freely admitted as much, to handle the English only call lines.  Creating much distress in their jobs.  Since the thought that they were hired to provide Spanish support disappeared in the face of the reality that now they were being subjected to the ill temperament of callers who were frustrated over their inability to be understood, all the day long.   

 

Soon it became apparent to us new hires, that the older members of the technical support department we worked in were all daydreaming about the day they’d actually get onboarded by the automaker itself.  Complete with full health benefits and other perks of a semi-permanent position.  However, in time we learned that even several of the level two support members we called when none of the resources available to us seemed to take effect, were also still hourly wage contractors. The pace of the job being a hectic one with entire plants in South America often calling and reporting that the in-house Internet system was crashing, some of the veteran employees of our service desk could only cope by clinging to the meager hope that one day they’d actually get hired on by the company, one day.  

 

It would be another month our bosses told us.  Leading to everybody doubling up their efforts and competition among the employees quickly taking hold. With the subject matter experts making sure that if they deigned to help us supply the technical support their offices were supposed to provide . . . that they did so without revealing to us their secrets of their trade.  “What a nightmare!” we all thought. For we were mocked if we asked questions about how to fix a certain problem, but then criticized as inept if we didn’t ask any questions at all.  And with the workplace competition now being played out in full force, many of the employees tried to ingratiate themselves with our boss.  Who had the grand distinction of never having worked with the applications we were supporting, yet tried to cover for this lack of experience on her part by badgering us in full voice to figure things out for ourselves.  Slowly but surely, some of us new hires did begin figuring things out. With several of us even catching up knowledge wise with the veteran employees.  A fact which displeased them greatly and led to several of them resorting to made up smear campaigns against us new hires.   

 

The month came and went without anyone getting hired on by the company and when people finally started questioning that fact, our bosses informed us that it would actually be another two more months before the hiring could take place.  But, they assured us, at the end of these next two months a plethora of company jobs would be awaiting us that would bring us the long sought after gifts of financial freedom and comfort.  Some of the older employees took it with a grain of salt, but others stepped up their efforts to become the boss’ best pal.  For, truthfully, by now there was very little difference between the older and the new level one technical support providers.  And how the new hires would be chosen seemed to be a matter of arbitrary preference on the part of our very immature and biased boss.  

 

Consequently, we were called in to our first one-on-one meetings with the boss to go over our report card.  Every statistic imaginable about our technical support performance was displayed on the big screen for us to see.  And I was tied with another Brazilian girl for having handled the most calls.  Our numbers were rivaling those of the veteran employees in the main headquarters up north we were told.  And our boss actually seemed impressed by us for the first time ever.  However, she quickly dispelled any elation we might have felt over our high numbers, by informing us of the complaints our fellow veteran colleagues had made about us.  The report about me was that the stench of garlic “oozed out of my skin”  since I was half-Mexican and I laughed too much.  I was stunned.  Truthfully, I didn’t even know until then that garlic was associated with Mexicans.  Since I had been on a gluten-free and one-hundred percent organic diet for years.  And only during my visits to Mexico did I actually indulge in any truly authentic Mexican food. 

 

She was relentless and remained unconvinced.  Even though, I tried to explain to her that I didn’t eat much garlic.  Leading to me going home stunned by defeat and spending the evening crying on the very hard dirt underneath the night sky outside of our home.  I had never had such an unusual and devastating report coming straight from my boss before.  And not knowing what else to do, I made sure and dressed in my finest attire the next morning.  Yet, the smear campaigns against all of us new hires, continued.  For the veteran employees felt they were entitled to the upcoming company hires.  But a few were starting to question if these mythical jobs would ever come to be.  Since it turned out that the same promise that had been made to us, was made to them long before my group was ever hired by the temp agency.  

