Mika noticed

The first one sounds like an old timey doorbell. 

The second is more of a ‘tink’.

Then the device actually rings. A tone warbles- a pulse, laser, then a metallic clang all in succession.

It is vexatious and designed to draw attention.

‘Sorry, sorry.’ Each apology frames a stop and then restart of work.

The ringing continues even after she tries to tap tap it away.

Head down, she mutters, then sighs. ‘Some people use the app. Some call it in.’

Just over her shoulder, two different people are nestled in their cars, on their phones.

One of them stares at us.

‘S’ok’ I offer. ‘I bet you wish you could just turn off those notifications!’

Her look up is sudden and stark.

I know this look.

It’s like that moment of glancing up and seeing someone staring at you.

Or staring out your car window and gaze locking with a passing driver.

Being observed by a stranger has a nervous effervescence to it.

The woman in the blue car is still eyeballing us.

How long have they been watching?

What did they notice?

What did I just do?

It blows open the landscape between fight, flight, and freeze.

Time slows then speeds as your consciousness handshakes with reality again.

Mika dead-eyes me. ‘We are not allowed to mess with the scanners.’

The device chirps as if in agreement.

‘I didn’t mean…’ I blurt.

With a dismissive wave she turns and takes the call.

saturdays according to Reuben

Uber drivers are frustrating. 
They check-in before they arrive, 
but are never ready 
when the order rolls out to the pickup zone. 

And then they yell at me like it was my mistake. 
I think it’s the stress of their job. 
Some of the Uber drivers 
know me and my family personally. 
Sometimes they tell my mother 
that I made them wait. 
I apologize- 
at first 
I thought you were an Uber driver. 

The cold is not so bad. 
Walmart gives us thermal jackets 
and reusable shopping bags and grippy gloves. 
The gear makes car loading easier in the winter. 
It also makes the load outs 
from the warehouse 
happen faster. 
Walmart always expects ‘faster’. 
When it snows fewer staff show up 
for their shifts. 
Walmart still expects ‘faster’. 

Completing the survey 
helps me to keep this shift 
on Saturday mornings. 
My manager checks every response. 
I need to keep this shift. 
I have two other jobs, 
my schedule is like a sudoku, 
if Saturday changes, 
it will cause headaches, 
many many headaches. 


He draws on his cigarette.

The unconcerned tv chatters local news behind the bar. A ticker tape crawls left to right- weather, sport scores, a fire, a lottery winner, a man in his …

That last item will loop back around in 10 minutes or so.
A table near us is paying a bill, they are complaining vigorously about a charge for extra ranch dressing -You didn't tell us there was a charge for that! We want the manager. The server sighs. Hassles.

They disappear and return with the item removed from the bill.

I know they only circled through the kitchen, debited the bill, and did not bother the manager. Tip saved. Problem solved. 

Recent x-rays show expanding pathways of concern in my dad's left hip. As I understand it, his own blood is the enemy. Over his left shoulder a plate arrives. Mine lands from my right.

I notice the break of customary service. It was obviously more convenient, but full plates should come from the right; empty, the left. Rules matter. Certainty. Assurance.

He eyes me eyeing his smoke. If it were related to smoking, I’d stop -he says.

I’ve done the research. He is correct. Would be simpler if he weren’t.

30 minutes ago he described the honeycomb-like decay in his bones as we transversed from hospital AC to July heatwave.
He offers little depth and closes with- Your mom keeps the details in a notebook. Her rulebook.
Should I confirm the details? I pivot and ask how’s he feeling. Without pause, he declares -I want a burger.

It’s 9:30 AM I think to myself. This is a problem.
And then I realize that this problem is not the problem.
My mom expects us back right after the appointment. That’s a problem too. But not the problem.

Back at the bar, I ask -Should we check in at home?

I reach for my phone, he wags his finger ‘no’.

The problem with cancer, he starts -is not how it changes you, but how it changes other people. Makes them unreliable, needy, and rigid all at the same time.

I get a bit of Holden Caufield vibe from his tone.

Really? I think, is that the problem? I guess that could be true. Perspective.

He continues -Before we left, she told me to come right home after the appointment, I told her no. She started crying.

The ticker tape slides back into view. … a man in his late 60's was pulled from Lake Ontario …

He bites into his burger. 

Some sauce runs down his chin onto his shirt. 

Nonplussed he adds -I like breaking rules.