by Doren Robbins

The day he locked his keys in the car he had his two cheap briefcases with him, one for each school he worked at part time, and he mis-deposited the keys in the briefcase he wasn't going to take with him to the next class and then closed the door with the lock-knob down and looked in as it closed and started blaming the students in the previous class for his distraction because they were unprepared and he was resentful about it and directly told one student he didn't read the play.

“Yes I did,” said the student.

“Then how can you ask what it is that Willy Loman, the main character of Death of a Salesman, his actual job alluded to in the title, did for a living?” The student waved a pencil at him.

From the back of the class a young woman said he was mean and not trustworthy with students. They were five weeks into the semester. He didn’t recognize her and asked who she was. She said that she hadn't come to class for the last five weeks since the first class because of her sister's illness. A few students laughed when he said he forgot about the clause in the student application for admission that allows up to five weeks excused leave for personal matters.

Then a voice coming out of a cell phone said, “It's true she couldn't come here because of my illness.”

“Where's that voice coming from?”

The student who allegedly had been taking care of her sister pointed to a large Offenman cake box: “My sister is in there, she'll tell you everything.”


“You're wrong, you're wrong to judge her, she was the only one that could take me for my treatments at the clinic, our parents are dead, we have no neighborhood, our parents were sent back.”

He walked over and saw connected to a cell phone the little sick sister inside the cake-box window. There was a tiny child’s bed, the moist reddish substance made him think of a walk he'd taken years ago when he saw a just-born lamb on a farm in Petaluma, standing trembling wet, eyes alerted, but this was a claymation creature, a living toy, he didn’t understand looking through the glass, parked next to him eating a sandwich and watching him on the other side was a member from the committee that considered and rejected his promotion to a full-time position, he twisted seeing him, seeing his keys through the cake-box cellophane window, seeing the sick clay child waiting for an answer, exhausted from speaking, where he stopped, indecisive, confused, in front of a double screen, outside his locked car, outside the cake-box cradle.


Doren Robbins’ work has appeared in American Poetry Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Caesura, Willow Springs, Harper’s Ferry, New Letters and other periodicals. He has published one short prose collection, Parking Lot Mood Swing: Autobiographical Monologues and Prose Poetry (Cedar Hill Press 2004). His recent collections of poetry, Driving Face Down (2001) and My Piece of the Puzzle (2008) are published by Eastern Washington University Press.