Here Comes the Fuzz: A Beginning

TaxitestWhat is the feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? –It’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s goodbye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.

Jack Kerouac, “On the Road”

“Here comes the fuzz, Mom!” My sister shouted from the back seat of our powder blue Impala. “Here comes the fuzz!” Mom hit the brakes but the trooper’s lights were flashing before the garbage on the dash had time to hit the floorboards.

“Son of a bitch, girls, I think he got us.” Mom pulled off the road and yanked on the parking brake, then took a drag of her cigarette and forced the smoke through her nostrils. She was pissed. We were only in Ohio and had two more states to cross. Cash was tight and two girls under the age of five weren’t the best traveling partners. The last thing she wanted to see was a cop.

Mom had gotten out of the Big House the day before. Within hours of release, the Impala was packed and our dog was shedding hair in the front passenger seat. She’d swooped into the foster home where Lisa and I were living and, after gathering our meager personal belongings and making small talk with the parents, lifted us by the waist and wedged us among the debris cluttering the back seat. “Mommy’s so happy to see you girls. I missed you so much.” She kissed the tops of our heads and closed the door, then slid behind the wheel and revved the engine as she lit a cigarette. The car backfired. Lisa and I giggled. “How’d you like to go on a little trip?”

The officer approached the car. His face appeared in the window and my mother, her brown eyes bloodshot and filling with Oscar-worthy tears, looked out from beneath her hippie locks. He was practically a child himself. His round face was flushed the color of cherry Kool-Aid, and perspiration had made his blonde hair curl around the brim of his cap. A long silence passed as he took in the carnage of an impoverished family in transit.

Two young girls in pigtails stared at him. Our faces were smeared with peanut butter and jelly, our knees raw from crawling around on torn upholstery. A box of rotting fruit from our maternal grandmother gave off a faint aroma of overripe bananas and had encouraged a couple of fruit flies to make the trip with us. Toys were tossed about, some wedged under large garbage bags filled with our clothing. Lisa and I sat perfectly still, holding hands while we pressed as close to each other as possible. Mom hadn’t bothered to put out her cigarette and the car was filled with smoke. Lisa’s cough broke the silence and the officer returned his gaze to my mother. He puffed his cheeks full of air and allowed its slow escape as he consulted his conscience about what to do with this frazzled woman and her daughters.

Looking away he said, “Ma’am, it seems you were speeding. I’m only giving you a warning this time. Please, just slow down some, especially since you’re traveling with these little girls, here.”

“Thank you so much, officer. Thank you.”

Lisa and I chimed in, “Thanks, officer! Thanks, Fuzz!” My mother popped the Impala into drive and we started to move before he had time to react. We were off again, headed for a new home and our new father, filled with the humble expectations of the nomadic.

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No. 1, Housekeeper (Age 12-14)

You are what you pretend to be, so be careful what you pretend to be.

– Kurt Vonnegut, “Mother Night”

Lisa and I were playing gin rummy in our makeshift fort when we heard the phone ring. It was approaching 100 degrees outside and the municipal swimming pool was closed for the afternoon because of a tornado watch. The screened-in porch offered little reprieve from the heat, so we’d stretched three sheets over the rickety furniture and placed a fan at each end, the billowing cotton percale forming a welcome tunnel of cool air.

“Can somebody get the phone? I’m trying to sleep,” Mom yelled from her bedroom sanctuary, the only room in our old house with an air conditioner. She’d been bartending nights at the local bowling alley and slept late most mornings, the aging window appliance cranked until she could see her breath. “What are you girls doing inside, anyway?” We sighed in unison when we heard the question, knowing it was just a matter of time before she stormed downstairs and chased us outdoors.

“How does she even know we’re in the house?” I whispered.

“Can one of you please answer the damn phone?” Mom cried. I took a swig of my root beer and Lisa shuffled the cards. The phone rang two more times and I heard Mom snarl into the receiver halfway through the next ring. We were wrapping up another hand of rummy when her head poked through the south end of the fort.

“Hey! Do you girls want to make some money working at the Palazzo Motel this summer? Karla needs some help with housekeeping. She’ll pay you three dollars an hour if you can start tomorrow.”

