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Retail — From the Inside
by Joan Leotta

Shopping was my hobby.
So when at 16, I wanted summer
employment,
retail seemed perfect.
Downtown department stores
were not hiring, so
my Aunt Helen convinced
the owner of her favorite
East Liberty dress shop.
to give me Saturday hours.
I imagined myself
an instant fashion expert,
coolly, enhancing women’s looks
with wise suggestions.
My first Saturday I was
hidden in the stockroom
hanging a new shipment
by size, by color. Hot.
“May I help you?”
I practiced, as I shook out blouses,
skirts, dresses.
Second Saturday saw me selling.
The first woman, slim, young,
asked “blue shirtwaist dress in
size ten, please.”
I plucked it from the rack,
showed her to the dressing room.
In minutes, my first sale!
Ringing it up on the old
register the change came out wrong — twice..
My next fashion seeker
was middle-aged,
a bit chubby. She marched to
the dressing room and told me to
bring her skirts and blouses
in size twelve — my choices!
Proudly, I selected tailored items
she promptly rejected.
“Yooo hoo,” she called, “I want smaller sizes,
and don’t you have anything newer, cuter?
She tossed her discards over the door for
me to turn right-side out and rehang.
At last she opened the dressing room door
to model an A-line skirt and ladybug blouse —
high school clothes!
“Well, how do I look?”
I gulped. Sausage came to mind.
Florid face clashing with floral shirt.
“Wouldn’t you rather . . . ” I began
The owner stepped up.
“It’s a lovely outfit.”
The woman bought the ensemble.
Before Saturday rolled around again,
the owner called my Aunt. “We are not busy
enough to have your niece come in anymore.”
I didn’t really mind.
Shopping was not as much fun
from ” inside.” And,
ever since that job,
I never ask a sales person
to tell me how I look.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This me a couple of years after the events in the poem. My sense of fashion was not nearly as developed as I then thought it was!

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: What to consider a “first” job? That was hard to decide. Would I consider as “first” a job my job as a clerk in a dress shop in the summer? Or my work shelving records in the college radio station? Or my summer sojourn in the planning department at the University of Pittsburgh between my first and second years of graduate school, a fun internship that gave me experience and a killer recipe for egg roll? I decided to go with chronological order and share with you why I decided not to remain in the retail world.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Leotta has been playing with words on page and stage since childhood in Pittsburgh. She is a writer and story performer. Her poetry and essays appear or are forthcoming in Gnarled Oakthe A-3 Review, Hobart Literary ReviewSilver Birch, Peacock,Postcard Poems and Prose among others. Her first poetry chapbook, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon, was recently released by Finishing Line Press. She also has written a series of novels, Legacy of Honor, and a set of four picture books, Rosa’s Shell is the latest. A group of her short stories, Simply a Smile is available in paper and on Kindle. You can find more about her work on her blog at joanleotta.wordpress.com, follow her on twitter @beachwriter12 or on Facebook at Joan Leotta, Author and Story Performer.

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Miss Humphrey
by Leslie Sittner

She was tall, broad, quietly forceful. Mostly intimidating. And, as a 17-year-old, I thought, ancient, uncool, and wore dreadful sensible shoes. Definitely not fashionable. I was a freshman at Cornell in the early1960s in the College of Human Ecology. She was the stern taskmaster of the Textiles and Clothing Department.

But I loved the classes she taught. I learned plenty and performed well.

Junior year she invited me to her home for tea. By myself. Nervous? Absolutely. To my surprise she didn’t seem so very old; she was charming. And funny.

After graduating, moving to New Your City, and beginning my first professional fashion designer job, she invited me to return and lecture on my “design experience” in the Big Apple. She was impressed that I, as a children’s sleepwear designer, had several full page ads in the New York Times featuring my creations. I felt like a successful graduate and creative person!

Apparently the lecture was worthwhile because soon she notified me that she’d be coming to the City to visit me at my job. The company was located in the famous Little Singer (sewing machine!) Building on lower Broadway. It’s a magnificent edifice that enjoys landmark status. Even the elevator was remarkable.

