My first job was to weed the flower garden. My dad gave me a big plastic bucket and a trowel and set me loose behind the garage. When he returned a little while later to the bucket empty and in its original position, I was whittling a stick with my new pocketknife. I informed him of an epiphany I’d had which was this: see, it’s better if you don’t work.
Although I’ve been living that statement down for many years, and I can still understand my young logic, it’s usually better if you do work. Jobs keep some of the craziness at bay, even while saddling our days or nights with crazy people. Jobs pay the bills; they turn the clock; they inject the free time we have with meaning. Jobs also ink themselves inimitably on our lives. The tooth knocked out by a pressure washer hose, certain grindings in knees and shoulders, a ton of lost brain cells. Although I found pot smoking to be pretty common at the blue-collar jobs I’ve worked, most of the brain cells were lost to petroleum distillates.
It is a bit of a conundrum that most of us need to work while we dream of not working, but I’ve been lucky to have the quality of jobs in my life increase over the years. Mine has been a long slow progression from “jobs taking me away from my life,” to the jobs “being my life.” Sometimes I feel the beauty of this relationship, sometimes I feel brutally locked into the nearly constant work of day job/parenting/attempts at writing and editing/trying to stay in good enough shape to live a full life. I try not to wish my time away. I try to get a latch on these years that will glow in memory later. But I find myself looking forward to slower days, to less working.
Jan LaPerle’s poem, “Saturday Afternoon Remodeling the Camper,” centers on an old chore and a new one, its images lovingly bound together by the sinews of sound and season and the act of binding itself. LaPerle’s diction is spare, but that only serves to underscore the complexity of the speaker’s emotions. Although the reader is shepherded with a deft hand into sunlight at poem’s end, the layers and poignancy of marriage have been laid bare.
In “Liberty is Just Around the Corner,” flash fiction by Jacqueline Doyle, a young man wrestles with the gap between his present job—advertising a tax agency dressed as the Statue of Liberty—and the type of employment that might impress his girlfriend. This clever flash piece captures some of the lonely humor of the ridiculous jobs we take as we try to find our way.
The all-encompassing job of sailing in the navy dominates “The Urge” by Kurt Brindley. Authentic details and a tough voice solidify this piece, while it probes the effect of naval life on individuals who pay attention. Surrounded by bustle and bullshit, two sailors form a terse connection based on “something unseen, deep beneath the tumult.”
Photo by Cristiano Oliveira