“S o now that we’re finally sitting,” Shuey said, “can you please tell me what you were doing standing on a stepladder in the bathtub?”

“Painting a mural of course,” I responded. “What did it look like I was doing?” I leaned over and clutched my wounded knee, then gagged as the smell of Clorox assaulted me. A pack of paramedics charged by, racing a stretcher through the swinging doors.

“You were cleaning, I know. But I mean, doesn’t Jenna usually bleach the tiles?”

I massaged my inflamed leg and shifted my gaze to the ceiling. “I fired her.”

Good thing we were in the ER, because Shuey went swoooon. “You what?” he croaked.

“Laid her off. Fired. You know, pink slip?”

Shuey blinked. “What? No way, don’t tell me she stole. After what, seven years?”

“No, no.” I balled my fingers and winced as another round of fireworks went off in my knee. “It’s just… look, Shuey. Let’s be honest. We can’t afford her.”

I waited. Shuey pinched his chin, crossed his legs, frowned. “You need cleaning help,” he said at last. “It’s a fixed expense.”

I stayed quiet.

“Okay, Chavie. Listen. I lost my job, I can’t deny that. But life has to go on.”

I still didn’t say anything. What could I say? I didn’t blame him. I was just being realistic. In order of survival, food came before cleaning help. (Excerpted from Calligraphy, Issue 704)