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” I answered for both of us. “When do we get paid?”

The following day I joined the day laborers at the Palazzo, a run-down motel rife with mildew and host to a number of peculiar odors. Like feet, and body odor, and forgotten washrags. With its 20-odd rooms it was similar to a Motel 6, right down to the curiously striped sheets and matted shag carpet. Karla was an old bartending friend of my mother, and she and her husband were the owners. We’d be working with Karla’s daughter Arial, a big-boned redhead.

Ariel was a year younger than me and already worked weekends at the motel. She drove without a learner’s permit and smoked her mother’s cigarettes. Most summers I flopped at her house for days on end, spending the evenings in a state of perpetual slumber-party bliss: facial masks and permanents, experiments with myriad bleaching agents and dyes, and makeovers during which I slathered layers of foundation over her fine cloak of freckles. Best yet, Arial’s family always had types of food we didn’t have at our house: potato chips, sugared cereal in boxes instead of bags, and chili made with all meat and no beans. No beans! I wasn’t starving at home by any stretch of the imagination, but a girl can get tired of government cheese and Steak-Ums.

The real perks of the Palazzo Motel were yet to be learned (I will disclose them here so you might ascertain the Palazzo’s larger role in our lives). Very soon (far, far too soon) Arial began “renting” rooms for partying. These parties would commence in the main house where her family lived, spilling over into adjoining motel rooms and the reception area. Without fail, we’d binge-drink nasty concoctions of booze stolen from Arial’s parents’ liquor cabinet, all the while stuffing ourselves with pizza and chips until our backs hurt and our lips were greasy. Ultimately, and often at dawn, the whole lot of us ended up piling into the motel lobby’s bathroom stalls; moaning, crying, and shitting while simultaneously puking into pants we’d recently rushed to our ankles. And you know who got to clean up in the morning . . .

I arrived for my first shift with a face full of makeup and a baggy shirt hiding what I had hoped were developing breasts. But they’d proven, thus far, to be the non-developing kind. I was just starting to experiment with cosmetics, beginning each day with the amateurish application of five shades of purple eye shadow (yes, five!) and chalky orange rouge. With Lisa’s guidance I added blue mascara and eyeliner. She was already testing the platinum hues: skillfully frosted and flirting at age 13. We were in the same grade even though I was ten months younger (Mom wanted us out of the house at the same time so I started kindergarten when I was four) and lucky (lucky!) Lisa had sprouted huge boobs by our sixth-grade year (Arial and I were both late bloomers, damned to wear stretchy pastel training bras well into high school).

“Okay girls, I want you to follow Beatrice around the motel and she’ll show you the ropes,” Karla said, smiling and waving us over to a round woman sipping coffee from a tiny Styrofoam cup. Beatrice was short and wide, and every visible inch of her body was encased in folds of soft pink flesh. To be blunt, she was F. A. T. fat. We had to follow her around for an entire weekend, gutter-bound preteens who could focus on nothing beyond the single burning question: How does this woman wipe?

You know what housekeepers do; they clean up the mess left by people who know they don’t have to clean up their mess. We did this while clouds of Lysol poisoned our lungs and burned our eyes, and did only what was mandatory before swooning in front of The Young and the Restless, desperate to find out what happened to Angie and Jesse after they’d kidnapped their infant son from his adopted parents and run off to Sea City . . .

“Hey, Arial. Do you think these sheets are clean?” I heard Lisa ask on our third day.

“Yeah. If it doesn’t look like they slept on them just pull the comforter up,” Arial instructed.

“What about the toilet? I don’t think anyone used this toilet,” I said.

“Just get rid of any hair and put the band on. It doesn’t really matter.” Arial was steadfast in her approach to cleanliness. She tossed me a pile of paper bands imprinted with SANITIZED FOR YOUR PROTECTION. I gave the toilet a quick swipe and slipped the paper lie into place.