When Miss Humphrey arrived at our fifth floor, she was slightly rattled, slightly disheveled, slightly tongue-tied. It was a Friday, payday, and we hadn’t yet been informed that there’d been an armed robbery in the building. She casually mentioned that the elevator exhibited telltale blood spatter. She matter-of-factly related the lobby-police-elevator experience. Then requested to meet my boss and see my design room. Just like that. And here I thought I was the blasé cool city girl.

Suddenly this tough gracious woman wasn’t ancient or uncool; I cared not a whit that she wasn’t fashionable.

IMAGE: Little Singer Building, 561 Broadway, New York City.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As hip1960’s students, we weren’t necessarily kind when discussing Miss Humphrey the Spinster. It was only hindsight that made us appreciate all she’d had to offer us. Most of us went on to successful careers in some field or another.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Sittner has been turning to the written word as a form of self-expression and reflection. Her stories are available in print in The Apple Tree by Third Age Press, and will be featured in Adirondack Life magazine. On-line prose can be seen at 101Words, 50 Word Challenge, 50 Word Stories as well as many selections of prose and poetry at Silver Birch Press. She has finished a memoir about travels with her ex-husband and hopes a publisher will find it as humorous as she and her writer-friends do.

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Oh Dear
by Sandy Phillips

I was fifteen, needed some cash.
A woman approached a group of us girls,
“Anyone interested in a bit of babysitting?”
I responded, and the job was mine.
Just a couple of hours between one parent going out,
The other, getting home. It suited me.
Not every day, but different days, the husband
Would walk to my house to tell me when.
The toddler, was a chubby little lad, smiling, trusting.
I would play peek-a-boo, sing nursery rhymes, or
Just watched him with his toys, then put him to bed.
One day he just wouldn’t go. He cried and cried,
Hit the wall with his head. Alarmed I told his mother,
“Take no notice, he’ll stop,” I found this hard.
On nights he slept, I listened to records,
Mostly classical, some made me cry, don’t know why.
I read a book of theirs about Jack Dempsey, a boxer.
Not my usual reading matter, it was just laying about.
I took my boyfriend there when I didn’t receive information
Early enough and I had already arranged to meet him.
(No mobile phones in those days of 1955)
When she told me I couldn’t, I said I needed more notice.
She replied that her husband informed me five days ago.
I said, no it was yesterday. It came about
That he was having an affair. I left.

IMAGE: “Woman and Child” by Pablo Picasso (1922).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In writing this piece about My first job, I had a longer story in mind, but thought it would not capture the reader written in that way. I therefore aimed to relate the story in sharper groups of words.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sandy Phillips, a retired teacher, has written her first book, The Narrow Doorway, about the psychic experiences she has encountered throughout her life. She has written an article for the Psychic News published last year and will have another in the Two Worlds in the near future. She also writes essays, stories and poetry. Another major interest is painting and the arts. She has had exhibitions of her own and has participated in many. She once had a sculpture accepted by the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

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The Babysitter
by Ellen Evans

When we moved in there, it was far from being a neighborhood. But my dad was job foreman for a company that built houses for those whose white collars fit exceptionally well. It never really dawned on me until just a recently (some 50+ years), that my dad’s was blue.

One of the first families to move in became fast friends with my folks. After knowing them for a while, and being six, maybe seven, I slipped up one day, and instead of calling her Mrs. Leighton, I called her Aunt Shirley (I already had one of those, married to my Uncle Jim). But by the time I was twelve, that informality was gone. She was about to become my employer. When her first daughter turned three months old, I began babysitting. As more neighbors with kids moved in, it just seemed natural for me to watch them as well. And, I was considered “cool,” and could go a little Mary Poppins, which seemed to work well.

