Archives for posts with tag: work


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

 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.


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

cassia beck
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

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.


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

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).

Alan Pattison at the Crown Estate small (002)
Introduction to the Civil Service
by Alan Pattison

Even the desks know their places
Backs up against the wall
The most junior in the corner
Seen but not heard

Up the corridor on the chief’s office
Apparently the door was always open for you
Except when you went past it and heard the voice say
“where are you slacking off to today?”
Ever upwards and onwards we all hoped
Promotion was like getting a gold medal
handed out with due consideration
for those who followed the rules

PHOTO: The author during his early days as a civil servant.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My first job was in the old fashioned civil service, working in personnel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alan Pattison is a semi-retired former management consultant and civil servant at the time of the poem, who enjoys researching and writing about local history, as well as composing short stories and poetry.  He is still trying to complete his first novel.

Reasons I Can’t Come to Work #33-41
By Gary Smillie

Hi Shabs, it’s Tom, I don’t think I’ll make it in today.
I’ve got bad hands from defrosting the freezer tray.
I’ve not seen the doctor, but let’s call it three weeks
Especially as I’m pretty sure I’m getting Swedish cheeks. (#33)

Hi Shabs, yeah, it’s Tom again. Hope you’re cool if I spend
The majority of this morning arranging loose pens.
I’ve got upwards of twenty and that’s really just the Biros…
Actually, I better take the afternoon off, also. (#34)

Hey Shabs, Tom here, look you really won’t believe,
I forgot to mention yesterday: I’m not recently bereaved
But just now I remembered that my granddad’s still dead
I think it’s best that, in his memory, I spend the day in bed. (#35)

Hi Shabs, yeah, that’s right, you’ve guessed it: Tom.
You know that thing when your earlobes throb?
Shabs don’t laugh, it’s a real condition. (#36)
Shabs, yeah, Tom: holes in my mittens. (#37)

Hello Shabs…Yo shabs…Hey Shabba, my man…
Blocked bins…scalp crabs…illuminous tan. (#s38-40)
No, the thing is, the truth, if I’m honest, it’s this:
Each new day in that place is like drowning in piss
And my soul’s so eroded that soon I’ll be hollow. (#41)
What’s that Shabs? Pay rise? I’ll see you tomorrow.

IMAGE: “Telephone” street art by Jerome Mesnager (2012).


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The creative process behind this piece is fairly simple — two mates in rubbish jobs mucking around.  Tom, from whose perspective I write the poem, was a good friend of mine when we both in our early twenties and had tedious office jobs.  We both used to amuse each other with our varied reasons for staying off work.  Tom’s line manager was called Shabs, which I just found an inherently comic name anyway, especially as I was never quite sure what gender Shabs was (I didn’t want to ask; I liked the mystery).  I wrote the poem as a kind of tribute to the sheer frustrated creativity of the under-stimulated mind and for stoic office managers everywhere.  After all, they must have heard tons of this crap!

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Tom (left) and Me (Right) enjoying escaping the hell of our first jobs (Liverpool, 2005).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gary Smillie  is a writer of poems and prose from the North of England.  Hailing from Liverpool, he now plies his trade in Manchester and, over the last decade, has read at various seedy bars and clubs both there and in London.  He is interested in the underdog, the misfit characters who linger on the fringes of society, and the way in which we each slowly lose or realise our hopes and dreams (usually the former) — often by a process of apparently unremarkable increments.  He recently finished his first novel, which is as yet unpublished.  More of his work can be found at writeoutloud,net and

pregnant woman otto dix

Pregnant Pause
by Linda McKenney

I sat waiting, in a large theater, with hundreds of other high school students who’d passed an exam for state employment.  We were interviewed according to our grade on the test.  I was fourth in line.  The position was beginning office worker, which meant you had to do whatever a superior desired.  Responsibilities included typing, transcription, filing, making copies and other duties as assigned.  I accepted.

My boss had a monotone voice, so I often dozed off while typing up his letters.  The interesting aspect of that was I continued to type.  Of course, the marks on the paper made no sense, so I had to begin all over again.  If there was a need for more than one copy of the document, we used sheets of carbon paper.  The ink would get all over your fingers and sometimes clothes.  More than two copies required a mimeograph.

This printing process used an ink-filled cylinder and ink pad. Documents were prepared on a special wax-covered stencil on a typewriter that had its ribbon disengaged. The typewriter thus made impressions in the stencil, which was filled with ink and squeezed onto paper by the mimeograph’s roller.

I married six months after I graduated from high school.  Shortly after that, I was interviewed for a promotion.  The man who would be my new boss told me that while I was qualified for the position, he wasn’t going to hire me.

