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The fish is dragged from the sea in a spray of salt water and slammed onto a wooden dock. A black fishing net entangles him for a moment until he accidentally wiggles out of it. He is free. And that terrifies him more than his inability to breathe.

“She loved me once,” says a shaggy-looking man on stage at the bar built semi-parallel to the ocean. “I wrote this song about her, but I don’t listen to it anymore.” He puts bright orange earplugs into his fuzzy ears and strums his guitar.

The fish flops across the dock, grows legs, and steps wobbly up to the bar’s counter to order a glass of water. “We’re all out,” the bartender tells him, “we only have beer.”

In a corner sits a girl with hair so blonde it’s almost white. The fish sits down across from her and smiles. “I’d never thought I’d sit in a bar with someone before,” he tells her. She stares at him, mouth gaping, bubbles leaking out and floating away over her head. He likes her immediately and decides to never leave her side.

“I lost my ocean,” he tells her. “I have legs now. I can’t go back. I’ll follow you.” The girl agrees, happy to have attention, even from a fish she never wants to be friends with.

The man on stage is still playing but no one is listening to him, not even himself. He realizes this and smashes his guitar noiselessly on the ground. Then he asks the bartender for a broom and carefully sweeps up his mess. He digs the earplugs from his ears and holds them carefully in one hand as he steps over to the fish’s table.

“You’re an idiot,” he tells the fish, flicking an earplug at him. The fish doesn’t mind too much. He knows he’s an idiot, but now that he’s found the blonde girl, he doesn’t have to think about anything ever again.

The musician looks over at the girl. “I don’t know what to tell you,” he says to her, flicking the other orange earplug at her face. He turns to leave, waving happily at the pile of broken wood and string he’s left on stage.

The fish looks at the girl. She looks at him looking at her. A tsunami arrives and washes them all into the ocean.

 

 

 

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He walks to the middle of the road and lays down on the wet cement. Cars run over him — bump, bump — and he returns slowly to his city streets. Boston, Christmastime. Every pine tree is decorated downtown, filled with lights and tinsel running every which way. Mothers and new wives are in their shabby or chic kitchens, baking, rolling, sprinkling sugar and flour over everything. It is not snowing, not cold; just mildly unpleasant as he rolls across town, smelling the air and imagining something else.

He has seen all of the holiday movies worth watching, and so has everyone else. On the television now are horrid things, awful sequels, revisions of visions of sugarplums. Women and men pretending to be from the 1950s, pretending to sing, pretending to have talent. No, no, that’s enough. That must be it. There must be nothing else, nothing new. No snow on Christmas Eve either, just gray slush in the gutters reflecting outdoor blowup Christmas lights.

After a few hours he sighs and scrapes himself off the road. There wasn’t even that much joy in it, he thinks. The only pleasure gleaned knowing that somewhere there are a few shiny BMWs with bits of him on their wheels.

It is dusk as he makes his way home, and he imagines the yards of colorful paper that will fill garbage dumps in the week to come. Covering other terrible things with their shiny foil masks. He rubs at the sleeve of his suit, a bit dusty from his travels. In his hands he carries bags of gifts for his three children. Of course, he made sure to put them safely aside, as usual, before lying in the road.

He expects his wife is home from work by now, waiting for him, sitting around the tree. His family will be there, as always, waiting. He will hide the expensive presents until the children are in bed, and then he and his wife will sit them all under the tree. They will be there, waiting, until morning.

At his house, he pauses at the front gate. He looks on from the dark street, admiring the strings of lights running every which way. He steps up onto the curb, walks past the sidewalk, unhinges the gate latch, marches up his front porch stairs, opens the door. He stashes the bags as the smell of Christmas cookies greets him. He turns to close the door, catching one last glimpse of the road. He sighs as the door clicks shut.

I smile when I don’t know what to say, and I think you understand me. Our eyes are dancing across the tabletop, never meeting. I stare at you as your gaze is focused towards the window, people watching. I look, too. I wonder if we see the same things. Outside, an old woman in a long black coat is smoking her cigarette. She bends down and snuffs it out underneath her shoe. She’s standing right next to one of those cigarette bins. I look back at you so I don’t see what she does next, if she leaves the cig there or if she takes care of it. You still don’t look at me. I tell you about my day, about my week. You listen. I look away while speaking, to see if you look at me. You do, but not for long enough. Not in a way that makes me think you like me back. Then you look away again and I’m back to staring at your brown eyes. They look happy. They smile when you do, when you don’t know what to say to me. I look through the window again. The woman is still standing there. I wonder if she’s waiting for a bus. There’s no bus stop there. I wonder what she’s waiting for. It’s cold outside. Her coat is long and dark, like Winter. I look back at you and think that it’s going to be a long and dark Winter again.