 

So one day, one of the more highly skilled and respected technical support providers, simply resigned.  Not bothering about whether or not he left the door open for him to ever come back, he stated that he was leaving to find gainful employment elsewhere in colorful terms – completely aking our bosses by surprise. And for the next few days they walked around asking the question “Who would leave and not wait to be hired on?”  With the answer eluding them, but beginning to feel quite natural to us new hires.  

 

The neverending calls kept coming in. And us new hires kept plowing on ahead with our work while the days continued turning into weeks and the weeks turned into months.  Some of the others that definitely seemed to be next in line to be fully hired on, began wondering if it wouldn’t be best to follow the young man’s precedent and ply their trade elsewhere.  And before too long, the two months passed by with no signs of gainful employment being anywhere to be seen.  Thereby provoking our bosses to simply reiterate their vapid promise.  But, this time, they included the modification that it would be another three months before we would be fully hired on. 

 

“Groan!”  We couldn’t do so audibly. But we sure did do so via personal chats.  “They are just dangling a carrot in front of everybody,” I said.  With many echoing my sentiment.  While others still desperately clung to the company hire illusion.  For how else could anyone bear the hectic pace of our work? Our fifteen minutes breaks were quickly taken away from us.  Due to the increase in incoming call volume, we were told.  And the tacky rumor mill among the desperate to be hired employees ramped up its production.  With our boss even resorting to inspecting our computer monitors to make sure we hadn’t ever logged in to facebook or other social media during our eternally flowing in phone calls.   

 

Then the Christmas Season arrived and just before the big plant shutdown was to take place, they informed us we would not be working during that time and not receiving any pay.  We were, after all, nothing more than hourly wage contractors.  Everybody felt sick.  It was unexpected since we never received any holidays.  The reasoning being that we couldn’t be given the days off for the American holidays because we provided support for Latin America.  And we couldn't be given the Latin American or European holidays off because we provided support for the USA, as well. 

 

This placed us in quite a bind.  For our hourly wage was not enough to allow us to save back any, especially for those with families to support.  Making one co-worker announce that  she was going to stand on a street corner with a sign begging for money.  And when we eagerly replied that we’d join her, she quickly told us that we’d have to find our own street corners.  For she was reserving her begging spot for herself and herself alone.  

 

Seeing no other recourse available to me and not wanting to starve during Christmas, I went to the title loan place and took out a small loan on my Silver Honda Civic.  I felt devastated. For even though the title loan was not for a large amount, the payments were going to be nearly double what my monthly car payments had ever been.  And now I could no longer claim full ownership to the title of my car.  Such was the nature of our employ. To work hard and only end up poorer.  

 

Soon, the Christmas Season came and went, along with the three months long waiting period.  With no signs of any company jobs in sight, people began grumbling again over these elusive company hires and our bosses reiterated once again their worn out old promise to us.  “Just one more month”, they said.  One more, and we “might” get hired on.  It was down to “might” this time. For even our bosses couldn’t make it seem like a guarantee by this point.  And just as the number of calls for technical support kept increasing, so did the number of empty desks in our department. A department that was shortly completely shut down by the company, leaving everyone to seek new jobs.  

   

 

Current Occupation: Artist and poet
Former Occupation: Director of Grants, Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, MD
Contact Information: Fran Abrams, Rockville, MD, has been a visual artist for the past 20 years. She retired in 2010 from her day job writing legislation, regulations and other bureaucratic necessities. In 2016, she began writing poetry to satisfy her need to write. She attends classes at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, and goes to many of the readings and open mics in the DC metropolitan area. She was a juried poet at Houston Poetry Fest in October 2019 and a featured reader at DiVerse Gaithersburg (MD) Poetry Reading Series in December 2019. Visit franabrams.com for more about her work.

 

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When Siri and Alexa go out to lunch
 

they always eat at the best restaurants
and never wait in line
 
They enjoy themselves sharing stories
about the questions people ask.
Alexa, what is the location of the fountain of youth?
Siri, where did I leave my striped boxers?
 
