WEDNESDAY: An Honest Living

BY CATHERINE SWORD

Copyright is held by the author.

I NEVER tried to earn an honest living. It just sorta happened. Bought my first lotto ticket when I graduated high school and had finished my first month of work at Neilson’s Clearing House. I was glad I’d taken the grade 10 typing class. It meant I did not start out in the basement counting and recording thousands of coupons. Coupons for milk. Two for my bags of chips. Coupons dated through the holiday season, by the hundreds.

I had typing skills so I sat with the sheets prepared in the basement and typed numbers. Forty-eight coupons, number 738425 for four cents each totals $1.92. Seventeen coupons for 10 cents, $1.70. Thirty-six coupons numbered on and on and on for 40 long hours each week.

No.  I did not want to make an honest living.  Why didn’t I pay better attention at school? So that’s what that odd laugh is about. The one that adults use when they say, “Wait till you get a job of your own.”

This is my own. My own doing.

I want to do something else so I buy a lotto ticket. Stuff the dream in my coat pocket next to the coupon for 10 cents off that chicken pot pie. Something warm to eat in that damp, drafty flat. Bolt the door against the neighbours who will be screaming by 10 o’clock. It’s pay day for us all. They’ve given up the lotto dream and gone straight to the bottle dream. Never a coupon for those.

6 comments
  1. Superb. This is superior flash fiction. A complete story. An explosion of emotion. A justified epiphany.

  2. The best story I’ve read here in months. The first two sentences are blow away examples of understatement and the psychological charge they deliver registers throughout the narrative. But it’s the absence of sentimentality that makes for a truly poignant tale. It’s a wonderful ‘voice’: uninflected, dreary without being dead, weary without giving up hope. The words are well-chosen, spare, ordinary, flat. The bleak urban landscape of our beloved Raymond Carver and John Cheever. This is the kind of writing, Catherine, you can’t learn in a classroom. You either have it or you don’t. Keep writing and keep reading (the good guys).

  3. It brought back memories of my first job. Well done.

  4. Agree with Frank, great flash fiction!!

  5. Thank you so much, everyone.

  6. […] archives. Today, in keeping with our flash fiction theme this week, we present a story called, “An Honest Living.” Click on the link to […]

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