“Oh my god! Come here, guys! Hurry!” Lisa yelled this at least once per shift. She’d gather us together in rooms where she’d found some questionable (or obvious) body fluid. We’d waste at least fifteen minutes pointing and giggling, trying unsuccessfully to make one another touch it. And yet, there was one thing worse than those mystery liquids, one thing I didn’t care to encounter while strapping paper bands on toilets, and that was opening a door and finding the beast with two backs. Or, more politely, naked people. Oh, call it what you want; screwing, fucking, bumping uglies or making babies, I was twelve years old and horrified. Horrified! Thank God it only happened once. The look on their faces was reason enough to knock until my knuckles bled. Every room. Every shift. Every time. Even if it was two hours post-checkout.

After a couple of weeks on the job I began taking advantage of the break room concessions, giving special devotion to Twin Bing candy bars and coffee I’d thickened with powdered creamer. Since employees could buy candy bars for a fraction of the retail price (better yet, they were free when Arial was in charge), I was always first in line for a sugar high. Drinking sugary coffee was far more enjoyable than my mom catching me eating sugar straight out of the sugar bowl . . . again.

Speaking of Mom, she, too, worked a few shifts at the Palazzo. All through the summer of ’81 and the winters of ’82 and ’83-we girls loved when the workday was over and we were allowed to hang out with Mom and Karla. Lisa, Arial, and I spent countless afternoons sipping kid-sized Tequila Sunrises and lighting their cigarettes, taking turns emptying the mounds of ashes collecting in their tiny amber ashtrays.

No. 5, Sales Clerk (Age 15)

THIEF: A person who steals, especially secretly or without open force; someone guilty of theft or larceny.

I tripped over a pile of toys and fell onto the doorbell, depressing it a little longer than was necessary. Monica opened the door and called for her husband. She and Harold had moved into my neighborhood a month earlier, migrating from somewhere far more hip than Estherville. She was tall and statuesque, curving and goddess-like. He was a full foot shorter, balding and nearsighted. After a quick tour of the four-story construction site they called home, they pointed me towards their two-year-old daughter and rushed out the door.

I watched their car lights evaporate into the darkness and within minutes began the process of getting the little girl to sleep. Once she was tucked in bed, I prowled for food and exercised to Showtime Shorts. I spent the remainder of the evening talking on the phone, likely gushing to a friend about my first real live boyfriend. He was one year out of high school and was teaching me about “parking” on dirt roads and abandoned farm acreages. In turn, I was teaching him how prudish and resistant fifteen-year-old girls can be. It was a short relationship.

One night in the fall of ’84 Monica and Harold arrived home and asked if I could stick around a few minutes. Oh my god! How did they know I ignored their daughter and ate all their cereal?

“Sandy, we were wondering,” Harold said, pausing to help Monica with her jacket. I felt sick. I’m busted. I’m busted. I’m busted. I mentally reviewed the entire evening in ten seconds. Baby to bed, Captain Crunch, snooping in bedroom, Doritos and ice cream, television . . . .

“We were wondering if you’d be interested in working at our store during the Christmas season. We’ll pay you $5 an hour.” $5 an hour? I almost fell over.

“Yeah, sure.”

The ill-fated Montgomery Ward showroom was located on Estherville’s main drag, Central Avenue. A long counter divided the storage area and the retail sales floor exactly in half. My job was to take people’s order numbers, retrieve items from the back room, and receive payments. I also took catalog orders over the phone.

I was routinely bored in the overheated building. There was little to do except dream about the towers of edible Christmas goodies surrounding me. Despite my mastery of caloric restraint my brain thought of little else but eating. There were fruitcakes, boxes of tasteless chocolates, and shiny tins of nuts. I wanted the nuts, but they were expensive and ate up at least three hour’s wages.

The nuts were wrapped inside heavy plastic bags, tied prettily with green and red ribbons, and placed in the tin cans. On purchase a customer opened the can, removed the ribbons, and unsealed the bag. I figured if I opened a bag from the bottom, I could eat some of the nuts and then tape the bags back together so that nobody would notice. By the end of my clerking stint all the bags had about one third of the original nut-count remaining. Yet no one ever complained or questioned the steep price for so few nuts in a mysteriously wrinkled bag crudely held together with Scotch tape and ribbons.