They laugh knowing that their high-paying jobs
had to be filled by women. Of course.
Who else knows all the answers?
 
Should you contact Siri while she is out,
you will learn that the weather
in Minneapolis is 40 degrees and sunny,
even if that's not what you wanted to know.
 
While Alexa is at lunch, every question
will be answered with
I am away from my desk.
Please contact my Google Assistant.
 
When Alexa and Siri walk out of the restaurant,
they leave behind only a trail of electrons.

Current Occupation: writer, small-scale (very) farmer, beekeeper
Former Occupation: office manager/marketer for manufacturer of positioning/locating electronics, youth fencing (saber) instructor
Contact Information: I live in a small rural community on Washington's Olympic Peninsula – the town every time I drove through prompted me to say, "Wouldn't it be wonderful to live here?" So I traded in my REI rain coat for a longer raincoat and my Doc Martens for a pair of ultrahigh Bogs. It's good to shake things up every now and again.
My poems have been published in Soundings Review (Pushcart nominee), Switched-On Gutenberg, Till, Hummingbird Press, Raven Chronicles, Tupelo, and King County Metro Transit’s Poetry on Buses Series. My first essay is in Inkwell, March 2020. I also have an essay appearing in The Rumpus, fall 2020.

 

#

Letter to Liam


 

Dear Liam –

    Today is the day we, mistress and turkey, learn to get along.  How can I convince you your fears are unfounded?  That we are not in competition. I come in peace.  This morning I bear gifts: a bowl of half-thawed blackberries picked last summer as we sauntered along the jumble of vines that lined the meadow’s edge, chunks of fresh mozzarella in basil and tomato slices left from last night’s dinner, ground sunflower seeds.   I carry myself in a relaxed manner – to make you more at ease – and offer it all to you.

    Perhaps my smile, flashing teeth look more like a predator’s than a compadre or flock-mate, rather rafter-mate, for that is what I learned today a group of turkeys is called.  And here you are Liam, fully feathered as some kind of Las Vegas showgirl, with no doubt left that you are a tom – not a hen the feed store clerk assured me that you were.  You snatch berries from the bowl, your beak snapping back after each theft as if the bowl’s rim were a chopping block.  Berries gone, you are emboldened and break into full strut.  Your warning comes in a thrumming that I feel more than hear.   You circle me; I rotate to stay face-front to you, learning early to never turn my back on a tom.   You hurl yourself at me; your breast meets the sole of my boot. 

    Do you remember when I brought you home, Liam?   The young man at the grange said, we DO have a turkey, and pointed to you.  He teased: You know what happens if we can’t find her a home, and gave me a wink.  Placed there in an older pullets’ pen the night before,  by that afternoon you were garnered to the floor’s corner, the lowest dwelling place in the pecking order.  You’ll be a friend for my four week old turkey-ling, Claudia, who, out of loneliness, peeps a woeful peep even with three pullets – her ladies in waiting. 

    I cooed to you as we walked the mile home from the feed store.   You fumbled about in the cardboard box trying to find balance.  I imagined you and Claudia grown: two grand dames in our soon to be home in the country – you, a Spanish Black and Claudia, a Narrangassett.  In your dark plumage you two would look stunning ambling across a field of snow.  At home in the cobbled-together pen of dog crates and feeding bowls, you were safe, and Claudia, finally calm.  

    You and Claudia talked more than the young pullets that shared your crate; there was a melody to your vocals.   Your faces more expressive.  You trilled when I brought you treats, you spoke to each other with an extensive vocabulary.   You and Claudia like opera singers compared to the chicken sounds as monotonous as foghorns. Your faces far more expressive than chickens as if you had eyebrows to raise in surprise and eyebrows to knit in worry.  

