So You Relinquished Your Cat: What Now?

By Michael Gutgsell

Sharing your home and your life with a pet can be a real hassle. They take up time, energy, and resources to keep up, but ask any pet owner and you’ll hear a litany of what makes it worth it. I don’t want to get into that now. If you don’t already know the many wonderful aspects of having a pet, you’ve seen them in memes and videos all over the internet and heard about it ad nauseum from coworkers and friends.

But what about when it goes sour? Continue reading


Ir Adelante: A Musing

By Amber Robbin

There’s a hard to describe feeling in my chest. Sometimes it passes through the eyes, at other times, straight through the heart, attaching itself to passersby. This song that I love makes me think of it…

Ooh this masquerade

For a foolish vision

Left you wandering

For a new addiction 

Chasing after ghosts in your bed

Reaching out like souls in transit

Shadows in your walls

Loaded like a weight in water

Sometimes it gets to be too much.  Continue reading

Pivot, or Persevere

pivotBy Amber Robbin

I woke as if erupting from a body of water, then lie there floating on top of my sheets. The timer clicked in my head, five hours and counting till all I could recall of the previous night would be retrieved. My soul tasted like gin. And Kahlua. (And poor judgment.)

I melded with the wall and every piece of furniture across my path on the long journey down the stairs. Like a wounded animal, I called out for the one person I thought could ease my pain: “Jimmy Jooohhhns…Jiiimmy Jooohhns!” I called and called for him, too hazy to even recognize that it was 8 in the morning, and he was still asleep.  Continue reading

The Hussies Upstairs: Part 2

J Parker-Skyline-ViewBy Amber Robbin

I emerged from the bathroom, as put together as I’d bother for a humid Windy City day, and merged with the other little black dresses careening around marble corners on a carousel of false, glittering smiles and jewel-toned cocktails. I rounded the bend at the giant glass windows overlooking the seamless lake and passed Nigel on my way outside. He was busy taking orders from a server: “But I had that section last night,” she whined “and I had nothing but two-tops the entire night! Why ya gonna waste one of your best servers on date night, Nigel, when I could be rockin’ that couch section better than any of the girls in here?!”  Continue reading

Tall Orders

By Michael Gutgsell


Every evening, after landscaping for my neighbors or playing mannequin for a medical school, I would put on my uniform: skinny black dress pants and a quickly-fading black polo, and bike the five minutes to the Tavern. There I would tie a mini black apron around my waist and insert my black order book into the pocket, complete with my precise formula of change. Then, I would start my shift, making a circle around the room, picking up drink orders and placing down plates of food. I was disappointed to be twenty-three and living at home, squabbling with my parents over stupid things, working in an industry that reminded me how it felt to be “summed up and degraded,” as my journal from that time says. Most of the customers were regulars, and after learning their names and predilections, they often wouldn’t need to open their mouths to have what they wanted placed in front of them. Years after working there, I don’t remember all their names, but I remember their drinks.  Continue reading

The Law Firm Sagas: #5 Non-Fiction

Bare CoveBy Amber Robbin

Normally, Whole Foods is a place that brings me joy, boasting a “guilt-free” hot buffet that smacks of buttery goodness and free samples galore left unattended in generous heaps. It’s a veritable playground for the sometimes-vegetarian (that I am) with yoga mats and fancy lip balms that make the yuppie lifestyle almost desirable. The only downer, normally, are the last few minutes anyone ever spends inside the store, when it becomes all-too-apparent that a more befitting name for the place would be ‘Whole Paycheck.’ Other than that, I associated Whole Foods with perfectly lovely memories – until one night in March. 

On that night, my soul collapsed over a brown box of marshmallow encrusted sweet potatoes. I felt myself being consumed exactly as I was meant to be doing the consuming, eaten alive by my inner swarm of lacking purpose, lacking sense of self, and lacking desire to wake up the next day and go to work – a full eight hours before that task even needed to be confronted. Continue reading

Teaching, or Trying

By Michael Gutgsell

This month I am starting my fourth year in Chicago. I came to this city with big hopes that I would be able to leave behind part-time minimum wage work and the naive belief that an internship would open doors for me. I came to Chicago educated, hard-working, and excited for my new life.

I showed up at the refugee resettlement agency believing I was to be an assistant English instructor to adult refugees. Instead, after having me shadow all of three classes (in which the instructor read directly from a worksheet and had the students repeat after him for three hours), I was given control of an entire class for the rest of the year. Continue reading

Homeward Bound

By Michael Gutgsell

istock_generic_212070I stared at the plastic platters of five-buck sushi, agonizing. My stomach growled as I kicked myself for preemptively eating my lunch. That morning, I hadn’t had time to make breakfast before jumping on the bus to catch the train that would deliver me, an hour later, to the non-profit where I worked. I thought maybe I could make it until my three o’ clock lunch time, but I caved, and ate on the way to work. What I didn’t think of while eating my hastily prepared turkey sandwich was my lean debit card balance. Now I wasn’t sure I could afford lunch.

We’re only given a half hour break, and I had already wasted precious minutes. I picked out a tray and headed to the counter, figuring even if this caused my account to overdraw, I’d be paid tomorrow, so it would probably be okay. The late fees are exorbitant, but maybe the check would go through in time.

Continue reading

Sex Sells

IMG_0598By Michael Gutgsell

I would arrive to open the store at 11:45. I swung my bag and helmet on the counter, clocked in, and went about unplugging the fully-powered toys and putting away the chargers in paper bags I’d carefully labeled by brand: Lelo, JimmyJane, Fun Factory. My co-workers ignored my organization, usually just dropping the power strip behind the counter, chargers still attached. Nevertheless, I wrapped the cords carefully and placed them in the proper bag. Then I put the merchandise on their stands, making sure everything was lined up and dust-free. I counted the drawer, sent my manager and the owner the opening checklist, and gave the store a quick once-over before flipping over the open sign, flicking the lights on, and unlocking the door. Then I waited.

The day yawned before me. I sat behind the counter and endlessly, obsessively, edited my work playlist. I looked out at the bright day as the parade of men in candy-colored tank tops strutted by, flashing their muscles, their white teeth, their ridiculous short-shorts and designer sneakers. Continue reading