Prompt: Write an entry inspired by what you can’t see.
I was never supposed to die like this. In my mind, I always kicked it when I was old, frail on a hospital bed, surrounded by my friends and family as I moved from this world to the next. During the last war, I fancied I might die in a nuclear blast, gone in a flash, remaining only as an eery shadow on the brick wall of a city’s back alley. I was never supposed to die young, let alone die trying to be a hero, but let’s start back at the beginning: jobs started getting scarce right about the time I graduated college. Bachelor’s of Science in hand, I ran into the job market with minimal experience, very few practical skills, and a whole lot of theoretical knowledge.
When my dad got me an interview for the night shift as a nuclear engineer, I had to listen. He’s a good man, my dad. He worked maintenance for the plant all his life, determined to give my brother and myself a better life than he had, more of a chance in the changing world of the 21st century. When Mom got sick, he switched shifts so he could be home at night to feed us and help with our homework, even when he didn’t know the math we were learning. I’d catch him at night, sometimes, when I was getting a cup of water. Smoking a cigarette by the window, he’d read our textbooks to learn enough to help us.
That morning a month after graduation, while I was eating cold cereal and circling jobs in yesterday’s paper, my dad came downstairs and said, “Jamie, I want you to interview at the plant to be an engineer for the night shift.”
I frowned at him for a moment before saying, “Dad, night shift?”
“If you do well during the night shift, you will get promoted to day shift.”
It wasn’t what I’d had in mind when I got that engineering degree, but I didn’t have a job, and I couldn’t put more strain on my dad. The interview was straightforward, direct questions with no hidden layers. I like that in an interview.
When they offered me the job two weeks later, my dad and I celebrated on the back porch with Cherry Garcia ice cream. After we finished, he gave me a cigar and reminded me that smoking was bad and I should never get into the habit, but for this special occasion, it was okay. We smoked them quietly, the sun blending into the horizon before wrapping the blanket of night around us. In the dark, he said to me, “I’m proud of you, Jamie. You’ve become such a smart young woman. Your mother would be so proud of who you are.”
I hugged him close, telling him that I loved him, and sent him to bed. The night wrapped around me, I lost time in memories. Before bed, I made him lunch like mom used to, ham and pickle sandwich with mustard, a bright red apple, and a note with a heart on it tucked lovingly into a brown paper bag.
Didn’t get as far as I wanted with this story today. Expect a part 2 tomorrow or Saturday!