    Claudia cooed in my arms as I studied her eyes: well defined in shades of brown: pupil, iris, sclera.  You, Liam, struggled to free yourself whenever I picked you up.   You, Lydia, that is what we called you then after the Beetle Juice character, the brooding teenage girl with a predilection for black garb and Belafonte, your eyes were large as a space alien’s and black as tar.  I wonder.  If a turkey’s eyes could be the window to a turkey’s soul, the ink of your eyes, Liam, was too thick to ponder.

    Each evening I carried you from the outside run to the nighttime safety of the basement.  I stroked your dinosaur feet and spoke in a low voice to earn your trust. But each evening you struggled to free your wings contained under my arm as a moonstruck man in a straight-jacket might.   By four months of age and living finally on a farm with room to run, you had become a challenge to pick up, recalcitrant as I squatted and wrapped my arms around you as a toddler would wrap her arms around the largest pumpkin in the field.  My jaw ached for days after your frantic wing bone collided with it,  your wings and feet flapping erratically like a tarp caught in a gale.  When did your wings become so strong?   When I cannot pick you up I guide you with outstretched arms until they appear to you as wings of a strutting tom, I guide you with a broom into the pen at night as a hockey player might guide a possessed puck.  Was it the early bullying by feed store hens – only behaving as hens are apt to behave – defending their coop against a strange bird, that darkened your personality?  Never to be bullied again?  Or do I assign you human traits as I am apt to do, translating my hens’ running toward me – their fondness for oatmeal and tomatoes – as fondness for me?

    You strutted and drummed, you dragged your wings like a king’s cape.  I knew jennies could display jake behavior.   Were you a hen heavy on the testosterone?  Is there a gender spectrum in turkeys as well as people?   You picked on Claudia: was this a pecking order being played out?  You thrummed noises so low humpback whales and Sumatran tigers might confuse them as their own.  You were chameleon-like with pink caruncle, snood, wattle flesh flashing into azure and crimson. A neon sign of a turkey proclaiming: I’m a Tom! I’m a Tom! 

    I rewrote my bucolic image of two lady turkeys into one lady and one tom in full strut, tail fanned and wing tips to soil strutting about like a London dandy.  Time brought more aggression;  a broom in hand kept you at a safe distance.   Am I predator or prey? Constantly mounting Claudia, I separated you from her and the hens.  I learned that the weight of a male turkey can crush a chicken.  The spurs of a mature tom can can slice open a jenny during mounting and leave her to bleed out. Claudia retorted to your bullying, reprimanding you for something I was not privy to, my Turk-lish being somewhat weak.  The pink flesh of her head flushed hard red, her voice heightened, her chirp turned to a gritty injunction.  Your rebuttal was met by her beak, the grasp of your wattle through the fencing until you yanked back hard enough, your head snapping back like a rubber band. 

    Personality can change in all creatures from egg to adult.   My timid jenny has morphed into an aggressive jake.  I submit as evidence a sore jaw, the welt on my bruised hand, and the tender swelling and black and blue of my thigh.  I do not cull hens who are past laying.  To judge an animal’s worth by its food production seems so tactical,  so business oriented. I tally the monthly cost of organic feed at double that of conventional feed.  My per egg price would be regarded as boutique.  Since I am a vegetarian, I won’t eat you and I won’t relinquish you to someone who might. 

    Liam: I cannot keep you and I cannot give you away.  Your only skill is producing very expensive fertilizer.  Your body approximates one cubic foot of fertilizer.  Estimating an average of $25.00 of feed a month your cost to me as fertilizer comes to $200.00.  Tu es un compost très cher!   How do I monetize what my birds give me besides eggs and manure?   What worth is their therapeutic value?  On blood pressure and stress levels?   What muscle groups do I work hauling fifty pound bags of feed from car to barn?  How does the daily scooping of damp litter contribute to core strength?  Surely pilates has had its fifteen minutes.  Along with goat yoga, think fowl calisthenics!  Perhaps Liam, I can work an ignored muscle group by running backwards while you pursue me.  

