Archives for posts with tag: Stories

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Hot Fudge Sauce
by Susan W. Goldstein

One of my least favorite, between college semester jobs, was in an ice cream shop . . . excuse me: Shoppe. The owner was a dirty old man who would pinch my butt whenever I was leaning in to scoop from the drums of hard-as-rock ice cream. I was too shocked to say anything, but I am certain that he lost money that summer, as I ate most of the profits when he wasn’t looking. (I mean, have you tried rum raisin with hot fudge sauce?)

One incident evolved into a long-standing family joke. A customer was trying to be helpful, as she pointed out that I had a big drip of hot fudge sauce on my collar bone. I looked down and didn’t see anything, so she pointed. And I began to laugh! It was a beauty mark that would forever be called my “hot fudge sauce.”

I did not return to this store the following summer. Instead, I sought employment at the Weed Pizza Parlor, its unofficial name. At night, after closing, the manager would make pizza that was covered, not in oregano, but in non-medicinal marijuana. I was still a naïf, and would run home to my parents and report what those wild and wicked kids were doing. My folks just advised me to keep working during the day, because summer was almost over and I guess that my mom didn’t want my whiney little self hanging around.

IMAGE: “Hot Fudge Sundae” by Sandy Tracey. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

 NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I don’t know why I took these crummy minimum wage jobs, instead of applying for internships or something useful. Perhaps I knew back then that I would one day need to draw from each of these experiences to fuel my writing.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan W. Goldstein is Livin’ la Vida Loca in Delray Beach, Florida — if you define such as a sensible bedtime and early rising to begin typing away on her little laptop. She has been proudly published in Mothers Always Write, Silver Birch Press, Mamalode, Medium, and JustBe Parenting, Lunch Box (Issue 11: Summer/Fall 2017 ), and is a winner of Hyland’s “A Mother Knows” campaign. Coming up later this month:  Sammiches & Psych Meds.  Follow her blog, at very-seriously.com.

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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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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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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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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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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.

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I never could stay inside the lines
by Jeanne Ellin

Fifty-five years ago this May, I started my first job. Not with the other girls on the shop floor but penned in solitary in a little office. For £2.50 pence I am not a naturally precise or neat person with no affinity for numbers.

I did the books (very badly) for a repairs factory and the six outlets that took in repairs. Every total had to balance to the nearest 2p. With hurried handwriting a 5 could be confused with a 3 causing many reworkings, no calculators then. The shop and factory wages were also my task. Two men had the same last name and I confused their pay.  Only the one who received less than usual complained.

I also got to do any small errands like fetch dry cleaning for my boss and relieve the cashier from her little metal cage for her lunch break.

My lasting regret, not a sin numbered in any catechism, still haunts me.

I succeeded the woman who’d worked in that office for 45 years.  She took pride in the many ledgers she had filled with her small neat (fitting into tiny squares) figures. All those years never a blot and there were dip-ink pens used, certainly never a crossing out or a covering up. Ever.

She dressed soberly, her only treats were a box of Dairy milk and a Mills and Boon every Friday to sweeten her weekend.

When she retired after a few weeks of tutoring me in her tasks she left her last set of books with several blank pages for me to fill.

I blurred, blotted and overran the squares repeatedly. All those careful years and she handed over to a bored teenager without pride nor interest in her work.

IMAGE: “Blue-02” by Georgia O’Keeffe (1916).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  The prompt was timely, as I am approaching the fifty-fifth anniversary of beginning my first job and welcome the chance to explore that memory. As I am now older than the woman I took over from I see events from both perspectives.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeanne Ellin is an-about-to-be  70-year-old woman of mixed heritage endeavouring to live a creative life in a small space with even smaller resources. She has had a textbook on counseling published, as well as poems in numerous anthologies and one collection, Who asks the Caterpillar? (Peepal Tree Press, 2000).

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Tending the Dogs
by Elizabeth Hilts

“A job would be good for her,” Mrs. Pierce told my mother when I was 12 and the chaos of Mother’s schizophrenia was taking a firm hold on our lives. “She should go work with my daughter, tend the dogs.”

Mother drove me over to the Count and Countess’s stone mansion on the Point. He had escaped the Hungarian Revolution with his title; she was rumored to be a Guggenheim. They bred Miniature Schnauzers. Countess and Mother chatted over tea and small cakes carried in by a uniformed maid. “She can start on Saturday morning,” the Countess said.

