EVERY DAY YOU'LL GET UP AND GO TO WORK Kyle Winkler
You fill out the paperwork and info-forms. Take time to review the
brochure. It's tailored for you. In the application essay, you indicate you
learn best "alone and with written instructions." The indicated learning tone
is indicated as: "loose and casual, whatever." Carry the brochure at all times
and never become confused or lost. If you do, penalties apply.*
*You cannot request a different introductory method. You cannot request managerial
assistance until the sixteenth week of your first term. Surprise inspections are enforced and
Pull on these rubber gloves and galoshes. Up top, the floor is slick
and sloshing. Shit everywhere. Real shit, like feces, piss. Stray and dying
animals that may get in from cooling ducts and heating vents. Carcasses, etc.
Then there's the antibiotics and disinfectants. Burn your skin off if you're
not shooting straight. After this overture of protectancy, you see Volga laid
out like a zeppelin in a hangar. Work them on, the rubbers, over your
normal shoes, real slow. Like that. Use the helper straps on the sides. They
stick in the beginning, but you get used to them. You've never worn plastic
booties before. You get over it. You're still a man. Strap duct tape around
them to keep out sewage and mites, etc.
No one shows up to welcome you, or encourage you. You're on
your own. Keep evident and stoic.
You haven't cried since your seventh birthday party when the
petting zoo giraffe died after choking on an inflatable football.
You've seen your life.
This is your bunk. Keep it clean. Bugs are rapacious down here.
FitzSimmons: the boy whose place you took had awful acne. He had a bad
habit of sleeping on his back with his stupid huge mouth hanging open.
Slept naked, too, bad that's another story. One night, some form of hard-
shelled arthropod crawled right in there and down his throat. Never came
back out. He was out sick for a week, easy. Don't sleep with your mouth
open. Ever. It's bad news. Ask about FitzSimmons. He's gone now, they tell
you. He swallowed a medieval looking bug with crusading armor…
Your bunk is sacred. You spend fifty percent of your life down
here. You hate it for a couple of years. It's natural…Buy a dictionary. Over
time, for some reason, you all have less to say to one another. Muscle
memory takes precedence. Learn new words to use. It's fun and good for
you. The odds of keeping a friend will stay aloft. Grab those buckets and
that bag. It's full of canvas rags. That's what you use to wash her,
This is the sub-A tunnel. You walk this every morning. See the steaming
pipes. Don't reach out. Are you, stupid? Steam means heat. Heat means
hurt. Hurt hurts. See a steaming pipe, don't touch it. This is the sub-B
connector tunnel door. You never use this door. Don't try and open it.
Forget it's even here. Above you is Up There. You don't go there cause you
don't have to. Your job is Down Here. Stay with it. It's not that difficult.
3. THE FLOOR
The smell. That's Volga. That's why you're here.
4. HER DIMENSIONS
Impressive at first…then not so much…then staggeringly
impressive again. You've heard fifty yards. A football field, etc. But the
thought of playing a sport on top of her now is sacrilege. Your bunkmate is
with you on this. Nights, he confided in you. Told you about how hot this
one cousin of his was. You asked him to stop the first week, but he
wouldn't heed your request.
He developed a boisterous whooping cough soon enough and is
now in the sick bay. You hear he is regularly hacking up small pieces of his
Drinking is encouraged, as are other mind-alterating substances.
Understand the job entails horrible hours and no promise of relief. Work
takes over your life. Have a method prepared for relaxation.
Some guys have homemade tattoos of the oddest things: flowers,
the sun, clasped hands, a butterfly.
Don't stare. Lingering is impolite and dangerous.
6. IN CASE OF JAW
Men fall in her mouth while cleaning the lips or nose. You've never
seen it happen, but you were on duty once. No one tries to retrieve them.
They are lost causes.
Zydeco music plays through speakers hidden in the walls. Only
zydeco. Ask around for a change, but the foreman, whose name you've
never learned and whose stature is formidable with fists always closed, says,
"Zydeco stays. I like zydeco."