    To keep you from your flock is cruel. You pace behind your gate; you bump the gate against your breast.  Feathers break, revealing, a bare patch like a window onto turkey flesh.  Liam, I moved to the country for quiet.  Constant gobbling breaks the peace.  Your neck juts forward like a fanfare trumpet.  You blast your rattling tom song like a decree:  You won’t be ignored.   Wattle, caruncle and snood flap like red rags while the hens graze free across the grass.  I can’t quantify your emotional and physical distress; I can understand your compulsion to knock me down a rung.  Some turkey brain circuit board that drives you.  I understand stubbornness. I can’t quit my own avocation, my battle to convert you.  Liam, if you were smart you would stand down.  

    Where did I first hear the phrase dumb animal? It has only been in recent years that books on animal intelligence increased in publication, scientific research that supported what many keepers already knew – that they could frequently be outsmarted by an animal.  Consider the coyote whose keen sense of smell makes it nearly impossible to trap.  Consider the jay that remembers not only where she has cached her food, but in which order so that she may retrieve the oldest stores first.  Consider the dog who plays upon human weakness – who knows that certain behavior will illicit a desired reaction on her owner’s part.  Consider that for years we considered intelligence a human condition.  Have I been outsmarted by a turkey?  Or merely outgunned?

    I can’t explain pecking order to you Liam:  Me first, you somewhere after me.  Instructions on poultry websites list ways to position yourself as number one with the tom:  Pick him up frequently, feed him last, both ways I have put roosters in their place, but which have failed with you Liam.  I should hold you gently by the neck and guide you around the yard whenever possible.  The first two times I tried this tactic,  you were surprised and relented.  The third time I walked you around the yard, neck in hand, you fought back.  Injury concerned me (yours and mine); I let go.  With no stick to direct you,  you came after me like a junk yard dog.  Is it because I serve you? Bring you food and water? Provide shelter? Do you see me as subservient?  Am I competition?  Are you jealous of my affection for Claudia? Or are you just an ornery tom?

    Is all this analysis just a stall tactic?  I can discuss the nature of turkeys until you die a natural death, Liam.  I’ve googled: How to kill a turkey humanely for the last two weeks and come up with a short list: decapitation (no – I’ve read too much on biohazards), drowning (no – you might take me down with you), pentobarbital (too expensive) or a gun (I don’t own one), electric shock (a good chance of electrocuting myself).

    Your size and strength and aggression towards the world (and by world, I mean me) preclude this as an option.  My borscht pink canister marked “Party Balloon Helium” holds barely enough gas to kill a bantam.  What if I banished you from the henhouse?  Death by hawk, mountain lion, coyote, raccoon, opossum?  A predator will feast even before prey is dead. 

    I come one last time to you with blackberries.  I come to you with organic scratch – cracked corn, sunflower seeds, raisins, rice, peanuts, millet, amaranth  – the kind that comes in home spun brown paper bags, tied with twine and hand-crafted logo in black ink. I come to you with yogurt and grated parmesan and leftover pancakes.  One last peace offering even knowing testosterone cannot be cajoled and you Liam, cannot be redeemed.

    Call it processing.  Call it euthanizing.  Call it putting you down.  Call it culling and call it killing.  I ask you as an executioner would ask the sentenced before their head rests on the block, before their neck is bared: Do you forgive me?

     Two caveats are listed on the Department of Agriculture’s website regarding “limited use of unconsciousness caused by blunt force, followed by suffocation: 1. In isolated circumstances, not for large scale use, 2. unconsciousness and suffocation to be carried out in a timely fashion.”  What you begin, you must finish. Humanity is key.