“I noticed that you are wearing a wedding ring,” he said.  “In my experience, young married women get pregnant and then quit their jobs.  I don’t want to invest time training you and have you leave.”

What he said made sense to me, so I never questioned his decision.

Six months later I was pregnant and quit my job.

IMAGE: “Pregnant Woman” by Otto Dix (1930).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda McKenney is a Personal Life Coach, Motivational Speaker, and Writer, specializing in Mindful Living and Eating. She continually reinvents herself, and her new adventure is writing creative nonfiction. Her most recent work is published in Silver Birch Press, 101 Word Short Stories, The Survivor’s Review, The Rush, and Helen: A Literary Magazine. You can join Linda on her Mindful journey by visiting her blog –- She also has an alter ego at


Job Candidate
by Steve Bogdaniec

Subject: San Francisco Area – Base + Uncapped Commission with Fortune 500 Company

Job Candidate I Found on’s First Name,

My name is Guy I’m Writing This For—who can sell wonderfully but can’t write for shit, seriously, you should have seen this before I reworked it—and I am actually two people pretending to be one executive recruiter working with an Actual Company You Will Hopefully Be Impressed By. We would like to prescreen you for an interview with this company, and the “we” here is Headhunting Company That No Longer Exists, not Guy I’m Writing This For PLUS me—Steve—the one who actually found you among the jobless on Monster late at night.

  • Actual Company You Will Hopefully Be Impressed By, global leader in Document Management, has an Outside Sales position in your area, mostly because the turnover is ungodly and they’re always looking for people
  • Base salary 30-60K, compensation structure of 70k to 150k with car allowance, and uncapped commission, which, judging by how many people we actually got to take these positions back in 2007 and 2008, will not be enough to sway you
  • Successful performance at Territory Sales Representative level earns the opportunity for either a Major Account or Sales Team Manager promotion, though, remember, “successful” is apparently a very subjective term with Actual Company You Will Hopefully Be Impressed By

Please forward me an up-to-date copy of your resume because Steve probably emailed 25 people in three different cities tonight and we can’t keep track of you all. Upon receiving your resume, you will be contacted within 48 hours to schedule an interview. Or 72, depending, we’ll see.

Best Regards,

Guy I’m Writing This For

Executive Recruiter

Headhunting Company That No Longer Exists
Office: Somebody else’s phone number by now

IMAGE: “Fishing” by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1981).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For this piece, I have altered an actual email template that I edited and sent out to job candidates. In 2007 and 2008, I worked for a struggling “executive recruiting” firm that had contracts with companies looking for business-to-business salespeople. We found candidates to interview for the positions, and if they were hired and lasted 90 days, we got paid. ¶ A friend of mine brought me in, knowing that I needed work. He would work during the day and do all of the talking—and selling, which I was not good at. I worked at night, finding us qualified candidates on Monster or Career Builder. Because of my writing background, I also either wrote or edited all of our copy. It seemed simplest to represent ourselves as one person, so we did. ¶ It was not technically my first job, but looking back, I can definitely say that it was my first “real” job—my first brush with the humanity and inhumanity of commerce. The work was frustrating because both sides—the companies and the candidates—were too picky, and perfect matches were hard to come by. Still, it was very generous of my friend to hire me in the first place. I will always look back on the job fondly because of him.

Bogdaniec - bio

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve Bogdaniec is a writer and teacher, currently teaching at Wright College in Chicago. HE has had poetry and short fiction published in numerous journals, most recently Eclectica Magazine, Silver Birch Press, One Sentence Poems, and Blood Lotus. His work can also be found in the Nancy Drew Anthology: Writing & Art Inspired by Everyone’s Favorite Female Sleuth.


by John Hardic

In the seventh grade my brother and I became paperboys. We delivered the evening paper six days a week and the Sunday morning edition.

Saturday was collection. I was out around 10 a.m. to collect my money. In the winter I adjusted and collected while delivering papers. Why be out in the cold more than necessary?

One customer on my route had a mental health history that the entire town knew about. My father told me that Ray was a genius and had gone to Carnegie Mellon University. He had suffered a nervous breakdown and ended up in a mental hospital for some time.

Ray was about my father’s age. When he was discharged, Ray worked for the turnpike passing out the toll cards. This was back in the early 1970s before EZ-pass and automatic ticket machines.

Ray lived with his two sisters and every time I went to their house they were eating scrambled eggs. Whether it was ten in the morning or four in the afternoon, I’d knock on the door and whoever opened the door would be chewing on eggs.

Because it was a small community, news traveled fast. Ray was in jail for killing his two sisters. The word on the street was that “Ray blew his top” and killed his sisters because he did not like the way they made his eggs that day. Ray went back to the State Hospital.

About a year later the word buzzed around town that Ray was getting out and coming back home. My parents told me that I would NOT be delivering to him. If he wanted the paper that much he could walk to a store and get it.

