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The manager talks about getting engaged

I think I’m ready, he says. What was it like for you? Did you

do anything special? The story is, yes, it was, in fact, special,

but not because of any particular planning, or creative

proposal-ing. It was spontaneous and, actually, I don’t

want to talk about it. Despite all my admonitions

to students about vanquishing vagueness, it’s not

a story I like to share. It involves Santa Cruz and sea lions

and a tall bearded man playing bagpipes in the midst

of a mournful fog, and that’s all I’m going to say.

The story is for me and for Karen and, maybe, one day

for our children. I hold it tight to my chest and I want

to keep it like that, an heirloom.

Except, it’s nearing 5 a.m. when he asks,

and I’m mopping the floor. Sort of. It’s been

a long, unnerving night, ice and snow and roads

that want to bite, and he’s counting money

in the register and accomplishing other mysterious

paperwork-related functions—I think I made

about $105 in tips, add on the 54 cents per mile

and the $5.25 an hour salary and I’m around 180

bucks for eleven hours, not horrible—but the floor

sneers daunting and salty and the water in the mop-

bucket already swims swampy, so I’m swishing back

and forth as quickly as I can but the truth is the world’s

not a whole lot cleaner and my arms and upper back feel

like I just survived six minutes of wrestling against a State

Champ, so I’m half-tempted to tell the story just to cheer

my own damn self up.

A university professor earlier tipped five dollars

on a ninety-seven dollar bill, and he also declined

to meet me at the door in the midst of the snowiest

bluster. Sent down a student clearly unprepared

to schlep seven pizzas (including one gluten-free)

upstairs to the classroom, so I did it for him, an extra

ten minutes of my time while another customer’s

delivery camped in the car, and I don’t know what

kind of class it was, possibly marketing, something

in the how-to-make-money-by-lying-to-people genre.

About thirty undergrads inhabited the classroom, each

likely capable of chipping in a buck, though none offered,

and I considered making a public announcement exposing

their instructor as a 6% tipper after he asked me a bunch

of bullshit questions like do I get sick of pizza and does

my car smell like pizza and so much of me wanted to say,

listen up, students, the dude here who’s grading your papers,

or, more likely, foisting that job onto a graduate assistant who

gets paid little more than expired lettuce,

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