    Dear Liam, let my aim be true, let me err on the side of caution, let me err on the side of grace. I cross myself in the name of the Father, pick up the two-inch thick doweling to keep you a safe distance, and enter the pen.  You held your ground and you bared your wings and you thrummed like a war drum.  I thought of thirty years of swinging a baseball bat, my go-to hard drive down the third baseline polished to shoot just out of reach of the third baseman’s mitt. “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” begins in my head – some kind of  ironic distraction – what means one’s brain employs to get the job done.  I swing hard; once is all it takes.  You fall among your small black feathers that are already loose and punctuate the soil like small storm clouds.  But because this coup de grâce was not premeditated, because I had only come to the pen one last time for a détente, I had no bucket of water, I had only a wood pole to keep you at bay.  Panicked, I dug with my fingers like a dog would dig for a bone, a hole big enough for your head, and panicked, I smothered your head in mud and leaves, and panicked, I held your head down.  Humanity is key. I sang one more verse half-tempo of Katie Casey and her love of baseball.   Whether I killed you with the first blow or if you succumbed subterraneanly, I will never know.  I laid you out.  I waited for your black eye to stir, your rib to rise, your dinosaur foot to flex.

    I wrapped you in surplus linen and I buried you in a deep hole and I planted a dormant plume poppy on top of you.  I placed large stones atop the bare grave to keep coyotes or raccoons or opossum from exhuming you.  The next week snows came and covered you, covered the stones, covered the just emerging leaves of the plume poppy.  

    This is what we share, Liam.  When I die there are instructions that I be placed in an unbleached linen shroud, and buried with no coffin.  I would like a favorite tree – perhaps dogwood, perhaps my venerated southern Magnolia – planted above me.  And there become the tree, be part of something that continues.   In the end we are all the same Liam:  Food for what lives above us.



 

 

 

Current Occupation: Horticulture Assistant
Former Occupation: Pharmacy Assistant
Contact Information:  My name is Andrew Paul. I am 30 years old. My birthday is coming up. I'm going to have a big party and you're invited. Vote 4 me.

 

#

It's Monday. Another day another dollar. Minimum wage bullshit. Depression setting in. Can't wait to down that bottle when I get home. Is that all I'm worth?





Tuesday. Shit I don't want to go in. I hate my job. I hate the people. I hate how insignificant I feel. Am I really just a robot who does what he's told? What about creativity and initiative?





Wednesday. Another day another dollar. Can't hack this life. I can't do this anymore. I'm tired of the status quo. What do I do? I've got a family to feed at home.





Thursday. Shit. It's almost the end of the week. Better look busy. Better smile and nod. I'm dying. My soul is wilting and I don't belong here anymore.





Friday. Today is going to be my final day. I can feel it. My life is too terrible. I don't feel pain or sorrow. I just feel sadness. I am depressed. I'm sorry.

Current Occupation: Food Service Shift Manager at a Convenience Store/Gas Station
Former Occupation:
* Kitchen Staff at a Nursing Home
* Lemonade Girl at a Medieval Faire
* Cashier at a Retail Store
* Cashier at a Fast Food Place
* Temporary Library Staff at a Public Library
* Housekeeper at a Hotel
Contact Information: Linda M. Crate's works have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies both online and in print. She is the author of six poetry chapbooks, the latest of which is: More Than Bone Music (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, March 2019). She's also the author of the novel Phoenix Tears (Czykmate Books, June 2018). Recently she has published two full-length poetry collections Vampire Daughter (Dark Gatekeeper Gaming, February 2020) and The Sweetest Blood (Cyberwit, February 2020).
 
#

mostly i am angry

a billionaire ceo

says that you shouldn't

take restroom or lunch breaks,

and be the first there and the last to leave;

but tell me why should i break my back

for a company who doesn't

appreciate me?

they take me for granted,

expect me to work like a horse,

and do nothing in the way of helping me;

they always expect my best

even when i am feeling my worst—

& last year gave me a promotion without a raise,

i don't understand the thought process

behind poor people don't work hard enough

every single day i give it my all;

but it never seems enough—

i am exhausted, i am tired, but mostly i am angry

that people expect me to waste my life doing this

instead of following my dreams because 

a life without hope isn't one worth living.

