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Volume 3 Number 2 • Fall 2011

Jan LaPerle

Swing Shift

To the north, there was a river. It sparkled brighter than any, but the couple had never seen it.  They were swing shift workers; they hardly noticed the changing of the leaves.  For fifteen years the couple had punched in before dinnertime and slept through every sunrise.  At work their boss wouldn't have bothered to fire the workers for their bad habit: in the restrooms, a little white powder on the lids of the tanks.  Their faces,  paler than the dusting under their sad noses.  But the one couple, they weren't sad anymore.  Something in them was about to burst, beautifully like the mums in the flowerpots, the flowerpots the couple never saw.   

The husband and the wife were skinny as new trees.  On their way home from work one night, a half past midnight, they drove past a couch on the side of the road.  A couch like kittens nobody wants.  The two like poles held up the ends of that worn bit of furniture and strapped it to their car-top.  They drove home under the weight of it, dragged it into their gray room and sat upon it; they kissed in the light of the television.  They slept deeply.   

Their garments held no more color than their new find, nor their walls, their décor. Outside the empty trees looked frightening.  The woman felt astonished by such redundancy.  The husband noticed when she noticed.  And, surprised by this, he sent her into the streets alone to search for something.  What she found there was color: fabric, bright beautiful fabric.  And, in her off hours, with thick needle and thread, she dressed their new couch in the deep greens, blues, and reds of summer.  Their couch then looked like a great blossoming in the middle of that terrible room.  

After punch out, the couple began to take long rides in the night, to look for couches.  They sniffed their drugs to stay awake.  They worked together and covered couch after couch.  Sewed curtains, too.  This new work was a light in them, a nightlight wrapped in a dim room.  One day the couple sold a couch to a neighbor.   

The next day the husband looked at his wife, so faded, so thin, like a newspaper in the sun.  At work, when they announced they were quitting, the other swing shift workers looked disappointed (they whispered to each other).  They discouraged the couple, but one day the couple left. The other workers, as if hung from the ceiling, swayed inside the dark windows, watching as the couple walked across the parking lot before first break.  The workers wanted the couple to look back.  They wanted the couple to look less pretty, less pleased, less bright.

Jan LaPerle is originally from a small town in northern New Hampshire, but currently lives in the mountains of East Tennessee.  She has published or forthcoming in Dislocate, Boxcar Poetry Review, PANK, Tusculum Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry Review, Subtropics, Birmingham Poetry Review, and elsewhere.

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