online literature since 2007

Monday, August 17, 2009

“You need to shave.”

These words interrupt Bob’s daydreams. He has been cutting cheese on a cheese slicer at the deli, gazing at each piece of cheese as it falls, thinking about Karl Marx’s sex life. Could he have had one?

“Did you hear me, Bob? You need to shave for now on before you come into work,” says Jack, the manager of the deli.

“I did shave today,” Bob says. He didn’t. He doesn’t know why he said that. He could have just as easily have said, “Okay.”

“C’mon,” says Jack, looking skeptical and confused.

“This is an afternoon shadow,” says Bob.

“Well, just make sure you shave before work for now on.”


Jack walks to the back of the deli and into his office. Bob looks at the clock. 5:00—only five more hours. He’s almost halfway through his shift.

He continues cutting cheese. He cuts a piece of cheese and puts it to the side of the slicer and then cuts more pieces of cheese and stacks them on top of it. He begins to daydream again. He thinks about feminism, and wonders what it can do to help his sex life. He thinks about having a boner.

“I’m going on break,” says Margo. Margo is a girl who works at the deli with Bob.


Bob watches Margo as she takes off her apron and walks outside for her break. He should ask Margo out. He should ask someone out. He returns his focus to cutting cheese.

“I’d like two pounds of chip chop ham.”

Bob looks up, startled. A fat woman is standing on the other side of the counter. He goes over to the meat slicer and cuts her two pounds of chip chop ham. He walks over and puts it on a scale.

‘Those slices are way too thick,” says the woman.

“That’s how we normally cut it,” says Bob.

“And people buy that?”

“Well, yeah.”

The woman gives him a suspicious look and then says, “Well, that just won’t work for me.”

Bob goes back to the slicer and cuts another two pounds. He cuts it so thin that he can barely see the slices. It is amazing that he even knows they are there. He takes the new two pounds of chip chop ham over to the scale.

“This look good?” says Bob.

“Well, it will work, I guess,” says the woman.

“Anything else for you today?”

“Oh yes. Yes. I need two pounds of cheddar cheese.”

Bob cuts two pounds of cheddar cheese and gives it to her.

“Anything else today?”

“Oh yes. Yes. One pound of potato salad.”

He scoops her one pound of potato salad and weighs it.

Fourteen ninety-seven is your total. Anything else?”

“No. No. That’s all.”

She gives Bob a twenty and he gives her the change.

“Have a nice night,” he says.

“You too.”

Bob feels her response was sarcastic, and he knows that he had been sarcastic. He wants to kill her. He wanted to stab her with a knife the entire time he was waiting on her.She probably takes pleasure in the fact that he has to be at work on a nice afternoon like this.

He returns to his cheese. After slicing several loaves of cheese he takes the stacks of the cheese he sliced and begins putting them into one pound stacks. He gazes out the window of deli and thinks about nothing.

Margo returns from break. She puts on her apron and turns to him.

“Did you hear about Obama?”

“What? That he’s half-white?” says Bob.

“Ha, yeah, think how many more votes he would have got if that was true,” she says.

Bob winces. She is misinformed. But he feels too lazy to inform her of her mistake.

“He’s going to raise taxes,” she says.

“Who told you that?”

“A man at the bakery. I went there to get a muffin, and yeah, he told me that.”

Bob stares questioningly at Margo. He wonders what kind of muffin she ate.

“Do you think it’s true?’ she asks Bob.

“Well, if he did, he’d be breaking his campaign promise, and you know how politicians never lie.”

“You’re kidding, right?”


“Why do you always have to make a joke about everything I say?”

“I don’t know.”

Margo rolls her eyes and goes over to the meat slicer and begins cutting roast beef. Bob looks at her ass. She has a nice ass. He wants to touch it. He never will.

He sits and stares at the cheese as he cuts it for several minutes. The silence is uncomfortable.

“Hey,” he says.


“Which do you like more: this job or your other job ?’

“I like working at Arby’s more.”

“Why?” asks Bob, “Because it’s easier?”

“Well sort of…”

“Because it’s more efficient and less complicated?”


“I think humans like things that way.”

“I know I do.”

“But isn’t chaos good, sometimes?”

“Like anarachy? Everyone fucking and killing whoever they want with no consequence?” she says.

“I don’t think that is really anarachy….”

“What is anarchy ” asks Margo.

“I don’t know. Chaos.”

“When I think of chaos I think of riots.”

“When I think of chaos I visualize someone slowly pouring water on an anthill.”

“That’s terrible, how can you even—“

Margo stops and looks over at the counter. A guy, who looks to be in his mid-twenties, waves to her. He is wearing a light blue dress shirt and khakis. He looks like a douchebag. Margo goes over to him and they begin what looks like an animated conversation.

Bob wishes he were that guy, coming to the deli to talk to Margo, glancing indifferently at the other worker with an air of superiority at how he doesn’t have to work at the deli.

The guy didn’t give a look of indifference to Bob, because he didn’t even look at him at all.

Margo leans over and kisses the guy on the cheek and then waves goodbye to him as he walks out the front of the deli. Bob pretends to be busy concentrating on his cheese cutting.

“That was my boyfriend.”

Bob looks up, pretending to be startled that she was directing her words towards him.

“Oh really? I didn’t know you have a boyfriend.”

“Yeah, his name is Marcus. We’ve been going out for a couple of months.”


“He goes to law school across town at Columbia.”

“Where did he go to college?”


Bob smiles. Oberlin is in Ohio. He used to live in Ohio. He got out of there right after high school. Ohio sucks. Marcus paid to go to college in Ohio. What a loser. Bob regrets having ever felt inferior to Marcus, and is pretty sure they he never did.

“Why are you smiling?”

“That’s my home state.”

“Oh yeah. Well, he’s very smart. He always picks the best movies.”

“Like what?”

“Last night we watched Fight Club.”

“I hate that movie.”

“Well it was the first time I saw it, and I thought it was amazing.”

“It’s horrible.”

Margo looks around as if she knows there is something better to be doing than talking to Bob.

“How long have you guys been dating?” asks Bob.

“A month or two.”

Bob looks at the clock. It is almost six.

“I’m going on break,” he says.


He walks out of the deli and lights a cigarette. He has half an hour to do whatever he wants. He thinks about walking to the bistro ten blocks away, but he knows he wouldn’t have enough time to make it there and back. He considers going across the street to the bakery to get a muffin, but that seems too close and too simple.

He leans against the window and continues smoking his cigarette. He tries to figure out what emotion he is feeling. He feels nothing.

He finishes his first cigarette and begins smoking another one. He runs his hand through his hair. He finishes the cigarette and looks at his cell phone to see the time. His break is already halfway over. With so little time, he has no other option than to walk across the street to the bakery.

He walks into the bakery and goes up to the counter. He orders a doughnut instead of a muffin. He thinks he might be feeling like shit, so perhaps a doughnut will raise his spirits. He thinks that perhaps doughnuts are happy and animated in comparison to muffins,. He walks down the counter to the cash register.

“Two dollars,” says the cashier.

“Really?” says Bob.

“Yes,” says the cashier, “Two dollars.”

Bob pays the cashier and then stuffs the entire doughnut in his mouth. The doughnut hasn’t made him feel better. In fact, he now feels fat and lazy. He is lazy. He should do something sometime.

He walks outside and lights another cigarette and opens his copy of Rimbaud’s A Season In Hell and reads that for the remainder of his break.


niki said...

i like this. keep going.

Anonymous said...

i like this. keep going.

Hannah Olson said...

i like this. keep going.