I don’t remember what my starting wage was, but by the time I was in ninth grade I was getting referrals from some of my dad’s wealthy clients. I do remember that when asked what I charged, I told them I would accept their judgement based on their satisfaction. I can recall it falling in around $10/hr—not 2017 $10/hr, but 1968 $10/hr. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Copyright © Ellen Evans – 2017

IMAGE: Illustration from Mary Poppins by Mary Shepard.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: To write this poem, I went back to memories that I hadn’t really visited for quite a long time. I have thought about other aspects of my past relating to the same general time, but not to the babysitting. They are probably some of my fonder recollections from those years.

Ellen Evans, July, 2016

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ellen Evans lived in Israel for the 12 years prior to the first Gulf War. While there, two of her poems were translated into Hebrew, and appeared embedded in a novel written by David Ben Joseph. She recently has had two poems chosen for the online journal Wild Women’s Medicine Circle, and she has had six poems chosen for an anthology issued by a poetry blog site. In addition, she has had two poems included in the chapbook Porcupine, published by Lost Sparrow Press. She currently resides in Providence, Rhode Island, where she is working on a chapbook of poems about migraines, written during migraines. The neurologist treating her has used some of the poems in a lecture. Visit her on Twitter @smilelady51810.

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Reporter — Images: challenge for face blindness
by Petros Papadopoulos

     Face blindness, also called prosopagnosia,
      is difficulty in recognizing familiar faces.

A temp job,
my first job,
What a challenge!
Working for a sports photo agency
sounded like the opportunity of a lifetime!
. . . and then . . . everything had to be filed.

Guess who? It is my new torture game.
Hundreds and hundreds of photos keep coming in every day!
Distant photos, Close-ups, side-views, forefront faces.
Drivers with or without a helmet and blurry artistic faces . . .

— Is it Ralf or his brother Michael ?
Aw, my God, I don’t even know how to spell Schumacher!
6 months to learn all the drivers
Surprise, surprise! Most of them will change again!

P.S. At least I got my favorite Ferrari hat Signed! (Suzuka, 2000)

PHOTO: The author at Suzuka Circuit in Japan (October 2000).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My first job was highly challenging from every perspective and helped me to step far beyond my comfort zone. One week we had to travel to Japan just for three days and the next week we had to visit Karlstad in Sweden at a temperature of minus 40 degrees Celsius. I could get a call for work at any time of the day, any day of the week! My fear of the owner’s two Belgian Sheepdogs made things worse — many times we had to travel by car, me in the back seat with them. A really useful piece of advice: Never ever look directly into their eyes!!!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Petros Papadopoulos
is an animator and scriptwriter from Greece. His animations have received awards in a number of festivals, including the Drama Film Festival in Greece, The Underground Film Festival in New York, and the Cyprus International Film Festival. Visit him at ovalimage.com.

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My Newsroom Internship
by Luisa Kay Reyes

When the cameraman with the local news station, where I was doing my first summer internship after graduating from college, expressed his desire to work for National Geographic —  since, after his divorce, he could film in the wilds of Africa unconcerned over whether  he’d end up devoured by a ferociously ravenous thick-maned lion —  I felt bewildered.

For in spite of the professionalism these individuals relayed on the television screen, the focus at the station was on how the other summer intern was trying to break up one of the baseball players at the university from his live-in girlfriend. And how the news assignment editor, who was expecting by one of the married top law enforcement officers in town, was hoping he would leave his wife for her. And how the county news director, after breaking up a couple of marriages, announced she was going to move up in the society of a  locally prominent church — and was even encouraging a full-time reporter, pregnant by one of the owners of the nice Italian restaurant in town, to join  in her church-going mission.

By the end of the summer, I thought I just felt overwhelmed by this professional emptiness, until one of the young technical guys rammed his car into the building out of frustration.  The other summer intern very nobly told me, “Don’t base your future career choice on what you see here,”  which made me feel quite relieved.  Until soon the newsroom was abuzz with her revelation that she had succeeded in busting up the baseball player’s relationship — and was now desperately trying to figure out how to get rid of him.