Five mornings a week the cook doled out each dog’s breakfast: hard-boiled egg, cottage cheese, and kibble. I carried the bowls out to the kennel where the dogs quivered in their crates, stacked four high, five wide. Twenty of them, plus the Count’s dog, Dolly, who I collected from his suite where he lounged on the bed, lounged in the bubble bath. Dolly would not come when called. “You’ll have to come get her,” he’d tell me, his robe falling open, the bubbles parting.

After breakfast, I brushed their teeth, hand clamped firmly around each muzzle while they growled deep in their throats. Washed and blow-dried their cunning little beards. They took their revenge during the walk around the point of land overlooking the tidal inlet, skittering into the underbrush before charging out to nip at my ankles. I was already accustomed to the mad ambush but wasn’t yet immunized from fear.

The cook made me lunch: hot soup and a sandwich, doled out on plain white china. My mother had already stopped cooking by then. I ate in the kennel, understanding that it was possible to be grateful for small simple things.

IMAGE: “Miniature Schnauzer” by Watercolor Girl. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I loved and hated my first job in almost equal parts but I’d never completely understood why, of course, until attempting to write this piece. That’s part of why I write: to gain access to the parts of myself that remain shrouded somehow.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Hilts writes memoir, essays, and fiction; though she has written poetry, no one needs to really know about that. During the academic year, she toils in the fields of academe as an adjunct instructor of English and related subjects. She is in a constant state of revision both as a writer and as a human being. Her work has appeared in Spry Literary Journal, Extract(s), and in the Black Lawrence Press anthology, Feast.

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The Art of Cheese
by Jayne Buckland

My first job before I went to Art College was scraping the mould off and rewrapping cheese.

Sixteen years old in a white coat that was too big and a hairnet from my Granny, I was kept in a windowless, whitewashed backroom of a village supermarket doing this illicit activity every Saturday.

There I would spend whole days scraping green furry creatures off the shiny, sometimes sweaty, yellow pieces of cheddar and numerous exotic cheeses for the 1970s’ cheese board. Some of these pieces of cheese became old friends. I would unwrap and scrape them at the beginning of the month and say hello again when they would reappear, sometimes week after week; because I discovered that once the mould had got started it wasn’t going to give up. Its ghost remained, unseen to the human eye.

I would first unwrap the cling-film and place the cheese on the wooden board. If there was mould, I would have to use my wire cheese cutter. The pleasure of this was so satisfying, cutting away through the solid moistness and restoring its original hue. But this enjoyable activity was carefully monitored by the Store Manager to make sure I did not cut too much away. Then it was wrapped in the cling-film and on a heated plate I would seal the plastic and weigh and label it again.

The textures and structures of this most delicious substance, and the joys of cutting, scraping and covering it with a stretchy clear plastic, has never left me. I formed little sculptures to sit on the Deli counter.  Cheddar, Stilton, Gloucester, Apricot Wensleydale, Brie, Chèvre sec, Gorgonzola were part of my new beginning of life in the workplace. They were my small works of Art that would go on sale and bought by Art collectors.

IMAGE: Gourmet cheese plate, found at jerseypottery.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jayne Buckland lives in North London with her three cats. She enjoys the stimulation of the City and the peace and quiet of the Green belt to write. In her Day job, she works as a teacher and the evenings are taken up with singing with the local Operatic Society. Her ambition is to become a full-time writer and artist.

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My First Boss
by Vincent Francone

My first boss told me to wash dishes, showed me the sink, the hose a hook that I was to position, squeeze out the blustery stream, hunt for flour and red sauce caking the bits of machine.

Years later, I lied—told a girl I was fired for smoking Camels in the kitchen, even said I’d ashed my cigarette into the dishwater.

Truth: I was slow.  It was my first job. I had no drive, no desire to move up to stretching dough or painting with red sauce, making mozzarella rain, counting the precise number of pepperoni discs per uncooked pie, smiling at mall dwellers who condescended to my station having decided against three straight days of Dairy Queen burgers.

The boss had the decency to fire me over the phone.  He saved my mom a trip to the mall.  A week later, I picked up my check.  It wasn’t much, but I deserved less.

IMAGE: “Spoons” by Paul Wonner (1964).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Vincent Francone
 is a writer from Chicago whose memoir, Like a Dog, was published in the fall of 2015.  He won first place in the 2009 Illinois Emerging Writers Competition (Gwendolyn Brooks Award) and is at work on a collection of poems and stories. Visit vincentfrancone.com to read his work or say hi.