Then my criminal mind started taking over. Day by day, I noticed Monica and Harold had an absolutely horrible method of keeping inventory. If some of those housewares and polyester fashions ordered long ago were to suddenly vanish, there would be little questioning as to their whereabouts. Why not just give the customer a fake receipt and avoid ringing up the sale? I memorized all the items sitting around long enough to collect dust. Then, when customers came in to pick up a long-forgotten order, I would push the inactive buttons on the cash register and whisper “Oops” a few times during the transaction, and as soon as the door closed behind them I’d pocket the money.

I was confident my thieving went undetected. Once, Monica and Harold asked me if I knew where someone’s poofy pink slipcover was, but nothing further was ever discussed. I hardly flinched, though they may have smelled something odd. I reeked of craftiness. And, also, I had some seriously nasty nut breath.

I only gave in to these criminal cravings on a few occasions, and every time I stole from the register I promised myself I wouldn’t do it again. This is the last time. I swear. But sure enough, I’d find myself prowling around the stockroom (cranky and ashamed of my belly full of cashews and pecans) making a mental list of how I was going to spend the money I’d extracted from the customer picking up an outdated Dust Buster. I wasted any money I didn’t earn honestly, spending it as quickly as possible on video games and junk food.

I needed a valid motive for stealing to temper my shame, so I blamed genetics. Hadn’t my own mother spent time in the slammer for grand larceny? Oh, did I forget to mention that? Weren’t the first few years of our lives spent wandering blindly amidst a seedy population of drug addicts and criminals? Oops. My bad. Looks like I left that part out, too. I decided that having guilt as my constant companion would be a testament to my goodness, to my inner humanitarian. And if intrinsically good people steal from people they like and who trust them, well, God only knows what the bad people are doing.

When the Christmas season drew to a close my services were no longer needed. When Monica and Harold gave me a $25 Christmas bonus and sent me on my way, I was relieved. Apparently there were never any cameras, and the weight of my crimes evaporated the instant I walked out the door. Tucked into my ratty corduroy satchel was $25 worth of Monica and Harold’s trust, and a half-eaten bag of Christmas nuts.

No. 13, Multi-Restaurant Delivery Girl (Age 17)

CHARACTER ACTOR: An actor who lacks some of the admittedly subjective physical attributes associated with movie stars: too tall, too short, unattractive, overweight, or somehow lacking an ephemeral “star quality.”

Most incoming freshman have only a vague idea of how dining services operate, how to register for classes, what those classes should be, or how to schedule those classes around Days of Our Lives and All My Children. Ideally, parents travel with eager new students to a summer orientation where said student is tossed into a sea of colored pamphlets and information overload. Hordes of preppy, soon-to-be sophomores guide them around singing praises of the school, zealously demonstrating their membership in Brown Nosers of America. Students unable to attend summer orientation catch a last-minute session a few days prior to the start of fall classes (sans parental units). I was one who waited until the later orientation, and so had to register for classes over the phone. Somehow, I wasn’t instructed to sign up for freshman English—who knew? Talk about poor planning. I was doomed.

If your parents didn’t go to college—and mine didn’t, in fact, my Dad only made it through the eighth grade—then there is little or no concept of the college experience. Orientation? Care packages? College savings? Huh? Mom filled out the financial aid forms and, after that, I was on my own. On campus I got lost trying to find this magical orientation and so dismissed it entirely, losing out on vital information about securing work-study positions to supplement my student loans and non-existent savings. I was up crap creek without a paddle or a lifejacket or any ability to swim. I swore I wasn’t going to work in a fast food joint again, and I wasn’t sold on the idea of wearing a hairnet in the cafeteria. It was bad enough I had braces on my teeth and a body I cried about every night before I went to sleep; I didn’t need a hairnet and fry-pimpled skin to completely rule out any chances of companionship. But I was fortunate enough to have a car, and just down the street from my dormitory was a place advertising several delivery positions with flexible schedules and lots of tips. Tips. I gazed to the heavens, dreaming of bulging pockets and endless trips to the vending machines for Twinkies and cheese sandwiches. I would get my tips.

