In the break room, fluorescent lights humming and smell of stale coffee, Jess twirls her hoop earring and flips the shift schedule to its blank side and says, “Remember MASH? From when we were kids?” and you do remember, though you and Jess didn’t know each other as children, but it was the same era, the same ethos, mostly Gushers, Furbies, AIM away messages, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Aeropostale, so you say, “Yeah, classic,” as she writes out the categories—SPOUSE, HOUSE, CAR—and neither of you can remember them all, only that the whole page should be filled, every possible future accounted for—oh, add NUMBER OF KIDS, add JOB—and actually HOUSE isn’t its own column, that’s what “MASH” is for, Mansion / Apartment / Shack / House—but yes, add PETS, add WHERE YOU’LL LIVE, and then Jess is scraping tally marks at the top of the page until you yelp “Stop!” and the real work begins, the prophesy, the magic, although your phone timer has started jangling, your fifteen-minute break has ended, your register is waiting, and after that, your pumpkin-cheeked baby, your tired good-boy husband with the TV strobing his face, your one-bedroom with the barred windows and stained Tupperware, but right now in the break room Jess is circling her pen around the page like a witch, counting and crossing out, revealing that you’ll live in a shack in Iceland with your wife, Charlize Theron, and your 150 children and pet cockroach, that you’ll be a pilot (“I was rooting for garbage-woman! The pay is good!”), and you’re laughing, you both are, grinning, remembering stick limbs akimbo on bunkbeds, cherry lip-gloss by the lake, when every single thing was still possible, the wide-open maw of the future waiting for you, bright and dark, teeth and tongue, promise and worry, and all you had to do was walk into it.
K.S. Dyal is the author and illustrator of the novella It Felt Like Everything (Ad Hoc Fiction 2022) and work in or coming from Colorado Review, BOOTH, HAD, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere. She writes from Washington, D.C.