Current Occupation: looking for another university teaching job/teaching/writing fellowship.
Former Occupation: third cook, a co-op baker and natural foods and produce clerk, and food service worker, and line cook.
Contact Information: My last book is called My Father's Gloves from Sol Books of Minneapolis. Last year I was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I work in flash fiction, micro fiction, prose poems and poems.
Jim Worthington, a college freshman, stood close to the punch clock at Hackshaws Department Store, holding his badge as if it were a tentative train ticket to a destination he’s not sure he wants to go. Dana, the human resources team lead, told him to wear dress pants, a long sleeve dress shirt and comfortable dress shoes. He wore his brown Rockport oxfords with black laces that he bought at a local thrift store. He was a loss prevention team member. Erik was his team leader. After Jim punched in he saw Erik rubbing thick white lotion on his feet that looked like shortening. His feet were callused to the point they resembled avocado rinds. He pulled on heavy white socks and dark trainers with thick soles. Dana wore pink stiletto heels. She said Erik and Jim’s shoes were too close to being causal. Erik told him to always wear comfortable shoes, no matter what. Carl Brandies, the store’s chief team lead wore all black Chuck Taylors. Dana looked down at Jim’s shoes and Carl said to him, wear dress shoes next time, and he walked off. Erik told him again his shoes were just great.
The next day he wore his roommate’s casual penny style loafers—they had the classic penny loafer appearance, but were casual on a closer look. Dana wore lavender iridescent knee high spike heeled boots. She told Jim he didn’t know what dress shoes were, and she gave him an official warning and next time it is a write up. Erik took him down to the floor, showed him how to look like a shopper, and just go over here and have a look and go over there and have a look, maybe put something in his basket all the while watching for shoplifters. He told Jim his code name was Mr. Green, the department clerks would call him, and he was to call them back from a floor phone and they would tell him who the thief was, what they looked like and what they had taken. He told him just learn to ignore Dana. If she calls you to the office, he said, you have my permission not to go. Just keep doing your job.
The third day he wore his Rockport shoes, but only he shined them up nice and put new black laces in them. Dana came in late. At the end of his shift, he stood by the punch clock, hoping to escape unseen. Erik told him how wonderful he was doing. Dana stepped out her office; she wore sky blue platform pumps with extra long stiletto heels. It’s a write up, she said, as she looked down at his shoes. Punch out and go home, Erik told him, you’re great, you’re just fine. Erik wore bright white Nikes with a long black swoosh on them. Get in my office now, she said, it’s a write up. Erik waved his hands at Jim, remember what I said yesterday, just punch out go home. Dana yelled at Jim as he skipped down the stairs. She said, I’m going high this time, real, real high.
He was suppose to work in morning, and he thought about how his alarm clock could malfunction, especially if he had dread dreams about shoes, and in the throes of them, he switched off the alarm and slept through his shift. He had a pair of black vintage air Jordan’s—what if he showed up wearing them?
He stopped by the university student employment office and glanced through the postings. There was one opening for fifteen to twenty hours as a grounds crew student helper. He filled out the application and returned to the receptionist. She told him to hold on, while she made a call. A few minutes later, he was standing before the grounds keeper’s secretary. She told him to dress for the weather—blue or black jeans are fine. Be in this office at six tomorrow morning, and she swung around on her chair and pointed, enter through those doors.
He bought himself a pizza slice, and as it cooled, he placed a call to Hackshaws. The receptionist told him Erik was in an urgent meeting with Dana and Carl. After he gave his name, he said to tell Erik that he quit, effective as of right now. Okay, I’ll let him know, the voice said, and the receiver dropped with a loud thud.
In the morning he showed up in the right place in his old basketball shoes. His boss, Mike, wore oil-black high top work boots. He told Jim, we’ll take care of the paper work later, but first, you have to do something about your shoes. Do you have work boots or winter walkers or hiking boots? Jim said, yes. Go get ‘em on right now, and be back here in fifteen minutes. Yes sir, Jim said.