By Dustin Nightingale
Featured Art: New York Lunch Counter by Walker Evans
Needs and Hopes
I want $50,000 a year with insurance, incentives such as stock
options, 401K, paid paternity leave, sick days, two months off
in the summer, and a company car with a gas card. I expect a
healthy work environment, void of inspirational quotes like
Inspiration overtop of an eagle in the snow. My colleagues
will not try and josh me, nor will they throw potlucks or invite
me to 4th of July cookouts and then think I’m an uppity jerk
when I don’t attend. They will not show me pictures of
something they recently pushed or pulled out of their uterus.
Nor will they tell me about the book they want to write based
on their own life. What they will do is mumble lines of Emily
Dickinson to themselves while staring out a window. They
will bring in a bag of cayenne peppers they grew this summer,
leave it on the break-room table with a sign that says Free
—take what you want. And I will take three. I will let them
dry, grind them up, and place them in the plastic of a cigarette
wrapper, which I will pinch into stir-fries during a very
long and cold winter. And I will try to do the same for them.
Oh I’ve done that. I’m not proud of it, but I’ve done that.
Have you? Well you should try it sometime, just to see what
you’re capable of and for how long. I mean, why not see what
it takes to make you wake up crying. And then of course, what
it takes for you to stop. So when can I start? Or have I already?
I once supervised an off-med bipolar man and a drunken Bills
fan, and by the end of the night we had mopped and vacuumed
and cleaned every toilet and sink and emptied every trashcan
and I found a dead moth on a windowsill that must have just
died there. So I picked it up by the wing and carried it outside
Stewart Hall and put it on a branch for a midnight bat, though
I bet the wind blew it off. And at the end of the shift, we
went wherever, and the next day we did the same thing, minus
the moth. I checked the branch and I checked the ground
but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I think about that moth a lot.
I would deal with internal gossip by starting something
more severe. I would say, Tom has recently acquired various
colored wires for no reason. A week later, I would
mention how he smells like fertilizer. A week from that, I
would say how Tom was looking at something weird on
his computer, but won’t say what. Why does he have all
those maps? Has he seemed more uptight to you? More aggressive?
It’s probably just my imagination. Still, though.
Really I just want you to like me on smoke breaks, say something
like My crotch smells like a potato cellar, and me saying, Yah.
And then you’ll say, Did you know that 75% of all the world’s
problems are solved? And I’ll say, a little too dreamily, I don’t
want to be a part of either side. And then you say something.
Say something interesting for once and I will try to do the same.
I don’t want to say anything bad about anybody, but I like one
out of fifty people, with no exceptions. So what about my other
boss? Well, what about you? You might be okay, but who
knows? I may imagine you in a snowstorm, beside a flaming
plane smeared across the Andes Mountains, faced with the
necessity of eating another human being, perhaps your lover.
Perhaps you were going on vacation together. You were going
to propose at a small chateau. Maybe I’ll imagine me there,
putting the ring in the middle of a cream pie. Who knows?
I will pass your piss test but it isn’t because I don’t do drugs.
Does that count? Never mind. The reason I deserve this job is
because I’m alive, but so are the other candidates, I assume.
We all should be hired and allowed to do drugs in the evenings.
This one time on drugs, I saw a giant frog dragging
itself across an intersection. It was the calmest thing I’ve ever
seen, and that scared me. That is when I quit doing so many
drugs though recently I’ve been thinking about doing more. Of
course that costs money—thus one of the reasons I am here.
My biggest weakness is being poor and needing a job. And low
self-esteem. And alcoholism. Panic attacks. Sometimes I just
gape at things, but that passes after an hour or two. I smoke
two packs a day, I’m sorry to say. I have no loyalty what-so-ever.
I saw a worm surrounded by ants on a sidewalk after a hard
rain and started to cry. What else? Let’s see, I’m afraid of loud
sounds, I don’t like touching wooden spoons, I’d rather eat myself
to sleep than just try and fall asleep waiting for the next day.
I don’t really care for the next day. I mean, can you blame me?
I would be a good fit here because you have an employment
opportunity available and I happen to be available. I
would be a good candidate for here because I always leave
my fair share in the coffee kitty. I’m never more than an hour
late. You won’t even know I’m here. I won’t ask you about
your weekend. I will give at least 50% effort which has to
be more than the others, right? I won’t, I won’t, I won’t. I
will, I will, I will. When I quit, I will not make a scene. I
probably won’t even tell you. I would be a good fit here because,
I don’t know. A little boy’s answer. Am I hired? I quit.
Dustin Nightingale is a teacher and writer who currently lives in Hartford, CT. He has published over 100 poems in various journals. His chapbook, Ghost Woodpecker is available from BatCat Press.