night shift
Behind the small building, an intersection of alleys, gravel, and cracked asphalt-patched concrete, the sun sinks to our left. We park. My aunt unlocks the back door and flips up a quartet of dingy white light switches. The rows of caged fluorescent lights wildly flutter. As we walk down the corridor, the opaque tubes of light calm down into a steady, low electric hum. The scent of a stagnant coffee mound stuck in soggy ruffled paper brewed with the aroma of burly cigarette smoke leads us to the break room. My sister and I watch. My mom arranges, washes, and polishes with speed. She shakes out a messy assortment of crushed cigarettes from an ashtray into the trash bag. I stare. With a wet cloth, she smears the packed layer of gray cinders around into a paste, navigating the cloth until the glass hollow is vacant. It smells of lemons. We follow her out, skipping down the carpeted hallway and turning into the room with rows of desks. The vacuum blasts around us. Under this screen of noise, I touch a small statue of a girl with large plastic eyes sitting on one of the desks. The vacuum, angry that it devoured paperclips or some other vulgar object, spooks my curiosity with its screeches and crackles. Boredom pulls my sister and I into the hallways. We recklessly race back and forth, screaming from start to finish. We stop when we're out of breath, or if we hear a scary noise. They're done. They find us. It's dark now.