Searching since she strayed, a sad, simple, solitary swan swims south. Stroke. Stroke. Swimming straight, she slips, splashes, surprising small surface skippers.
Secretively, something sinister spies. Surrounded sticks and stems shroud staring slits. Should she stay still? Strike? Silently, she swoops swiftly. Swipe. Splash. She successfully snags supper.
Lessons from the Lupin Lady
Blue, purple, and white stems
Tall and narrow skyscrapers
Swaying in the sea breeze
And happily bloom as evidence
That the world is beautiful
Travel the seas and skies
Reach for the depths
And reach for the stars
Learn of nature, people, and cultures
Live the trials and tribulations
When you’re ready to come home
And know what home is
And what home is worth
Nurture a family your own
A legacy to live on after you
But that is not all you must do
You must make the world beautiful too
With words, art, or planted flowers
Like the Lupin Lady on the hill
Rest only when this third thing is done.
Would you like fries with that?
When you work the late shift and your alarm goes off at 4:00pm, it still feels early. I shuffle to the kitchen in underwear and slippers to open the fridge. The bright LEDs are jarring even with the sun high in the sky. I look for milk but I know there isn't any. Stupid.
I don't know why I even drink coffee at home before I got to work at McDonalds. The coffee at home is worse than the coffee at work. I guess if my breath smells like coffee beans before I get there they won't notice what other smells I might be giving off. I used to wash my shirt every day to get rid of the fry grease. Now I don't.
At work it's quiet and I'm manning multiple stations because Gio called in sick again. He's not sick. The front counter is sticky but I'll just leave it until later. Like maybe when I'm bored at 1:00 am.
It's only 10:00 pm. The movies across the way get out and I expect people to come in. Aren't you hungry after eating all that popcorn in the dark? Aren't you thirsty from all that sugary soda that you need a milkshake? Stupid.
A young couple comes in, hanging all over each other. Her arms are around his neck, and his around her waist and they walk side by side attached at the hip. They obviously had their hands in each other's pants during the whole movie and now they wanted to do it here too. Gross. I walked up to the sticky counter. "Welcome to McDonalds. Can I take your order?"
"Uh, yeah," the boy said. The girl had her nose against his face smiling at him as he looked at the menu board. "Does the cheeseburger come with cheese on it?" Stupid.
"Yes. It's a cheese burger."
"She's lactose intolerant. Can't have cheese." He snuck a quick kiss to her.
"We have a burger without cheese."
"You want a burger?" He asked her. The girl shook her head.
"What do you want?" I asked.
"Okay. We'll have a hot fudge sundae," he grinned at me.
"Ice cream has dairy in it," I said. Stupid.
"Yeah, so?" the boy said. The girl whispered in his ear, giggling. "Oh, and two spoons."
I looked over at the self-service station where the napkins, plasticware, and straws were. Stupid.
"Okay," I said, punching in the order on the kiosk screen. "One hot fudge sundae. That will be $1.34."
"I thought everything on the dollar menu was a dollar."
"It is. The hot fudge sundae is not on the dollar menu." Stupid.
"Oh. Well I only have a dollar."
I know the menu, so I say. "Do you want an ice cream cone instead? It is on the dollar menu."
"Ya," he says. "But can you put it in one of those little plastic cups and add hot fudge?"
"Hot fudge is extra. It wouldn't be a dollar."
"Ya. I want the dollar ice cream cone but I don't want the cone. Instead I want hot fudge."
"That's not how it works," I say. "You can get the ice cream cone for a dollar plus tax, or you can get the hot fudge sundae for $1.29 plus tax."
"Fine. I'll splurge and get the hot fudge sundae."
"Ok. That will be $1.34."
"And two spoons."
Stuck on the Moon
They say you go crazy out here, but he hadn't thought it was true. Sure, the moon sucked, but at least there was a way off of it. And if there was a way out then you weren’t locked in.
Fuck this place, he thought. There was a time that he could come and go as he pleased. Back when he had a real job and a spaceship. But now he was stuck mining moon dust. What a madhouse, this place. They call it an opportunity when they invite you in, but it turns into a prison when you’re forced to stay. Fuck Mars, too, he spat.
It was the hundredth run of the day. The Lunarcrete-making machines had needed new blades so many times today that he had lost count. Hundredth time was an exaggeration, he knew that, but he didn’t actually know how many times he been out between sunrises. When the sun doesn’t set like it does on Earth, one day runs into another. One day is thirty days, give or take. And you lose track of time. Did people even have birthdays on the moon? He wondered. Holy shit, have I been here longer than I think I have? Had it been a month, or was it more like a year?
As his vehicle drove between the grey dust of buildings to the grey dust of the mine, Mac felt even more disoriented. The humps of the Lunarcrete buildings without windows looked just like the hills in the distance. Was he going the right way? He wasn’t even driving, of course it was the right way. The grey of the ground blended into the black sky, and for a mining repair guy like him, everything was grey. They say you go crazy out here, he thought. I might be going colorblind, but I’m not crazy.
Mac made it to the mine and the equipment that was stalled, cutting shapes out of the pressed Lunar dust that could be moved and used for constructing new buildings. He carefully used his tools to remove and replace the blade before switching on the robot again. Job done, he got back in the vehicle, back through the grey emptiness, and back to the grey inside, and back to the grey of his sad life.
"I gotta get off this rock," he said. "Before I really go crazy, I swear. I gotta get off this damned moon before it kills me." He looked at his head-up display for what was in his bank account. It was still not even half the amount needed for a ticket off. He had to find another way to escape this greyness.
Mac usually turned to Mary Jane for solace, but after his shift now he needed something stronger. He went to his regular spot where he went to get into trouble, the Irish pub. The standing bar tops were full tonight, each person zoned out on their personal head-up display. People weren’t here to socialize, just drink until they passed out enough to go to sleep. The sounds of people snorting and burping filled the air and matched the smell of BO and flat beer. No one paid him any attention as Mac discretely asked the bartender for something “with a little more umph”. The bartender obliged, but not without making a mental note to add Mac’s face to the list of those that might not make their shift tomorrow. If he didn’t, there’d be hell to pay.
“Don’t worry about me, man,” he responded to the bartender’s gaze of don’t fuck up and blame me.
Mac placed the fragile piece of paper laced with his escape on his tongue, closed his eyes, and inhaled through his nose deeply. The crazy swept right out of him, and the grey jumpsuits that stood around him started to turn purple and red. Color sprang into his eyes, swirling and blending the lines of faces and objects together. Yes, he thought, this is pretty.
Laid off. Part of a RIF (reduction in force). Downsized. Let go. It feels like I'm fired.
You were part of the fire of creativity here. You were the fuel that kept our customers happy. You were the source of so many good things that made us a strong team. But it is time for you to go.
Am I responsible for the flames of a forest fire? Is it too big to control? Is it too hot in here?
I don't know. But now you need to take your coals elsewhere. Be part of a different fire somewhere else.
My fire is dead. Where will I burn again? Will I find a home before my embers grow cold?
If you measure once and cut twice, you can avoid making mistakes in everything.... except love.