The business was brand new, started by a former student bored with having been limited to pizza and sub delivery while in college. He created a service that delivered food from a large selection of restaurants—even diners and ice cream shops. My Le Car would be a trusty steed for delivery. Young women have strange relationships with 4-cylinder engines and stick shifts. I felt as though I ruled the world, zipping and darting and shifting and beeping and laughing at my auto-efficiency and self-proclaimed bad-assery because I could drive a manual transmission. So I zipped and darted down the street to Hungry Cyclone’s headquarters for my first shift as a delivery driver in a city I had lived in for less than ten days.

I ended up with just three delivery runs that night and $7 in tips. Ouch. That was far less than the thirty or forty dollars I had been hoping for—even if I figured in $4.25 an hour plus ten cents a mile.

Apparently the owner didn’t think about the fact that the rib restaurant, the ice cream shop, and the cookie store had no experience in high volume takeout service. Drivers were left waiting while rib juice leaked into our upholstery and French fries stunk up our cars. It was chaos for everyone involved. I got lost without exception and each time showed up with cold food (or warm, whichever was least desirable). Lobbing burgers to last-call drunks from behind the safety of a stainless steel counter sounded like paradise as the hours passed and the pizzas chilled.

After my first night I arrived at my dorm room in a cranky mood. My roommate Beth was all smiles.

“A package came for you today, Sandy. It’s really heavy.” I looked at her pale face. An unknown stress had manifested itself as cold sores that circled her mouth and crawled into her nose. I wondered what she looked like at the end of a semester.

“Thanks.” I took the box and set it on the bed. “Hey, this is from my Granny Idela. It’s a care package.” I could only imagine what was inside. As a child, I thought all grandmas had faux-leopard walls and faux-leopard furniture, and dressed in sequined gowns and blonde wigs and looked a lot like Dolly Parton. I thought all kids went to dive bars on the Jersey Shore to hear grandma sing and play drums in her country band, Idela and the Country Cream. I even tried to emulate her musical prowess that semester by auditioning for and landing a spot as a snare drummer in the university orchestra. I loved walking to campus with drumsticks hanging out of my back pocket. Maybe I should become a classical snare drummer? That would be cool. Except I quit—rather, I quit showing up—after just two rehearsals, mortified that I had to count in silence through 117 measures of rests, only to play a single par-a-diddle or flam before counting 60 more. Ugh. Boooring.

Looking down at the box, I noticed her usual salutation: To the Most Beautiful and Talented Granddaughter in the World. Each of we granddaughters was the most something, it depended on her mood. Grandma employed a ruler to guide her handwriting and all the letters were flat on the bottom, the tops were curls and swirls. I used a knife to cut the half-dozen layers of tape. “Are you ready?” I asked Beth.

“Sure, whatever,” she said. “I just hope there’s chocolate.” I removed the contents of the box one thing at a time and piled everything in the center of the room. Three-fourths of the stuff was wrapped in tissue, wrapping paper and ribbon. Beth’s eyes bulged as I removed the following from the 16″ x 16″ x 22″ box:

