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An Anthology of Poetry about Being Young and Growing Up
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Debra Allbery

My twentieth summer I got a job in Door Locks at the Ford plant where my father has worked for twenty years. Five in the morning we'd stand tired in the glare and old heat of the kitchen, my father fiddling with the radio dial, looking for a clear station. There weren't any women in my department. At first the men would ask me to lift what I couldn't, would speed up the turntable, juggling the greasy washers and bolts, winking at each other, grinning at me. In the break room they would buy me coffee, study my check to see if I got shorted. They were glad I was in school and told me to finish, they said I'd never regret it. Once I got loaned to Air Conditioners, worked three days in a special enclosure, quiet and cool and my hands stayed clean. Out the window I could see Door Locks, the men taking salt pills, 110 degrees. In rest rooms there were women sleeping on orange vinyl couches, oven timers ticking next to their heads. At lunch I'd take the long walk to my father. I'd see him from a distance, wearing safety glasses like mine, and earphones, bright slivers of brass in his hair--him standing alone in strange sulfur light amidst machines the size of small buildings. Every twenty minutes he worked a tumbler, in between he read from his grocery bag of paperbacks. He would pour us coffee from a hidden pot, toast sandwiches on a furnace. We sat on crates, shouting a few things and laughing over the roar and banging of presses. Mostly I remember the back-to-back heat waves, coffee in paper cups that said Safety First, my father and I hurrying away from the time clocks, proud of each other. And my last day, moving shy past their Good Lucks, out into 5:00, shading my eyes.

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