Brick buildings

Hans Gets a Job

“The early bird gets the worm,” said Hans, washing his face. “Early to bed, early to rise,” he added, through his towel. This was too much. Does the day begin before dawn? Imagine: communities in autos, commuting their sins off to work—what a nightmare. All subject to the excommunication of the clock. Now it was 5:35 AM. Too bad it was Saturday. Oh to be a bird.

This paper must have been printed yesterday, Hans speculated, looking, in front of the Chinese grocery, through the help-wanted columns. Thirty-five cents! Anything for a buck. The grocery was closed.

Wait till Ever hears this one, thought Hans, circling a hot item. Ring (she always answers after the second ring) rinng. (I invoke you, oh muse.) Click. “Good morning.” “Morning already?” “Listen to this”—but I couldn’t, she’s probably tired from working all week. We are not amused.

Work, remembered Hans as he watched a kid creep on a tricycle down the sidewalk across the street, is defined as the movement of a certain mass a certain distance, overcoming inertia, like life, anti-entropic, isn’t it? Now the kid on the tricycle tipped over on its handlebars in the grass. Baby, you move me.

“Spiritual healer needs assistant, M/21-31 w/ subdued manner preferred. Receptionist & sales abilities req. No exp., no educ, no faith req. Hrs: 4-12, Mon-Fri. Fringe benefits. Call PSY-CHIC.” Wouldn’t Ever be proud?

Definite articles: pepper & salt cellars, ketchup in bottle, coffee cup, fork, eggs & toast on a plate; indefinite: Help Wanted.

Mass production and mass consumption, the productive and the consumptive, mused Hans, eating his eggs and toast. “Refill?” he asked, pointing to his empty cup. It presupposes a standard, he thought: one’s work, like one’s love, must give back more than it takes. Now the waitress, instead of answering, came to slop coffee out of her pot, begrudging Hans her trouble. Same old story.

Such is the news by which we excuse and are excused from the world, thought Hans, his elbows on the table, behind his tabloid screen.

We get paid and pay for what we wouldn’t do for the love of it, considered Hans, slightly constipated. That’s what we call work, an effort that falsely polarizes us against all effort, so that we make no effort to love or be loved. Hans finally flushed the toilet; his movement was over: a dime’s worth.

In the park, Hans encountered an old woman tottering on a bench, feeding ducks. “May I sit here” “Why not?” “You never know.” “Quack, quack?” “I might mug you.” “For my social security?—that’s bird feed.”