Five | Literary Arts | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

You must shower often. If you don't already, take up smoking to mask
the pungency of your scent. Wash your clothing. Brush your teeth four
times a day. Remember to floss. You are still functional. Employ the mints
and elixirs made to shroud the stink of the mouth and body. Old-fashioned
Listerine is twenty-two percent alcohol. Rinse vigorously with two
ounces during your commute. Swallow. Repeat. Vanilla extract also works,
high in alcohol content, swallowable, with a masking and pleasant aroma.
Extract tastes nothing like it smells however. You will be shocked at first
but in time grow to its utility.

Never wear the same thing you did the day before. Should it happen,
never wear the same thing three days in a row. This signals co-workers
that you are not coping well, that life has got you down, that maybe your
divorce is taking its toll. Do not miss work. Do this by ensuring you're
passed out by eleven, twelve the latest. In public, refer to this practice as
"going to sleep." Avoid sleeping in the clothing you may end up wearing to
work the next day. Use three alarms set at different intervals in different
parts of you bedroom.

Remember that you must keep your job. It is important. It's the only
thing left that makes you respectable. Jobs matter to people, yours especially.
Shower, brush and floss, comb your hair, rinse with Listerine and/or
vanilla extract. Swallow, repeat. Get to work. You will be overwhelmed if
you lose this job. You have been cushy all your life and, as a result, you will
not suffer well. You are not the type of person yet who can beg for money
or give blowjobs in alleys. You do not have the strength yet to punch bare
knuckles though car windows for errant purses, CDs, cellular phones, or
spare change.

— Craig Bernier

Craig Bernier has worked a range of professional and menial occupations from technical writer to bartender, carpenter to kennel-cleaner. Most recently, he was an instructor of writing at Duquesne University. He is a veteran of the navy and was a Jacob K. Javits Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh. The selection "Five" is an excerpt from a larger collection, Your Life Idyllic, which won the St. Lawrence Book Award. His lives in Wilkinsburg.

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