Craving

Carter bangs the till shut. He taps an order into the touch screen. He takes money from a customer. He counts the dollars, the quarters, the dimes, the nickels, the stinking pennies. He presses the button that shoots the till open. He puts the money into the right slots. He bangs the till shut.

The clinging of coins and rattle of his monitor aren’t satisfying. He’s used to the sound. It rises around him from the other four till workers. It’s the movement of his arm, back and forth, the same feeling he gets when he vacuums his small apartment. It’s the powerful thrust forward that makes something happen. There’s an agency to it that has become better than violence.

He’s tried violence. He boxed at the gym after beating people up in bars didn’t work out well. He did three months in jail that one year, and he never wants to go back. It was a cheap jail, not federal, not one of the places where they invest money for long-term stays. It was a revolving door there, people in and out. There wasn’t any time to make connections, figure out who did favors for who, whether it worked like the movies. He tried to keep his head down, ended up getting the crap beaten out of him anyway. Bruise for bruise, he figured. He started wearing his mother’s old cross necklace when he got out, hoping it would remind him of something. Mostly, he just remembers to feel guilty when he wakes up late on Sunday and realizes that he’s late for work, never mind that he’s missed church too.

There’s a girl now. In front of him. She’s a sweet thing, younger than him, but he always feels like that about any pretty woman, even when she’s his age exactly. He smiles at her. He takes her money. He puts it in the till. He slams it shut. She doesn’t smile back at him. She looks away, swallows, keeps chewing her gum. Carter opens his mouth to ask her name, to tell her his, even though his is written on the name tag on his shirt, but she glances at his mouth, sees the hole where one of his teeth should be and isn’t, and her lips suck in and shuffle sideways on her face in muted disgust. She turns away and walks to the pick-up area to wait for her food. Carter keeps his eyes straight ahead, his lips shut tight.

He craves whiskey and his apartment. He craves a moment alone, without the jingle of commerce and the false music of the mall echoing from beyond the food court. He craves a tooth he lost in a fight that didn’t make him feel better for longer than half an hour. He craves a punching bag. He craves the girl.

A Short Update

A. I suck for not updating more often.
B. I’m working at the Hebrew Book Fair and writing for Camp NaNoWriMo. Other than that, I only have time to eat and sleep. I’m serious. It sucks.
C. Starting Sunday, June 17th, I’ll be back to updating a lot more regularly. Because I miss writing flash fiction, I miss interacting with the Internet. I miss writing things that pop into my head. And I miss y’all.

Golden Morning

Glen unfolded the morning newspaper carefully, making sure not to rip any part of it. He was one of the only people in his building who still got a paper newspaper delivered. He knew this because he was always awake early enough to receive the paper straight from the deliveryman’s hands, and he became friendly with him over time and asked him whether there were many deliveries to be made in that neighborhood. The deliveryman just shook his head and smiled sadly. It was too early for him to engage in conversation and he answered Glen’s questions in monosyllables, releasing the words from his mouth as if they were precious bits of energy that he had to conserve.
Although Glen wasn’t personally invested in any business that had to do with the news – he wasn’t a reporter, nor did he own a publication of any sort – he still felt a deep and abiding kinship that dated back to the days of his early childhood, when he would watch his father iron the newspaper with gloved hands before unfolding it carefully and reading it in its entirety over his long breakfast. The ritual fascinated him as a child, and he saw something sacred in it. His mother had always told him not to disturb his father while he was reading the newspaper, and Glen, always an obedient child, still remembered the hushed mornings when he would play with his heavy metal train set, moving the cars quietly over the little rails and mouthing the “woo-woo!” that, at other times of day, he would shout out exuberantly every time the train ran under the little bridge he’d constructed over it with three hardcover books.
Although Glen didn’t iron the newspaper – he didn’t mind getting his hands a little dirty from the smudgy ink – he read the paper front to back every morning before heading out to work. It took him three cups of milky coffee, drunk slowly as it cooled to room temperature and below, to finish the pages, which, these days, seemed to be filled with more advertisements than articles.
When he finished the paper, he would fold it up just as carefully, and then would go downstairs and put it in the mailbox of apartment 14, where old Mr. Spiegal lived. Old Mr. Spiegal had stopped getting a pension when the company he’d worked for had gone bankrupt and had had to cancel his newspaper subscription in order to cut down on costs. He had been gruffly thankful when Glen offered to give him the newspaper every morning.
Glen’s ritualized morning ended with the action of popping the neatly folded newspaper into Mr. Spiegal’s mailbox. After he did that, he was never quite sure what to do next, and had to improvise every morning anew. He still hadn’t found a new job after the factory had laid him off, and although he continued applying for new positions, there were many days during which his only obligation was to avoid spending more money than he needed to. He had a nest-egg from his parents that he’d never touched until three months ago when he found himself, for the first time since high school, out of work.
This morning, he decided to go for a walk. He had a phone interview scheduled for the afternoon, and nothing else to do until then. The sun had come out from behind the fog that had shrouded it in the early hours and the day was beginning to look like the first real spring day of the year.
Walking down the pathway from the dilapidated apartment building, Glen stretched his arms above his head and tugged each hand with the other, the better to stretch his shoulders. As he turned right onto the sidewalks, he let his arms fall down to his sides, shook his head, took a deep breath, and began to walk.
There was nowhere in town that was unfamiliar to him anymore. He’d walked every inch of it, even ducking into a few private yards, just to see if there was a magic garden concealed by the stocky buildings that his them.
This morning, he decided to take the path that led up to the only hill in town, where the wealthy people lived. He found himself turning to this familiar walk more and more often lately, and he had a suspicion that there lurked in his breast some illogical hope that being around moneyed people would give him luck of some sort.

