Let’s check the terminal and see
what jobs might be available
to match your skill set,
the interviewer said.
The young man
sitting next to the desk
was wearing a plaid shirt
and his first tie.
I know you'll take any job
but let’s see what we can find.
A young man like you, Deon,
just starting out, has his
entire life ahead of him.
Here’s the personal stuff
you gave me so let’s go over it
and you tell me if I have
Your father left your mother
when you were two and then
your mother died when
you were four and your granny
took you and your brothers in.
But she died in an auto accident
when you were ten.
An uncle took you after that
and he had trouble finding work.
Food was scarce and you
kept moving place to place.
He tried hard, you said.
An aunt in another city
took your little sister and
she sounds fine on the phone
when you get a chance to talk.
Your brothers went to foster homes
and you see them now and then.
Things aren't going too well for them.
You graduated from grammar school,
then dropped out of high school
and went back to get your GED.
You’re 18 now and have never
worked anywhere before.
You have no car, no driver’s license,
and no record with the police.
You live deep in the city but
are willing to work in the suburbs.
Transportation’s not a problem
because your church has
bus passes for anyone who
needs them to get to work.
Let’s hope that’s you, Deon.
Bus passes are important because
most jobs you qualify for are
out in the suburbs, a long trip,
but our city buses do go there.
From your address I’d say
it will take an hour or more
each way, maybe a little longer
in winter weather with
the snow plows and all.
Now here's a restaurant chain
with seven outlets in the suburbs
looking for young workers
with a GED and no experience
to wash dishes and bus tables.
It’s minimum wage but no benefits
and you'd start on the third shift,
apply for the second shift when
an opening occurs, and then apply
for the first shift after you’ve
been there at least a year.
Then you'd wait for an opening
on the salad bar and after a year
with the veggies you’d want to
look for an opening on the grill
but that’s third shift again.
I’d be happy to set up an interview
but that’s all I have at the moment.
You want me to call now, Deon?
Or do you want to sleep on it.
This is America. It’s your choice.
Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chicago Tribune and Commonweal. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html#sthash.OSYzpgmQ.dpbs=