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"Just Another Day in Paradise" by Cat Dixon

At 5 pm I toss my bag and purse onto the table and crash into the cushy chair. The large windows that face the parking lot offer enough light, so I turn off the fluorescents. Settling into the empty room, I dig out the papers I need to grade and my gradebook—a burgundy hardcover heavy ledger. I prefer this to plugging in grades on a spreadsheet. I have 90 minutes to grade before my next class.

Beep. Another faculty member enters. It’s Dr. Johann who taught one of my English classes a dozen years ago. He smiles and nods, but he doesn’t stop to chat. I’m surprised to see a tenured professor in this faculty room hidden in the back of the second floor of the university library. Dr. J has an office—why come here? He sits down for ten minutes, flips through a book, and then exits. Maybe he’s going back to his office.

I don’t have an office—just my car, my trunk, my bookbag, and this overpriced grading book. As an adjunct, I race from campus to campus with pitstops at the gas station, Taco Bell, and this room. I work full-time at a church close to this campus to supplement these teaching gigs and to have health and dental insurance for myself and the kids. The job title is Church Administrator, but the old church ladies call me the secretary. That’s fine. I answer the phone, respond to emails, put out the newsletter, maintain the calendar and website, and gossip with the volunteers who show up at random times during my office hours. The church door always buzzes with visitors—church members mostly, but homeless people also ring the bell, and I bring them bus passes, gift cards to the nearby Burger King, and care packages filled with toiletries and snacks.

Here, in this small quiet room in the library, there are no phones or buzzers to answer. There is no conversation. No noise—except when I break the quiet rustling these papers or scribbling down grades, or zipping my bag up. I imagine heaven is like this place—silent and empty. I hope heaven does exist. At home, my children talk and talk or the TV blares or the chores stack up like all those unwashed dishes. I want to stay here forever—one with the table and chair—holding this notepad with endless blank pages. Those pages wait for words to appear.

When I walk to class in the next building over, lugging my bag, the wind howls. It’s already getting dark. I’m already tired. My 14-hour workday is almost done—just one more class. There has to be more than rushing from class to class, work to work, place to place.

Cat Dixon is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. She is the author of Eva and Too Heavy to Carry (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2016, 2014) and the chapbook, Table for Two (Poet's Haven, 2019). Recent work published in Sledgehammer Lit and Whale Road Review. She is a poetry editor at The Good Life Review.

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