IMAGE: “Jagged Television or Anti-Cretinization” by Isidore Isou (1989).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Luisa Kay Reyes has had pieces featured in the Fire In Machines, Hofstra University’s The Windmill, Halcyon Days, Fellowship of the King, Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine, and other literary magazines.  Her piece, “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.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Dressed up in my suit for the news station!

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The Job I Hated, But Needed
by Amanda Eifert

My first job was a leap, caused a limp,
Applied at the DQ, the manager was likable.
Trainees had three-hour shifts,
And no one explained how the take-out and eat-in system worked;
The manager yelled at me on my second shift.
I didn’t understand if he needed workers,
Why I had one shift each week of only three hours;
Never long or often enough to catch on.
I practiced endless ice cream cones and Sundaes.
I made delicious blizzards, brownie desserts, and treats.
When the milk shake machine exploded on me,
I held my breath and cleaned up the mess,
I was screamed at and no other worker defended me.
I felt isolated and tried to be friendly,
Then, I was told I needed to get along with the staff better.
I received stilted conversations, older girls who were mean to me.
Somehow I understood why:
They were stuck at the DQ in their twenties,
I was just fifteen with life before me.
Most shifts I spent washing dishes,
With the only “angel” in the kitchen;
A woman who decorated cakes,
Told me it wasn’t right I was only working three-hour shifts.
She said I was too pretty to be working there;
So when September came I quit.
Three months and barely $400.00.
I was thankful for the blessing of an odd tip,
After the manager yelled at me in front of a crowd,
Cute boys who slid an extra toonie my way with a smile.

IMAGE: “Ice Cream” by Cassia Black. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I hated working at the DQ in the summer of grade 10, but it was the only job I could get at the time. It was as you can read above, a humiliating experience. A great deal of it had to do with never being given enough shifts so that I could learn my job properly beyond making ice cream treats. I was barely given one three-hour shift a week and often sent home and not paid for the hours I did not work. This example of an awful manager affected my outlook on work profoundly. It taught me how to never humiliate or embarrass people who work under you or who you are training. In later jobs, I learned to be gentle with people when trying to help them correct mistakes or errors. I hated that job at DQ so much I refused to eat or buy anything at that location until the DQ was under new management.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amanda Eifert  is a writer, freelancer, and blogger in Alberta, Canada. She has poetry and short fiction published online for www.spillwords.com, www.sicklitmagazine.com, and on http://www.herheartpoetry.com on Instagram. She has an English BA and is working towards an MFA program in Creative Writing. You can visit her blog at www.mandibelle16.wordpress.com and @mandibelle16 on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr.

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Blue Hair and Game Hens
by Karen Sawyer

I was 17 and working as a banquet waitress at a formal event of mostly elderly people. The first course went smoothly, but no one warned me about the slippery main course, Cornish game hens and sautéed vegetables. As I leaned over to serve the plate in my right hand, the hen on the plate in my left hand slipped right off the plate and down the back of a lady whose hair and gown were both a pale shade of blue. We were both shocked and horrified. Not knowing what to do next, I ripped the napkin off her lap and started wiping the greasy mess off her back, then I grabbed the Cornish game hen and ran for the kitchen. My supervisor rushed out and somehow handled the whole situation with grace and charm.

When it was time to serve dessert, my hands had almost stopped shaking and I no longer felt nauseated, so my supervisor sent me back to the scene of the crime. I should have reconsidered when I saw the tall, ice cream-filled parfait glasses sitting on tiny saucers.

Sheepishly, I approached the table of my earlier humiliation. As I set down one saucer, I looked to see an empty saucer in my other hand. I went numb when I realized that the parfait glass was now resting upside down in a woman’s open purse on the floor. She was sitting across the table from my first victim who yelled, “Why is she still here?” I melted into the woodwork and, well, frankly, I don’t remember what happened next but I did get to keep my job.

