alice gerhart, douglass township | born: 1926
by jennifer hetrick
the shortest job i ever landed—so short i don’t remember
the name of the place, had me driving to west reading
for a week, maybe two, at the most. it might have been
reading air chutes, inc. i worked the swing shift, kept
scissors in my grips, cut air vents into the shiny white
fabric of parachutes for our soldiers in world war ii.
i didn’t know i’d work there so briefly as a teenager, 19.
all i remember is being so sleepy that i couldn’t keep
my eyes open. i know i fell asleep on a wicker sofa
there while on break. but i fell asleep mid-cutting,
too, and an older girl nudged me to waking so i could
keep the slicing of parachutes alive, hearing the nylon,
or whatever that fabric was, rip, rip, and tear between
two sharp blades. just days into my sleep-wanting,
somebody came in and said, the war is over. our fury
with japan had ended. suddenly, there was no work
for me anymore, and my cutting wages disappeared.
when i walked outside, people were shouting, hollering.
they kissed in the street, stood on the running boards
of their cars, rolled across the hoods, yelling the good
word, honking horns on repeat, pressing their palms
into those steering wheels, howling, squealing, glad
that war would no longer hold down their hearts
or the hearts and bones and muscles of those who
never wanted war, either—that not even one more
would shred bodies
into the most devastating