GeminiMAGAZINE
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FIRST SHIFT
by Claire Hawkins
During your shift, you can give him snacks,
but no dairy. It’ll give him the runs, and the
next thing you know, he’ll have smeared it all
over the house.

He likes television. You need to find him a
show with a lot of action—you know, car
chases, people shooting each other. He
especially likes screaming.

This is the key you use to open the kitchen
drawers. Be sure they stay locked. Otherwise,
he takes out all the silverware and throws it
over the fence. And this key is to the cupboard,
which should also stay locked. He likes to eat
the flour, the whole canister if he can. You
would not believe the mess it makes.

Though you have no reason to use them, just
so you know, the blender, food processor, and
coffee grinder are on top of the cupboard. He
likes to plug them in and turn them on. I don’t
know why because he always gets agitated and
ends up screaming and banging his head
against the wall.

And he likes to play with his “winkie.” He is
only allowed to do that in his bedroom and the
bathroom. Unfortunately he likes to do it in the
middle of the living room, which is why we try
to keep the curtains closed. When he does it,
you just take him by the elbow and guide him
into his bedroom.

For dinner, there are fish sticks in the freezer
and a package of peas. You’ll want to bake the
fish sticks, but he prefers to eat the peas
frozen. In fact, he’ll only eat them if they’re
frozen, so take them out at the last minute.

Before he eats, he’ll want to walk around the
table three times. Don’t interfere because he
might bite you.

Whatever you do, let him squeeze the ketchup
himself. If you try to do it, he’ll grab it from
you and make a complete mess. Of course, you
need to take it right back when he’s done.
Otherwise, he’ll try to drink it all.

Make sure he takes his clothes off before he
gets into the shower. He has no problem
running around the house naked, but for some
strange reason, he likes to shower in his
clothes.

Give him two pills from this bottle before
bedtime. He doesn’t need water. He likes to
chew them, though they must taste wretched.

He has a CD player next to his bed. Before he
goes to sleep, he has to listen to "Bohemian
Rhapsody." You know, by Queen? He’ll listen to
it twice, and then you need to turn it off right
away or he’ll throw the CD player across the
room. You would not believe all the CD players
we’ve had to replace due to outright negligence.

Don’t turn out the light until you know he’s
asleep. Otherwise, he’ll start screaming, and it
will be very difficult to calm him down.

Once he’s asleep, you can clean up the kitchen.
You can’t do it when he’s awake because he’ll
grab the sponge from you and stuff it in his
mouth and run away.

When you’re done cleaning up, there’s always
laundry to do. He goes through so many
clothes in one day. The washer and dryer are
downstairs. Be quick because if he wakes up
while you’re down there, he’ll be out the front
door in a flash, with or without his pajamas.

Now, it’s your first time here, so he’s going to
try and test you. Just stay firm and don’t let
him intimidate you. He’s really just a typical
teenager underneath it all.


Claire Hawkins lives in San Francisco. She teaches GED
and basic skills in a court-ordered drug treatment clinic
and is pursuing a second career as a prison psychologist.
Recently, Claire completed her first novel, Killing Johnny,
and has started her next, Passing Hamiltons
.