My boss told me I would look back and laugh. She was right.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, at age 17. I don’t have a picture of me at this job but this is the age I was when the incident happened.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: What can you say about an incident like this one? As a 17-year-old girl, I thought my life was over.  My parents happened to be dining in the restaurant next door and stopped in after the banquet to say hi. When I saw my dad walk in the door, I completely fell apart.  He didn’t say a word, he just hugged me.  I’m sure he was chuckling under his breath as I sobbed my way through the whole story, but being a good dad, he didn’t say anything except that everything would be okay. I can now see the humor in it and it has made for some good laughs when I’ve shared it with others. It was a character-building night that I will never forget.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Sawyer’s work has appeared in Precious, Precocious Moments, Wounded Women of the Bible, The Secret Place Devotional, guest posts in Mother Inferior blog and Unsent Letters blog, Girlfriend 2 Girlfriend magazine, and MONTROSE ANYTIME magazine. She has contributed numerous articles to ehow, and Demand Media’s other web-based sites. She taught elementary school for seven years before her children were born. Karen lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband of 29 years. They are the parents of two adult children.

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To Work at Thirteen
By Paul Nebenzahl

Six foot at thirteen, the summer of 1968, sent to a hippie summer camp
Among the glacial hilled farms and lakes settled by the Dutch, in mid-Michigan

Dirt roads and outhouses behind gas stops, in tired tin roof towns
I spent nine weeks working using my hands, my heart and head

Digging a ditch to the Orchard Cabins, to build a bathhouse
At Circle Pines Center, only one of a handful a fifties/sixties retreats

Where interracial families, folksingers and gunslingers
Spent evenings under the glass harmonica of midwestern skies

Swaying, singing, throwing at the moon, telescoping freedom’s songs
Around great fires that seared your face, shining in the coal black night

Kellogg’s was down the road, through Kalamazoo to Battle Creek
That Kellogg’s truck appearing every Sunday morning, behind the old farmhouse

We’d swarm around, the rewards of Sunday kitchen duty, and get the good boxes
To go with the packaged milk and chocolate milk cartons for fuel

This a slightly different camp, let’s say, that music camp they sent my brother to
‘Round the campfire in Lake Placid, I don’t think they sang red songs of freedom/struggle

Songs all pounding in my head, weekday mornings of dew sleep, then bells ringing
Breakfast all but gone by 9:30 when I climbed down in the trench, with an old shovel

To dig until noon, and then again after lunch and swimming and early sex trying
Back in the trench again, to dig until dinner, and then to wash the dirt from our teeth

Settling down for a pass-the-meal sing-a-long in flowered shirts and flowered hair
Singing Danish folk songs, folk blues, Irish ballads, 50s camp songs

The corn, potatoes and chicken, in metal tubs, sandy water in red plastic cups
Sing for the cooks! Sing for Rosie! Sing-along under stained glass windows

I fell in love a million times under a million stars, my hair grew long and tangled
Shoulders broadened week by week, shovel steady, laughing with my best friend

Digging all day, under the volleyball field, the milkweed and cotton top flowers
Filled with buzzing bees and flies to follow you to the beach, sweat flies

They stayed with you, all the way down to the water, biting your head and back
Until you dove onto the cool sheen of Lake Stewart, under the rope and floats

Pulling up on an old dock, catapulting onto white painted sandy slats, sun stinging
I could feel the keel of work surge through muscle and capillary, raising me

That summer of ’68, with the Art Ensemble of Chicago as our final week counselors
With the bathhouse trench to the Orchard, the SDS, the Panthers and Blackstone Rangers

With first kisses and caresses in barn lofts/hay fields, with midnight swims to moonbeams
With books and poetry and music, we sang the body polemic

Work glued us, broke us, renewed us and changed us, a spirit built in our chests and hands
I arrived early summer a boy, and trained home to Chicago, folk dancing in the aisles, a man