You don't push it. You feel his vocabulary is maybe six words.
Everyone gets along here. Not many people to start off with. That
makes it nice. Occasionally, there's this Zen ringing that occurs if you're
down on the floor by yourself for long periods of time. Theory is that it's
the excretory pump flushing itself out. Hold out hope.
8. THE TIME SOME GUY DID THE VAGINA INDICDENT
Another pamphlet by your bunk has stories. The pamphlet is
handwritten. Done up real nice in ink and tri-folded.
It reads: "Yeah, some yutz, a real dick-knuckle, he pried his way
into her vagina. What made it worse was that he wasn't on Genital Duty,
either. He thought it would be a laugh. He died. Suffocated. Took a week to
find him and extricate him. Rare occurrence. General advice: Don't try it.
We all get docked a paycheck and three desserts. More importantly, we're
forced to eat alone for a week."
8.1. SIDE THEORY ON THE VAGINA INCIDENT
You hear through people in the canteen and screeds written on
toilet tissue that the person who died wasn't a man, but a
woman worker. This doesn't stress you out or surprise you at all.
Lately, it takes a lot to rouse your ire.
9. HOW YOU GOT THE JOB
You had an ardent teacher in high school who stressed, "Get the
piece of paper!" She was a liar. Paper did nothing for you. Your degree
wasn't even printed on paper. You're not even sure you received your
diploma come to think of it. College was a bust, well, not entirely. You can't
You majored in something that began Business Management
__________. You forget exactly what it was now. Doesn't matter cause by
now you've found out that somebody replaces the cold six-pack of beer in
your dormitory's mini-fridge.
But the recruitment…
You saw a flier that promoted travel and safety and exploration.
The flier gave you hopes and dreams. You'd never had hopes and dreams
before. It felt like what it sounded like: ethereal and empty. But it was a
professional quality flier and was laminated.
You realized you trust lamination.
10. WHO SHE IS
Long story short is she's from Eastern Europe. Real name
unknown. She's alive, but conscious is another matter. She is owned by the
company that hired you. Rumor is the president of the company that owns
this whole shin-dig is the son of Volga. He renamed her after the river
cause he saw it once and cried and thought it was the longest river in the
world, which is so not true.
Maybe she was cursed, maybe not. To believe that she is under the
spell of magic excited you because you've never believed in magic, but it's
hard to ignore the size of a woman filling up a hangar. Magic implies a
whole realm you're not wired for. But you're open to it, at least.
11. WHY YOU WASH HER
Have you ever smelled a large animal that hasn't been washed?
Exactly. Plus, the president of the company pays well. Not that you can
spend that money anywhere. Direct deposit into an off-shore account that
awaits you at the end of your services, which could mean death or nothing.
Another rumor says that the internet is making inroads down here. Soon,
you'll be able to buy toothbrushes and cheap wine online.
Dream of having a tongue that isn't white or tastes like fur.
12. IS THIS THE WORST THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU?
What did you dream of as a child? You wanted to be an astronaut.
A fireman. A famous chef. A ballerina. Did you want to clean grease traps
at an all night seafood diner in Barnstable? You did. Then you tried to teach
high school English in the east side of Indianapolis. You became terribly
and illogically afraid of people who blinked rapidly and may've had
different colored skin than you. You admit to standard racism, but only to
those who are drunk and will never remember you.
You didn't even have a teaching degree, that's how hard up they
were for help. You feel a modicum of altruism for trying.
Think of how your whole-hearted confession to that homeless
man (Sid?) at Pike Place Market in Seattle about your faults and sins was a
bust because when he looked up at you, holding a fish head some worker
threw at him in malice, he smiled with zero teeth and black gums only to
say: "That's nice. That's nice. That's nice."
You gave him a fiver and he went across the street to the original
Starbucks and bought a latte, tipping the barista three bucks. That always
13. MAP OF THE BODY
You've seen a woman naked. You'll cope.
