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Taking Its Toll

Like a Coney Island Circus sideshow, you stare at me. Trapped inside this glass box for hours at a time, I become an object to you. Of ridicule, of your pathetic pickup lines, of your sexual overtures: the flashed genitals I never wished to see. No perk of the job, believe me.

I cope. We don’t report, we stalwart band of female toll takers. Harassment comes with the job. For $12.59 an hour, your dirty mouth’s a perk to some rare souls who crave attention.

Yet I, with window barely cracked and headphones on, grind my way through eight-hour shifts, breathing your traffic fumes as you gawp and offer up obscenities while trying to stroke my hand.

At night, lit by red taillights, I am a whore from Amsterdam behind my Plexiglas screen. You, emboldened by the darkness, try it on, harder than before. I keep my eyes averted, drop filthy coins into your grubby open palm but will not touch. You may be lonely, but I am not your girlfriend or your therapist or your pay-to-play goodtime girl. I am a mom. I am a college girl. I work two jobs to feed my family.

Drive on. Sir. Please.


Flash Fiction by Gillian Webster

Published in Summer 2017

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