January 2005 / Volume VI / Issue I
Greg Scharf

Temp Job #3

I blew black snot
out of my nose for a week
because a man paid me
$5.25 an hour
to unload a truckload
of charcoal briquettes.

My partner was 45.
I was 19.
He couldn’t be demeaned
by the job, the early hour,
the air suffused
with fine black dust,
the 90 plus degrees,
or the foreman
who gave us slow and deliberate instructions
for even the simplest tasks.

he talked and laughed
like we were a couple of six-figure
coming off
a weekend binge
of pills and pussy.

At the end of the day
he pulled a glossy card
from his thin cracked wallet.
On the card was a colorful picture
of an overly done up whore
in a bikini
and a phone number at the top
in big bold print
that began with 888.

He said she was his girlfriend.
I smiled and said he was lucky
because I wanted to believe
it was possible
to be 45 years old
making $5.25 an hour
and have a girl like that
call you honey
without having to pay.

It made the rest of the week
a little less terrifying.