birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

At the clinic

Clocking in, clocking out was fun. The stiff card with my name on it. The rows and columns I had to line up just so, the mechanical stamp that made me jump, the ink I had to be careful not to smear. Then it was like chores, but in the clinic where I’d had penicillin shots, where Mom took people’s blood, where Mrs. Norrell wore a white nursing cap, white dress, white stockings, white shoes showed my brother and I boxes of paper clips and rubber bands and said we could have what we could use. And then she showed me the sinks to scrub—one in each examining room. My brother the trash to carry out—one in each examining room and in the waiting room and in the bathrooms and the offices. So much trash the clinic had its own dumpster. And a ramp with a pipe metal handrail we loved to slide down, but Mom wouldn’t let us. But while she was off driving the school bus and while Mrs. Norrell went back to her apartment to cook breakfast, no would know. Maybe Delores would. If she stayed awake. She wore the same sort of shapeless dress Mrs. Norrell did, in dark colors, like her dresses, her shoes, her skin. She slept leaning on her broom or in a lazyboy in a back room that she sunk into. Mom said Delores worked three jobs and couldn’t help it. It helped her to wake her up so Mrs. Norrell wouldn’t find her sleeping on the job. Once you clock in, it should be work, no sleeping, no playing. Clock out when you’re done. Then it’s back to your time to what you want to do (like sliding down the pipe metal banister!). We knew how to work fast, get through chores at home. So I dusted the waiting room, wiped down the fake leather couches and seats, scrubbed down the sink after sink, and even helped JJ with the trash. So we could clock out at the same time and rush back to stuff our pockets with rubber bands and paper clips (for dropping through the hole on in the school bus floor), sliding down the banister, playing with the operating table, that had u-shaped drawers for catching body fluids, stirrups for spreading legs, or the lab, where mason jars were lined up for patients to pee in, so many things before Mom picked us back up to carry us to school.