 

we're all so tired 

pulled myself up by my bootstraps

so many times they're worn and weathered

because i've broken so many other

pairs,

and these are likely to go, too;

why do i work so hard to get so little?

this is the question i keep asking myself

because i feel so exhausted,

my soul wearies

of going to a place that just empties

me of joy;

this may be someone's idea of a dream

but it's not mine—

i don't dream of making subs, pizzas, 

sliders, soups, pretzels, melts, or any of the rest;

i dream of a day where i don't have to do this work

and can do my heart's work instead because this job

hasn't got any heart or soul only greedy hands

always wanting more work done but giving us fewer

people and fewer hours,

and we're all so tired.

 

 

 

uCurrent Occupation:  Professor
Former Occupation:  most of life, professor; as a kid and teen worked at my dad's woodworking shop
Contact Information:  born and raised in New Orleans.  Now teaching at Radford University in Virginia, living with wife and daughters. Louis Gallo has published two volumes of poetry, Archaeology and Scherzo Furiant, with Kelsay Books.  He has three more volumes forthcoming, Clearing the Attic, Crash (both from Adelaide Books) and Leeway & Advent from Kelsay Books.  A novella, The Art Deco Lung, is also forthcoming from Wapshott Press.  

 

#

CLEANING LADY
 
When the cleaning lady comes in
to empty the trash and sometimes dust
the desks and bookshelves (her schedule
and my office hours seem identical)
she’s usually huffing and pushing
a massive apparatus of dusters, paper
towels, fluids and waste bins,
and when it’s Friday, she cracks
a crooked smile and rejoices,
“Thank God, it’s Friday,” and I rejoice
with her.
 
                 Our rapport is limited—grunts
about the weather, the poorly constructed
building, her grandkids, my daughters,
the usual chit-chat with those you really
know nothing about, nor they you . . .
but friendly enough.  And I think she senses
a certain camaraderie between us, and, if so,
she’s right.  I often envy her, simple, easy
work . . . unlocking doors, dumping trash,
feathering the shelves—no torturous thought
to it however physically arduous.  (I would
prefer the night shift, however, when
nobody else is around.)
 
I never talk to her about what I’m brooding
over—the introjection of false consciousness
into the mass mindset, the statute of limitations
riveted in all of us at birth, the sublime
in the pedestrian, the travesty of minimum
wage (as if anyone . . .), the phenomenology
of desire, Hegel’s absurd dialectics . . .
how on and on it goes.  Perhaps she too
so broods and doesn’t share with me,
but I doubt it.  She seems salt of the earth,
gets the job done, goes home, drinks some beer,
watches a latest episode.
 
She’s not young either, though younger than I—
who isn’t?  She too has a bad lower back.
She too needs more money, more pleasure,
more everything.  But she seems content enough,
never miserable, never hostile, never complaining.
Whereas I . . . I do envy her, wish her the best,
hope they give her a raise, that her grandkids
cherish her.  I know each new day that I will
enter a clean, dust-free office as once again
I wrestle the black angels of false consciousness

Current occupation: English instructor and florist
Former occupation: secondary English teacher
Contact Information: Kathrine Yets lives in St. Francis WI. She instructs English at various universities. Her chapbook So I Can Write is freshly published by Cyberwit. The Animal Within is forthcoming from Unsolicited Press.

 

#

Avoiding

 

I just watched 1 hour of videos on how to make cakes.

My hair is curled almost by single strands.  

Outfits picked for the next two weeks. 

Snapchat filters of bunny face with eyes enlarged. 

I'm beautiful.

Discovering the perfect combination of Kool Aid and sugar. 

What does my eye color mean?

Google. Google. Google. 

Scroll my wall.

Wash my walls. 

That picture on the wall looks crooked. 

Straighten.  

500 emails and 75% are ads,

20% newsletters, 

5% students asking me to grade their papers…

Should probably do that. 

After I watch this cat video.