  1. 1 wire-bound college-ruled notebook, 50 pages
  2. 1 wire-bound wide-rule notebook, 40 pages
  3. 1 wire-bound college-ruled notebook, 50 pages
  4. 1 wire-bound wide-rule notebook, 40 pages
  5. 2 5-pack index dividers w/tabs
  6. 1 wire-bound college-ruled notebook, 5 pages
  7. 1 8-ounce pack Gevalia coffee
  8. 2 13″ x 7″ x 4″ plastic Sterilite storage boxes w/lids
  9. 1 cassette tape “Kings of Swing” big band swing
  10. 1 miniature screwdriver set
  11. 1 Electrex quartz travel alarm clock
  12. 2 lightbulb magnets (blue and yellow)
  13. 2 self-adhesive plastic hooks
  14. 1 purple pencil sharpener
  15. 1 chip clip
  16. 1 100-tablet Walgreen’s multi-vitamins (expired)
  17. 1 Golden Choice sesame cookies with honey
  18. 1 rose petal perfume (1/2 oz)
  19. 1 silver-tone bracelet
  20. 1 silver-tone ring with abalone hearts
  21. 1 silver-tone ring with oval abalone
  22. 1 silver-tone mesh bracelet with abalone ovals
  23. 1 small denim pouch
  24. 1 brown beaded necklace with faux pearl doves
  25. 1 pair brown beaded earrings with faux pearl doves
  26. 1 silver-tone necklace with half spade decor
  27. 1 small powder-blue washable feather duster
  28. 3 6-packs AA batteries (expired)
  29. 1 giant bottle Eau de Jontue fraiche cologne
  30. 2 toothbrushes (1 soft, 1 medium)
  31. 1 pink and teal vinyl pouch (reversible)
  32. 1 nightlight
  33. 2 mini spiral notebooks
  34. 1 pack Blackhorse Tavern playing cards
  35. 1 strawberry Kissing Potion
  36. 2 loose AA batteries
  37. 1 pair high-tech toenail clippers
  38. 1 tube Hair Away
  39. 1 bonus pack (30% more) Thin Mints
  40. 1 Belwood alarm clock radio
  41. 1 pack loose-leaf paper
  42. 1 flower-embossed leather purse
  43. 1 bottle 100 tablets Theragran M (expired)
  44. 1 bottle 30 tablets Theragran M (expired)
  45. 1 flowery compact with mirror
  46. 1 auto maplight
  47. 1 auto spotlight (plugs into lighter)
  48. 1 plastic hanging hosiery caddy
  49. 1 red, yellow and blue placemat
  50. 1 threaded sewing needle
  51. 2 pins with purple and blue heads
  52. 5 safety pins
  53. 4 mini threads
  54. 1 pair scissors with rubber finger guards
  55. 3 packets powdered Alpine spiced cider
  56. 2 packets Carnation hot cocoa mix
  57. 1 Revlon white plastic comb
  58. 1 wooden back scratcher with brass hand
  59. 1 bag rubber bands
  60. 1 one-cup coffee brewing device
  61. 4 shopping list coupon caddies
  62. 2 pencils
  63. 1 shower clip with plastic handle
  64. 1 Quantas travel toothbrush w/ paste
  65. 1 vinyl travel bag from Time Magazine
  66. 1 even bigger vinyl travel bag from Time Magazine
  67. 1 tan wash rag
  68. 1 tan hand towel
  69. 1 white hand towel with Christmas tree
  70. 2 moss-green bath towels
  71. 1 pink and black alien-head key chain

I sat back on my heels and looked at Beth. “Have I mentioned anything about my grandma?”

Granny IdelaGranny Idela

I coasted down the street to my second shift at Hungry Cyclone and grudgingly loaded empty cold bags and a hot box into my car. The hot boxes were kept warm with a Sterno; a tin cup holding flammable gel that warms when ignited. A few hours into this second shift of zipping, careening and pissing people off with lateness, my mighty LeCar filled with creamy smoke. The Sterno had tipped over and its weak blue flames had ignited my car seat. It quickly burned through the upholstery and started melting the foam underneath. The acrid smell caused me to swerve around corners, barely missing blurry pedestrians as my eyes burned and squirted tears. I managed to pull over and pound out the flames, tipping a pizza on its side and spilling hot Sterno gel as I threw the hot box to the floor. I immediately headed back to the shop and—like a true drama queen—explained my plight to the owner, cut my shift short, and raced out the door.

I didn’t take another job that semester; instead, I tried to be frugal with the tiny amount left from my student loans. I partied like a true freshman. I wanted to recreate my earliest recollections of getting drunk, when my body hummed and my face felt sparkly. Unfortunately, I seemed to continue skipping over the fun part and went from slightly buzzed to passed out cold. I spent entire weekends with crippling hangovers. Halfway through the semester I quit going to classes because I decided I was going to be an actress. Why not, I thought; I was in plays in high school. Sampson was already in New York City and was urging me to audition at the theatre school he was attending (I think he just needed a roommate). And Granny Idela needed a grandchild to gain the fame and fortune that had somehow eluded her.

I figured I would need to lose some weight if I was to be an actress (I had packed on 50 pounds in the past year). But instead of abstaining from excessive eating or engaging in exercise, I borrowed twenty dollars from my roommate to buy laxatives, thinking I could shit out all the donut calories. I went so far as to spend an entire afternoon lying in bed, dangling a hammer over my face, thinking if I broke my jaw just a little I could get my mouth wired shut. Liquid lunches would guarantee a stage-worthy body.

