Thursday 13 July 2023

Eight to Five, Forever? by Steve Gerson, longneck bottle of beer

Eight to five. Every day. Five days a week. Four weeks a month. Eleven and three-quarter months a year, with one vacation week, unhappily given by my boss. Eight to five, over and over, again and again, stamping metal into food cans for beans and beer, punching holes into metal for pull tabs, the machinery pounding out a symphony of cicada misery until my ears ring like sirens wailing. And my hands burned from hot metal, cut from jagged edges, scarred like a roadmap through the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, land serrated by wind, sun, and despair.

"I can't take it no more, Lucille. This job, this city, this damned life we're living. It's pressed holes in me. I'm lattice work more than man. I'm a sieve. I can't hold a thought with all the noise in my head. I can't hold you with my hands a mess of mangled meat. Come on babe. What you think? We got to get out of here."

Lucille looked at him in the mirror as she ran a comb through her blonde hair, once burnished as fire-forged gold, now limp and pale as butterweed. She saw him reversed, beaten and bowed, the man she had married three years before, he a stud football player on their high school team, she a wielder of flags and pompoms on the cheer squad. She saw in the mirror their squat camper the color of smoke, a dried flower arrangement thirsting for water, a cracked vase bleeding hopelessly onto their Formica countertop, dishes crusty with last night's meal. And a distant light in the window, draped with moth-holed curtains.

She had finished her eight to five shift at the diner, five days a week, four weeks a month, twelve months a year, with no vacation time allowed, her hands burned from carrying three hot plates on her arms, piled with other people's food, while she and Bob ate rice and potatoes and catsup for their vegetable. Her hands red as denial from washing the diner's dishes, her dreams of a future draining down the diner's sink.

She got up from the dressing table, a six” x two” plank of wood swaying on two cinder blocks scrounged from the neighbor’s yard, turned to him, placed her hands on his shoulders, and said, "Yes, Bob, let’s go.  Now’s the time.”

They threw their clothes into four grocery story bags, picked up their runt dog, and ran to their Ford truck, giggling like children released from school once term was over.

“Where to, babe?” Bob asked.

“Anywhere without clocks,” Lucille said.

About the author

Steve Gerson writes poetry and flash about life's dissonance. He has published in CafeLit, Panoplyzine, Crack the Spine, Vermilion, In Parentheses, and more, plus his chapbooks Once Planed Straight, Viral, and The 13th Floor: Step into Anxiety from Spartan Press. 


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