Joyland

The Midwest |

Work

by Sammuel Bennett

It's Monday and the commuter train is barreling through frigid Chicago suburban morning like a silver thermos, pounding diesel into miles and miles of corner coffee big bucks strip mall sameness, sameness and blocks of forests with manicured pathways and sameness and flashing forest blocks of the same. Soy lattes are funding the sun, just visible, and the setting moon is a repo man towing the night to a remote lot somewhere near the airport. I'm funded on sick legal amphetamines and coffee and nasal spray and, truth be told, I could pop loose at any moment, a bleached naked skeleton stomping mad and ticket-tearing through the aisles of this commuter train nightmare. Of course, social convention is what holds my bones in their boxes, social convention and the promise of incarceration, that and the baby and the kids and the wife. Can't get locked up with The Board of Directors on my ass. Must drive profits and keep this slick white skeleton to myself. I can grind my teeth to the sinus pseudoephedrine song and bide my time, a Whitman sampler of empty stomach and jittery ideas. At best, a knife, worst-case a drunken roundhouse hammer that misses the mark and tangles the legs. Milk chocolate and coconut cream. Despite the traps and decoys there's stuff to be made and campaigns to be executed and email to skim and coffee and coworkers and the clock. Small talk. TV that I don't watch and political yawning, rumors and subscriptions to mainstream magazines. The score in the 4th quarter. A fade route to the back of the end zone. The Threadless newsletter. A coupon from 37signals. Monster jobs search agent results. Dotster domain deals. Recruiters and other thinly veiled threats. The Yucatan Peninsula. The International Space Station. Thirty years ago who would have imagined that Red Rooskies and flag-drenched American boys would orbit the Earth together, horking down food pills and playing grab-ass in the shared kitchen of the International Space Station? There is no night in the International Space Station and the days whir by in blocks of sameness, occasional patches of stars with constellation walkways, sameness, empty dark sameness, and then patches of Little Dipper, Big Dipper, and Pisces. In the Yucatan Peninsula a fisherman is bringing in his nets. His son was supposed to help but got drunk the night before and didn't show in the thin winking dawn. That fucking kid, the fisherman thinks and he brings in a few snappers to sell and the long, silvery eels he throws to the sea birds. The eels drown in the nets. They have to keep moving or die, clear surgical teeth and constant forward progress, munching down minnows and injured things: forward or death. Always forward until they run out of forward. There are no gold watches in the eel game. The fisherman draws the net, hand over hand, plucking fish into the bottom of the boat, retiring the eels to the sea gulls. This is ancient work and it will go on until there is no sea, no sky. The work goes on until there is no more work.