14. MALAISE & MOTIVATION
You stand in The Circle once a month. This is to deconstruct
resentment. You air your grievances about your
But really, in your case, this is to keep you from getting into one-
sided arguments over typefaces again. Your roommate threatened to
sabotage your gear if you expounded upon the admirable qualities of
Helvetica over Arial. He already left the mutilated corpse of some
subterranean animal under your pillow that one time. What more
motivation do you want?
15. YES, SHE LOOKS LIKE YOUR MOM IF SHE WAS OLDER AND HUGE
Or maybe you only think that because you haven't seen your
immediate family in years. You don't know how many. You've lost count.
When you worked in the Florida Keys, bussing tables, your brother Frank
and his Russian girlfriend, Olga, dropped by and bought you shots and got
you laid with that decent Jamaican chick who braided tourist girls' hair.
Frank was the brother you most identified with. You and he were the
middle children, so the most free to develop a secret language. Your
younger sisters, Ella and Jodie, don't care for Frank because they are
evangelicals and think all Russians are communists, and thus, the Devil.
They'll never understand the break-up of the USSR. They think
perestroika is a shampoo company. Your mother sent Frank off to school
with gooey love notes written on paper napkins. She still sends them as far
as you know. You were jealous she never did it for you. Frank knew this and
then you started getting your own messages. It was obviously in his
handwriting, but you copped ignorance. Brotherhood continued.
16. FORGOTTEN ALREADY
They say you'll forget where you're from and what your real name
is. This is true. Try and remember your hometown. You can't. Walla Walla?
Evansville? Ocean Beach? Name yourself. Winston? Chad? Peter?
Get lost in your routine and your work and never need to explain
your nightmares or doubts to another human ever again. When you wash
and scrub in the axillary area, you remember nothing but the day before
when you were washing between her toes with the extension tool that has a
vibrating brush and built in soap dispenser.
The pursuit of memory loops back on itself.
17. COLLEGE AND LIFE ABROAD
There's an unexpected moment where you remember that college
was interesting. It provided a way to explore, and not like this job claimed it
does. You felt expansive and optimistic. Ready, even. Life was multi-
directional and pliable. And although your degree was lame, you had friends
who loved you and surprised you on your twenty-first birthday with a rum
and chocolate cake. Later, you made love in the attic bedroom with your
best friend, Cynthia, an anthro major, who only let that kind of encounter
happen once before she did a semester abroad in Turkey or something. You
lost touch with her, maybe on purpose. Cry while you try to remember
what rum and chocolate taste like.
Wonder where optimism went.
Get yelled at by the foreman for slacking.
Scrub, scrub, scrub.
18. PSYCH TEST
Everyone has to take it. There's actually an answer key getting
passed around certain groups. You couldn't give a shit. What's great about
lying is if you believe it, then it's real. Sample questions:
Have you ever been convicted of a felony?
Hell no you haven't! Mark that shit down, pronto.
Have you ever had suicidal thoughts?
Are you human? Did you once live in Utah? Please…
Do you feel superior to everyone you know?
Remember to write down what they want to hear.
A shadow of someone slips this piece of paper under your door.
You'll be fined for not filling it out…
Check all that apply (preferably one):
□ Are you fulfilled with your job?
□ Do you become depressed often?
□ Would you recommend this job to a friend?
□ Do you feel duped by life and all its attendant promises?
□ Do you see dragons or dragon's tails while working?
□ Do you wish to send a loved one a communiqué back home?
(If yes, write, in pencil, legibly, the full name of recipient
and recipient's social security number and address. Missive is
gender neutral and pre-written. Delivery is not guaranteed and
there is no form of confirmation. You may not demand
confirmation. You may not write your own missive. You may not
ask questions. You may not have visitors. You may not receive
packages or outside calls. No emails, texts, or prayers. You are
done. Go to sleep.)