by a.c. mcgrath
The Octopus is always present. His arms twist forwards and backward so that you don’t know if they’re in front of you or behind you. It’s like in quantum mechanics where you don’t ever know whether an electron is in one place or not: even in the places where he isn’t, he sort of is too. He agreed to an informational interview. He had always been friendly to me while I was working at the potato chip factory. We made all kinds of potato chips: barbecue and sour cream, but weird flavors as well. Dirt-under-your shoe potato chips, the-bitter-taste-of-defeat potato chips. They weren’t tremendous sellers, but you always found people who were curious.
I had left the potato chip factory for a job on the other side of town. I was in charge of folding the potato chips into the little waves. Not a very interesting job, but I liked being in charge of shaping things, even if the things were potato chips. My new job was answering phones in a windowless room, and while it wasn’t terrible, it lacked the magic of the potato chip factory. I wished I got to use my hands more.
“Well,” he told me, “your resume is a disaster.”
He swirled milk into his coffee with one tentacle while he used another to tap his head.
“You’re at these places for two, three months. And it looks like, if you’re not being fired, they’re not fighting that hard to keep you.”
“Oh,” I replied. “I guess I have been leaving places. I haven’t . . . been fired.”
The Octopus sipped his coffee. He raised an eyebrow at me.
“You’ve got so many jobs on here. You don’t need all these jobs.”
“You should stick with this job you have now. You don’t need to keep moving around. It makes you look like a fuck-up.”
A tear formed in my eye and it smelled of saltwater.
“When I met my wife – she’s a seahorse, if you’re curious – when I met my wife, we went on vacation in Naples. You studied abroad there?”
I nodded. The Octopus licked his lips. Well, he didn’t have lips.
“Really dirty place. I was surprised.”
I nodded again.
“Do you find it is helpful to have an active social media profile?” I asked.
The Octopus placed a tentacle on my hand, which sat on the table.
“I can tell you’re going to be someone really special someday,” he told me. “It just might take you some time.”
I tried to push my hand away, but the suctions were tight on my skin. I stepped on one of his tentacles, which was rolling around the floor. He released his grip as a reflex.
I ran out of the café and all the way to the aquarium. At the aquarium, I walked and walked until I came to the octopus tank. The octopus there couldn’t speak English. I pressed my face to the glass:
“Serves you right,” I told it.
A.C. McGrath is an MFA candidate at Virginia Commonwealth University and Sewanee Writers’ Conference participant. She has a Master’s in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Edinburgh, and her plays have been read by Spooky Action Theater, Torn Out Theater and Inkubator Lab. She lives in Richmond, Virginia and strongly believes that Clueless is the best movie ever made; we totally agree.