I was prepared to answer the first question, have you ever wanted to kill someone?
But it completely threw me off when they asked, have you ever wanted to keep
someone needlessly alive? One of the interviewers blinked every time I said the
word “and.” When I stuttered over the word three times—three blinks in a row.
I still wanted the job. I’d always admired the people who worked for the
department, how they strode purposefully in their well-pressed white suits,
brandishing IDs that allowed them to enter that building. I couldn’t sleep until my
letter came, we are pleased to inform you, report to Suite X….
The woman whose position I filled had disappeared. Nothing could be done without
forms from her files, or by specific procedures known only to her. I was to
reconstruct the way she did things, piecing together her handwritten notes and
computer files. When people asked for her by name– I’m sorry to say, the
investigation underway, perhaps I could help?
All this time, sitting under the desk was a pair of shoes. I’d figured out how she
processed head injuries as opposed to natural disasters, which announcements to
broadcast to which constituencies. But the shoes—should I leave them where they
were, give them to someone on the street? And what if she returned?
One day—there was nothing unusual about this day—I threw them in the
wastebasket and covered them with Kleenex. For the first time, I could stretch my
legs under the desk in the direction of the shoes! That afternoon I was promoted.
My new office looks down a hundred floors to the harbor. The tiny ships below look
There was a tag inside one of them, burnished with sweat and beginning to curl.
Every morning I glanced down and read it, though now I can’t remember what it
Amy Breau is a writer and registered nurse whose work has appeared in Prairie
Schooner, The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, Cleveland Magazine and on the popular
science public radio spot, A Moment of Science. She studied poetry at Vermont College
of Fine Arts and is a 2016 Creative Workforce Fellow with the Community Partnership
for Arts and Culture, funded by a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. She’s
interested in integrating her own caregiving experience into the broader narrative of her
life and supporting such efforts in others, and in arguing for greater integration of
mothering and other caregiving narratives into literary and other public discourse.