Degree of Difficulty by Sue Allison

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Though there is no best way to flip a burger, there are better ways and worse ways, and it was part of my training to know the difference. It’s not the world’s greatest job, obviously, but it is a job, and I think it is important. It is important to me. It is important to me because it is my job. It is a dirty job; by the end of my shift, my feet hurt; my back hurts; I avoid talking to my coworkers, some of whose problems are so big I only feel diminished by my helplessness to do anything about them. It is hard to have a job where you wear a paper hat and have your name on a tag, but at the moment, this is the best I can do, and so I do the best I can do. A poet came and did a reading once. It was funny. She just walked in and started reading poems like it was a college classroom or something. I remember liking the one about degree of difficulty, though I’m not sure I understood it. She had copies of the poems she read and gave them out to people. A lot of them ended up in the trash, along with the empty burger wrappers and soda cups and ketchup-stained napkins. If she had noticed, I would have told her not to take it personally, but she didn’t.


Sue Allison was a reporter for Life Magazine; her writing has also been published or is forthcoming in Best American Essays, Antioch Review, Harvard Review, New South, Streetlight Magazine, Threepenny Review, Fourth Genre, The Diagram, Isacoustic, Puerto del Sol, River Teeth, and a Pushcart Prize collection. She holds a BA in English from McGill University and an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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