I work for the creative writing magazine at my University. I’m the “Prose Editor”. I handle the fiction and non-fiction submissions. AKA, anything that’s not poetry.

I love my job. (I call it a job… it’s more of a paid volunteer.) It’s great. I love writing, I love reading, I love working with the authors and editing their pieces to make them the best that they can be; to help create the end product that the writers originally imagined.

About a year ago, I discovered there was such a thing as a creative writing magazine. Who knew? I think I found out about them from my creative writing professor, who handed me a long compiled list of mags that accepted student work. When I found out, I thought I had stumbled onto something big.

That’s it! I’m sure I shouted in my head. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll work for a creative writing magazine/journal once I graduate from college. Sounds good to me!

Little did I know, nor could I ever imagine, that about four months later… I would be working at a creative writing magazine – at my college, no less!

Like I said, it’s a great job. I get to do all that cool stuff I already mentioned, as well as hang out with the staff (who are a group of amazingly cool people themselves), go to poetry readings, have magazine launch parties (in which we eat cheese, drink wine, and wear fancy clothing)… basically, I have the opportunity to do what I love with people I love in the town I love.

I hope I can be so lucky once I graduate and get a “real” job. I mean, honestly, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I keep asking people, “What am I going to do the day after graduation? … What are you gonna do?” (And with my literary magazine idea already completed, well, I’ve got nothing.)

College students, generally, are pretty cool. They tend to be intelligent, open minded, fun, interesting, etc. Well, the ones I hang out with, anyway. People getting a higher education are just interesting people to know; they’re either involved in some cool project, or they’re helping out in the local community, or they’re working in or at the University itself, making it a better place in one way or another.

Universities and colleges are where the smart people hang out. Where the kids with bright futures live. (Oh, and I go there, too. …) So, when I ask my, “What are you going to do after you graduate” question, I always expect something other than what I tend to hear: “Oh, I’m going to be a teacher” or, “Oh, I guess I’ll be a professor.”

Uh, excuse me, what?

I think this has happened with the last 6/10 students I’ve spoken to. The rest of them, the 4/10, either have a different career in mind, or, more commonly, still have no idea.

I can’t believe it, though! A teacher? You want to teach? You’ve just spent the first 25 years of your life in school, and now you want to teach? What?

I don’t want to teach. I know that much for sure. (Crossing possible careers choices off of my ‘list’ is better than nothing, right?) No way! Maybe I’m just too selfish to be a teacher. Or, maybe I dream too big. The way I see it, you’ve only got one life. You’re gonna die. (Hate to break it to you like this.) Why waste it doing something you don’t love? Why not try, why not risk it (whatever “it” is) and go for your dream job? Why be a teacher?

Ok, Ok, I understand that some people really do want to teach. Like, they’re passionate about it, and it’s how they want to spend their life. And that’s great! Good for them. But I’m not talking about those particular people. I’m talking about the really fucking awesome people in this world that become teachers/professors because they just don’t know what else to do, or they’re too scared to do it, or (this is probably the most correct option) they’re too smart to do it.

“What I really want is a good paying job.” This is what I hear a lot. People just want to do something that will make them money. A good, steady, income. Be reasonable: get a reasonable degree, get a reasonable job, live a reasonable life.

I’m sorry, but that’s just not good enough for me! I don’t care about money. Really, I don’t. But, at the same time, money is a necessity. Money buys shelter and Charles Bukowski poetry books. It’s just not that important to me. A successful life and job is doing what I love. For me, that’s not teaching. That’s not a lot of things. I don’t know exactly what it is yet. I love so many things, maybe that’s why I can’t settle on one job. Maybe I need to find or create a job that lets me do lots of really cool, interesting things.

I don’t know! I’ll admit it: I don’t know. Not a clue. And it is so scary, not knowing. You’re expected to know. “What are you majoring in?” “What are you going to be when you grow up?” “What are you going to do the day after graduation?”

Can I respond with: “Who Cares!”? That’s what I want to say, sometimes. I’ll figure it out. I’m just going to live my life and see where it leads. I want to do so many different things. I don’t want a “regular” job.

I don’t know!