I need tomorrow off.

my knuckles whitened
at the edge of my clip board.

the dry storage area
was notoriously dangerous

i’d used this space
countless times-
for breathers, side deal
convos with delivery
drivers, pep talks.

narrow hallway.
single lane only.
one way in,
one way out.

the only escape
would be to move
deeper into the
electrical room.

after that though,
you can't go over,
under, or around-
only through.

dodging his question
would come
off as weak.
answering too quickly,

a measured response
generally shortened
the topic.

it never shortened
the fuse of

I need tomorrow off-
he repeated.

with one hand on
each shelf, leaning
towards and down,
he looked vulture like.

30 seconds ago
i was counting buckets
of vegetable oil.
i wanted my 30 seconds
ago moment
back again.

i punched my response-
not possible.

schedules are built
like puzzles boxes,
when one coordinate shifts
others will have to

and so on.

Maria can take my shift.

no that puts her into overtime.

How about Ali? He and I can trade.

you are on grill tomorrow, Ali can’t do grill.

What am I supposed to do?

work the shift.

schedules are posted
two weeks in advance.
staff is expected
without being told
to schedule life

a sudden request
like this would be
met with challenge

injury, death, special
occasions, doctor's
appointments- no matter.

if you suddenly needed
a day off, it had to be
approved at least
two weeks ahead
of time.

this was the job.