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Apocalypse III, 2020, fine art print on Hahnemühle paper with burns, by Miguel Rothschild

Issue 120, Spring 2023

Real Money

Late June and there’s a shortage
of air traffic controllers

in the Mid-Atlantic, ads plastered
everywhere I look. Competitive

PayUnion Benefits. I already found
a job but I can’t break the habit

of hunting. I dig around and learn
that though the suicide rates

are astronomical, shifts are one hour
on, one hour off due to the extreme

concentration required. You get paid
both hours. My uncle used to work

for a company that was contracted
to paint all the nuclear power plants

in Massachusetts. Now he works
for a company that’s contracted

to paint all the T stops
in the greater Boston area.

They paint overnight when the trains
are stabled. Beats the shit

out of my last job, he says, plus
they got ping-pong tables

in the break room at every station.
They’re meant for the conductors,

but hey, what they don’t know.
My youngest brother quit his job

as a janitor at a middle school
to start a landscaping company.

Bought a crew-cab and a trailer
and a used ride-on mower he got,

he says, for a bargain. He’s staking
signs, building a client list—

mostly mowing, residential.
No 401k, he says, but at least

I set my own schedule. I take the day
when it rains, except to pry off

and sharpen the mower blades,
file down the burrs. Dullness

tears the grass. When you do it right,
it’s like you went out on your hands

and knees and snipped each tuft
with a pair of scissors. But fifty a pop

only gets me so far. Now it’s about
leveling up. Corporate parks, estates,

colleges. Like where you work—
that’s where the real money is.

Edgar Kunz

Edgar Kunz is the author of Tap Out (Mariner, 2019), a New York Times New & Noteworthy pick, and Fixer, forthcoming from Ecco in 2023. He lives in Baltimore and teaches at Goucher College.