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November 13, 2019 Fiction


Cara Benson

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My cover letters are “out there,” meaning I’ve sent them sailing to their intended receivers. Now I’m in the business of waiting for responses and keeping my spirits up. This morning has been particularly slow so I consider going to a coffee shop, but decide against it. I don't want to spend the five bucks on a beverage I already have at home to find out that no one has emailed me there, either. 

Random fact I discover while not leaving well enough alone [“where are the jobs” & “willing to relocate” & “cities on the verge”]: warehouses in the outskirts of Detroit are owned by financing companies like Goldman Sachs. They traffic in artificial delay by moving industrial sized bars of aluminum, for example, among their own properties. A warehouse will sit empty while the metal is in a truck on a highway for no other reason than it not being in the original location when an order comes in jacks up the price. Even if it creates additional profit of a penny or two per Coke can, they make billions. Seek and ye shall not find, by design.

I try not to drink any soda, but my boyfriend can’t resist the bite and burn. I swig off his often enough to know I’m complicit, though mostly he gets it in plastic bottles he leaves half drunk in the fridge. I don't know enough about plastics yet. Suddenly I'm thirsty. Maybe I will leave the house, though this won't increase my value. 

I go to the library, not the coffee shop, and wave to the circulation staff on my way in. I’ve fantasized about working here, reshelving books and checking the DVD cases for all the discs before scanning them for patrons. The grail, I suppose, would be reference – helping people find the material they’re curious about or need to know – but that would require another degree and I'm still paying for the first two. Hence, I don't go for circulation (average $12/hr). I make a little joke to myself that everyone here is on a need to know basis, then head for the new releases and staff recs. 

After a few minutes pulling books, reading covers and flaps then putting them back (who can concentrate when an email could come in at any moment?), I go for a drink. I'm bending over the fountain next to the community bulletin board, puckering my lips to slurp in the town water, when I remember that I can't remember if the PFOAs issue in the reservoir got properly resolved. Watersheds everywhere are at risk, after all. This much I'm certain of. Keyword: Monsanto. 

I'll ask my phone.

I whisper okay google [Listening] pfoa water upstate new york. Though my phone is on silent, she tells me out loud: “The following is information about perfluorooctanoic acid in the water supply from the New York State Department of Health including ongoing activities, related information, and contact information.” A whole lot of information about information, and none of it useful. I want a yes or no. Drink, or not, but don’t get one. 

I am in a storehouse of answers, am I not? I head for the reference desk even though there's no one behind the counter. She must be helping someone, somewhere. I look around to see if she's in the vicinity but don't locate her. I look at my phone again. Oh yeah! Maybe my boyfriend will know. 

I text him: pfoas are we safe?

Him: dont know. busy. google it.  

I groan. The reference librarian has returned and catches me right at the wrong moment. 

I wasn't rolling my eyes at you, I say. It's just that...I hold up my phone, as if this explains it.

She shoots me a look that I interpret as displeased, but for all I know could be the result of indigestion from rushing her lunch break. After an awkward moment, she asks how can she help me. 

I'm trying to track down the current status of water safety and pfoa remediation in the area, I say. I've no idea why, but the query reminds me of my cover letters, emissaries that they are, and involuntarily I shift my footing. 

She nods, then takes to the internet. I watch her eyes scanning in the glow from the screen. She makes notes while alternating her hands between scrolling and clicking, typing on the keyboard, and picking up the pen while holding down the piece of scrap paper as she writes. 

She hands me these results:

4 sites of contamination 

2 link addresses to pdf documents

3 regional information sessions

1 deadline for the public comment period 

I'm not sure how my face reads, but I do thank her for her time. My phone buzzes. Maybe it's an email! 

It's my boyfriend. sorry so short. did u get any answers?

yes and no. gonna have to keep looking.


image: Aaron Burch