An Honest Cover Letter

Dear Publisher or Literary Agency,

I love reading. I love writing. I bet you hear this all the time, but I just want you to know that I mean it. When I begin to talk about books, I feel my stomach leaping and the tips of my toes curl in excitement. When I sit down to write every day, I feel as if this is something I will gladly be doing for the rest of my life, even if it doesn’t result in a lot of money. I’m fully willing to become a waitress to support my writing habit.

However, it’s probably harder getting published as an unknown waitress who writes during her hours off than as a literary agent or editor at a publishing house. Working with you will give me an “in.” Am I being too blunt? Forgive me, but that’s the point. I’ve spent the last two and a half hours drafting (or attempting to draft) clever, concise and comprehensive cover letters in which I subtly explain why I will get down on my knees and beg to work for you. My mind is fairly wrung out, and so in order to refresh and cleanse it, I’m telling you the truth.

The truth is that while my biggest goal isn’t to become a publisher or literary agent, these are jobs that I would do a lot to get if they would help me support my writing habit while also letting me deal with books all day. I’ve been working in a bookstore during the last month, and I’ve found that the mere presence of hundreds of books is enough to keep me motivated and happy. Only think how well I’ll work for you at a job that would involve not only seeing books but reading manuscripts and writing letters!

I fear that my formulaic cover letters will get swallowed in the mass of other likely, qualified candidates that will contact you. If I had the guts, I’d send you this letter instead – although, to be fair, I’d probably work at it a lot longer and make it wittier and more touching than it is.

The bottom line (or, rather, lines) is that I love books, I’m passionate about the written word, and I would love to work anywhere that helps in the process of getting a book from the writer’s personal hard-drive and into the bookstore where I happily purchase it. Even though you’re businesses and your goal is to profit, you also save my life along the way by continuing to publish the books without which I wouldn’t know how to survive the emotional and mental turmoil that every human being goes through.

Hire me, hire me, hire me,

Help me keep writing and books in my life forever by letting me leap into the publishing world during my sophomore year at college,

(I promise you won’t regret it,)

Sincerely,

SlightlyIgnorant

Lifting Books

Just got back from lifting books for three hours and fifteen minutes. I am tired. So very tired. And my browser has a long row of tabs open to blogs I want to read but won’t get around to tonight. I’m going to sleep for a few hours, wake up, and go right back to work. Tomorrow is going to be such a long day.

Sometimes I use this blog to bitch and moan. I’m coming to terms with that right about now.

Hire Me?

To Whom it May Concern:

Let’s be honest. You’ve got all those lovely books on your shelves above that big, fat, oak desk of yours – but you’ve only read three of them. The rest you got as gifts over the years, liked the look of, and put them up there. This way, when big, important, pretentious clients come to talk to you, they can throw out a remark about whatever book they’ve happened to have read that they spot on your shelf. Sometimes, they hit on one of those books you’ve read, and the two of you can prove to each other how intelligent you are. But more often than not, you need to glance at the shelf to remember what book they’re referring to, take it down, and look sneakily at the back while pretending to show them the lovely edition you have, just so that you can remember what on earth the volume is about.

This is where I come in. I am offering, for a small fee, to spend my days reading all your books, and dedicated a half-hour a day to telling you what each book is about. Trust me, it’s much nicer to hear someone tell you about a book than to read the back or the inside flap. I’ll be able to convey the main themes and even, if your memory is good, the main characters’ names. I canĀ guaranteeĀ that you’ll feel a lot smarter than you are with very little work!

In case you think there’s a catch, I promise you there isn’t. I am simply a bookworm looking for a way to get paid to read books. This service that I’m offering is one that I will enjoy, and we all know that happy workers make better workers. Think about it.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon,

Slightly Ignorant Eager Reader