Only I couldn’t do it. Not only was I was afraid of the pain, but having a hammer fall on my face would require a fairly elaborate explanation, not to mention a lengthy trip to crazy town. I’d just have to be a character actress. So after a single semester of college I returned to Estherville to prepare for my audition at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. In the interim I’d have to return to McDonald’s and apply at the local egg processing plant where they always had openings.

I told Mom about the new plan and she said, “Whatever you want to do, Sandman!” Her habit was to always tell me I was the smart one (I wasn’t), the one who could do anything I tried (I couldn’t), the one who would be rich and famous (I’m still hopeful) and—I always found this a curious declaration—the one who would buy my own jewelry. What little guidance I’d been provided had long before been withdrawn. I knew only what was expected in the end.

The Serial Worker’s Job List

ESTHERVILLE, IA

1.   Housekeeper (Age 12-14)
2.   Corn Roguer (Age 13)
3.   Ice Cream Counter Girl (Age 14)
4.   Family Restaurant Counter Girl (Age 14-15)
A Bit of Background: Part I, Serial Movers
5.   Sales Clerk (Age 15)
6.   Drive-thru Counter Girl (Age 16-19)
7.   Home Health Aide #1 (Age 16)
8.   Home Health Aide #2 (Age 16)
9.   Fast Food Counter Girl (Age 16)
10. Bus Girl / Pizza Maker (Age 16-17)
11. Coupon Book Delivery Girl (Age 17)
12. Corn Detasseler (Age 17)

A MOVE TO AMES, IA

13. Multi-Restaurant Delivery Girl

(BACK TO) ESTHERVILLE, IA

14. Egg Factory Worker

A MOVE TO STATEN ISLAND, NY

15. Dental Office Receptionist

(BACK TO) ESTHERVILLE, IA

16. Bean Walker

A MOVE TO NEW YORK, NY

17. Abortion Rights Phone Solicitor
18. Nightclub Pass Distributor
19. Student Janitor
20. Display Setup Grunt

(BACK TO) ESTHERVILLE, IA

21. Tour Boat Bartender

A MOVE TO IOWA CITY, IA

22. College Cafeteria Worker
23. Grocery Cashier
24. Medical Records Filer
25. Caterer
26. Newspaper Intern
27. Artist-in-Residence
28. Preview Arts Writer
29. Research Assistant
30. Arts & Entertainment Editor
31. Grocery Deli Worker
32. Overnight Grocery Stocker
33. Test Scorer #1

(BACK TO) NEW YORK, NY

34. Assistant Historical Romance Editor
35. Waitress
36. Dog Walker

(BACK TO) IOWA CITY, IA

37. Bartender
38. Pizza Delivery Girl

A MOVE TO PORTLAND, OR

39. Cocktail Waitress
40. Independent Living Guide

(BACK TO) IOWA CITY, IA

41. Motel Desk Clerk
42. Eldercare
43. Curator
44. Taxi Driver #1
45. Taxi Driver #2
46. Golf Course Flower Girl
47. Test Scorer #2
48. Prep Cook
49. Line Cook
50. Food Co-op Cook
51. Bread Baker

A MOVE TO WEST DES MOINES, IA

52. Bread Baker/Retail Manager

A MOVE TO BOSTON, MA

53. Cable Company Receptionist
54. Biotech Receptionist
55. Retail Bakery Manager
56. Software Company Receptionist
57. Gift Wrapper
58. Ice Cream Counter Girl #2
59. Executive Assistant
60. Women’s College Receptionist
61. Agency Liaison
62. General Contractor Receptionist
63. Office Cleaner

A MOVE TO WILTON, CT

64. Eldercare #2
65. Dog Sitter
66. Seamstress Assistant
67. Gift Wrapper #2

A MOVE TO FAIRFIELD, CT

68. Jewelry Store Bookkeeper

(BACK TO) NEW YORK, NY

69. Executive Assistant #1
70. Executive Assistant #2
71. Executive Assistant #3
72. Executive Assistant #4

A MOVE TO GREENFIELD, MA

73. Light Industrial Employment Specialist
74. Office Manager