IMAGE: “Sad egg,” courtesy of

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I belong to a writers’ group that meets weekly. We critique each other’s work and offer suggestions and opinions. One of the benefits is having creative people around to bounce ideas around and help stimulate and nurture an idea. When the prompt came up for the “My First Job” submission I was initially not interested. “How could being a paperboy be interesting? I delivered papers to people.”. This brought out a discussion among the group and one of my colleagues suggested things that happened while collecting money and delivering papers. Although this was 40 years ago, I began to think of the people on my route and an event immediately came to my mind. I shared my story with the group and was encouraged to submit it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Hardic is a 1978 graduate of Gannon University, where he studied biology and writing. He ascribed to theory of having a backup plan and while writing and perfecting his craft worked in the health care system for over 30 years.  Several of his short stories were recently published in a book about writing titled Prompted, Prodded, Published. John enjoys science fiction/ fantasy and stories that challenge the reader to think. He is influenced by The Twilight Zone, the writings of Albert Camus, and enjoys the Dune novels by Frank Herbert. He is an avid Pittsburgh sports fan and brags about being at Three Rivers Stadium for Franco Harris’s Immaculate Reception which he did not see. John lives in a Pittsburgh suburb with his wife and four cats.

cotton mill manchester
Edge Lane Mill
by Annette Skade

The handrail yanks me up in a torrent of clogs,
hobnail boots, steel toe-caps
that wore down this mighty stone spiral,
sagged it like shoulders after a long shift.

Up three flights into yards of bare boards,
built for power looms and baskets of shoddy.
Engines on turntables spin and spool tubes,
wide polyester for leggings and maxi-skirts.

Behind a glass partition on the shop floor I index,
stamp and tot, try not to lower my school-girl eyes
when the women nudge and link out to the toilets,
patting overall pockets, “Fag break!” tossed to the rafters.

PHOTO: A young cotton weaver working on a Jacquard loom producing towels (Manchester, England, 1965).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My first job was in one of the old cotton mills in Manchester, England, a stone’s throw from where I lived, which was then weaving polyester in an attempt to keep up with the times. I was a filing clerk there for a few weeks in the 70s, putting index cards into small wooden drawers and was paid £20 a week, a sum my mother was disgusted by, saying she wouldn’t let me work for that for any length of time. I stood in awe of the strong women who worked on the shop floor. I little thought I was witness to the end of an era.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Annette Skade is currently pursuing a PhD on the work of Canadian poet Anne Carson at Dublin City University. Her first collection Thimblerig was published following her receipt of the Cork Review Literary Manuscript prize in 2012. She has been published in various magazines in Ireland, the U.K. , and the U.S. and has won and been placed in several international poetry competitions. Visit her at

Kannemeyer, poem pic

First Commute
by Derek Kannemeyer

That first job out of college. The one where you get your
head shoved through the window of how hard it is going

to be to be a grown-up. And you crane it, and you flex
it, to scour the joint for an exit, and all you see anywhere

is stuck. Commuter train into London. In your new cheap
suit. Here you are braving the mass change mob charge

across Stratford platform. To board and be barreled along
to Tower Bridge station; to sidewise through that slamdance

into city air. Four times a day you’ll cross this bridge, into your
office complex at Courage’s Brewery and labyrinthed out again:

clock in, clock out to lunch, back after lunch, until you flee
back home. Or your parents’ home, you will have to say now.

And in ten thousand tourist photographs, in ten thousand dusty
photo albums, there you shall be still, in your cheap taupe suit,

just a smidge of local color. As behind you Tower Bridge,
and the Tower itself, anchor the land in history and grey sky.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me in my last college apartment, 1971. Maybe two months from entering the workforce, the prospect of which made my eyes clench firmly shut.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’m not sure my high school and college era jobs count; they were without terror. Whereas with this first real one, it dawned on me I might have to devote my whole life to crap like this. In fact, I haven’t had to; I quit abruptly after three months and have done work since which I enjoyed. While this job, in the brewery’s accounts department, was deadly dull, what dismayed me were its conventions and its hierarchies. (The women, as a tiny example, got morning coffee breaks and the men beer breaks. With a recently imposed three pint limit—in 15 minutes! at 10 am!— because some guys had been abusing the free beer privilege.) The commute, as we rushed in our millions into the maw of such enterprises, felt less like a rat race than a brawl of lemmings.

Kannemeyer, bio pic

ABOUT THE AUTHOR : Derek Kannemeyer, originally from London by way of Cape Town, writes and teaches in Richmond, Virginia. He edited the 2016 Poetry Virginia Review (a contest anthology, available on Amazon), and his work has appeared in numerous online and print publications.