Where Our Lives Come From by Tom Baragwanath

We used to make tables from soft balsa. I can still picture them now; so many thousands of little tables, all the same shape and colour, stacked drying in rows inside warehouses. This was near Pattaya, Thailand, a few months after we left Myanmar. I would take the drums of lacquer – it was three years in this country before I found this word in English, lacquer – I would roll them around the outside of the building, where the high-pressure hoses were attached. I was a sprayer. Aung worked the assembly line, drilling holes for dowels. It was repetitive work, and the warehouse was sometimes so hot that all day sweat would be in your eyes. Still, we knew there were worse ways to make money.

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A Muddled Life by Fred Vogel

Like I was saying, with the holidays just around the corner, I was feeling in a somewhat generous mood. I took a ten from my wallet and handed it to the guy at the counter. The library’s been awful good to me, I said. Please accept this as a token of my appreciation. It’s the least I can do. As I headed toward the exit, feeling good about doing the least I could do, the man called out, Excuse me, sir, but you gave me a hundred-dollar bill. Not remembering the last time I even had a hundred-dollar bill, I turned and said, Well then, I guess that’s the most I can do. With that I left, prepared to forge on with my muddled life. This whole thing started just over a year ago. My wife, I’ll refer to her as X since she no longer deserves a real name, decided she had had enough of me. She took off to Colorado to be with a pot farmer she had met on some online dating site for unhappy spouses – ifatfirstyoudontsucceed.com or something to that effect. The last thing she said to me as she was walking out the door was, Sorry, Jack. I just don’t get you anymore.

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