my boss tells me that they don’t have enough volunteers, could i spend a couple of hours working in the river? i agree. i know that i won’t get paid as much as the volunteers (they get $50 an hour for this branch but only 25 cents an hour for the others) but i like my job and i want to keep it. i pick out waders but am not sure what to do about my arms. my boyfriend is already in the water and he tells me to wear long underwear, i’ll be able to move more freely and be fine. but i don’t want the pollution to hurt my skin so i put on the heavy awkward waders and get my elbow-high rubber gloves to stay water tight by rubberbanding the tops to my arms. sufficiently protected, i go in. the water is warm and calm. the trees are healthy and full of life despite the frosted plastic ceilings above this indoor branch of the river. i reach in and start pulling out sludge and slime and seaweed by the handful. i look to the green shore and see a giant canopy bed that two girls are jumping and giggling on. it’s a beautiful site and i would love to sleep next to a river like that. the girl, a former work-study student of mine, tells me that her dad bought it for her birthday.

in the hobby shop i am amazed by the selection. an asian woman is wandering around. i show her the paint room and she squeals with joy. she asks the owner where he get such big tubes of clay. i agree, they are very special. they would be wonderful high quality paints to have in bulk for a classroom. she takes out pictures painted by her son. they are very simple stick drawings done by a 4-6 year old. i get the feeling he’s not alive. i show her the room of yarn and she just starts opening drawers and crying with joy. i point out another room of polished mahogany floors and furniture. inside every card catalog-like drawer there are thousands of tiny silvery metal figurines sculpted with insane minute details. i can’t imagine what you would use them for, but i guess people are pretty into them.