My Good Worker

by Theresa Cartier

Six thirty, time to rise ‘n shine, gotta go
pick up my good worker. That’s what I call her but
with those spaghetti arms she can’t do much except
keep me company. I’d say that’s worth
six bucks an hour. She’s running low, needs
cash, you know how it is. I told my boss to fuck off
two years ago: Goodbye Johnny Paycheck! Now
I’m my own boss and life is all right.

She’s waiting for me on the front steps, looking
kinda worried, always thinking with that overstuffed
noggin. I toss her a blueberry muffin and watch her take
little bites. No, I say, you gotta chomp into it, let
berry juice slide down your chin. That’s when you know
you’ve had breakfast.

I teach her about head hanging and putting
the cap on. 
Tell her, who needs a college degree?
Drywalling’s the thing for a slacker like you. And pretty soon
she’s head hanging like a pro, balancing that board
strong and proud like some exotic woman
in a tropical land. August sun beats down and she’s sweating
real good, all smiley and humming. She’s learning.

I taught her to shoot a nail gun without
poking an eye out. To wear a cap backwards and flipped
up just so. To say yes when I ask, Are you a bad woman?
To laugh when she gets in my ride and all the empty bottles
roll out. Life’s too short and neatness doesn’t count.

By quitting time her arms are shaking and I know
she’s more tired than she’ll ever tell, so I say,
What are slacker wages these days? Then I give her
the last blueberry muffin, a hundred dollar bill,
and tell her not to cry.