IMAGE: “Shovel” by Aloysius Patrimonio. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem brought back such a rush of memories of early work ingrained into me at the cooperative summer camp I attended in Michigan in the sixties and seventies.  A hotbed of radical, labor, civil rights, folk music, blues (Big Bill Broonzy had been the cook there in the fifties), it was also a place where you had to work long hard days as a camper on work projects such as the one we tackled that summer, to bring water to a group a cabins near the center of camp. Today, when I visit Circle Pines, I can still see where we piled the dirt back in after laying the pipes out the Orchard all those years ago.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Paul Nebenzahl
is a writer, painter, and musician who lives in Evanston, Illinois. His drawings and paintings have been exhibited at Kubiak Gallery and at The Palette Gallery in Douglas, Michigan, at Frame Warehouse Gallery in Evanston, Illinois, and his photomontage has been exhibited at Aperture Gallery in New York City. His collection of 50 poems, Black Shroud With Rainbow Fringes, was published by Silver Birch Press in May, 2014, and his poems appear in three other Silver Birch collections, Bukowski, Summer,  and May.  His  poem,” Gusen Station” was published in English, Italian, and German in 2012 by the International Committee for Mauthausen and Gusen. As a performing multi-instrumentalist and composer, he has created Emmy-nominated works for film and television, and has performed extensively in theater, stage, and club settings.  He toured the United States in 1979 playing tenor sax with legendary blues artists Big Walter Horton and Homesick James –– and performed with Karen Finley from 2011-2015, including engagements at the Barbican Centre in London, the Museum of Modern Art and The Laurie Beechman Theater in New York City, the Richard and Karen Carpenter Theater in Long Beach, California, and at the Kelly Writer’s House at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Doris and the Bubblin’ Mop Water
by Joseph Johnston

Dinner shift at the college dining hall. Cafeteria trays rocketed down a conveyor belt and my task was to pull the sporks off and toss them into buckets of dishwater at my feet. Then Clarence, Potter, and Bubs scraped the remnants of the trays into a hungry hippo garbage disposal. Ruth nearing retirement placed the empty trays onto a different conveyor belt and everything disappeared into a stainless steel tunnel named Hobart.

First day on the job and once I figured out the protocol I made a game out of trying to guess what animal the entrée came from. Some of the detritus looked like chicken; others something gamy and sinister.

After dishes, I shadowed Doris the custodian. Now you gotta have this water hot or it won’t clean anything she said as she ran hot water into my mop bucket. Then she poured disinfectant in and affixed a mop wringer to the gunwale. We walked over to the range tops where Doris had a cauldron of water boiling. I like my mop water a little hotter than yours. I like it prit’near bubblin’ she said and she grabbed the cauldron and poured it into her mop bucket. She reached into it with these catcher’s mitt hands and started stirring the disinfectant around. I looked closely at the skin blistering off her bare palms. She smiled right through me and grabbed two mops.

We cleaned the cafeteria floor and I couldn’t stop obsessing about the burns on her hands until she told me that Clarence sometimes falls asleep in the breakroom and everyone enjoys giving him a tickle with a broom bristle because he giggles in his sleep. It was all a blur and I tried to punch out but Doris told me the time clock hadn’t worked in years.

IMAGE: “Janitor” by Aloysius Patrimonio. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I was 16, a few friends and I got jobs washing dishes at the local college dining hall. I was saving up for a guitar. The shifts were hot and sweaty, the work was tough and fast, and the Hobart dishwasher was a beastly thing. Our minds wandered in and out of the characters employed there, and the situations we were put into. Lotta ghostly stories told. Lotta fun had, too.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I don’t have a photo of myself from those days, but this is the Hobart that we were terrified of getting dragged into.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Writer and filmmaker Joseph Johnston made his first movie at the age of 11, an industrial espionage thriller that continues to play to excited crowds in his parents’ living room every Christmas. His prose, poetry, and video literature have appeared in Midwestern GothicArcadia, and Iron Horse Literary Review. He currently resides in Michigan, where is working on a documentary and book about third-shift lounges.