Quick Work No. 1

Quick Work: Short Takes on Epic Truths

Here, in micro-flash nonfiction, writers make quick work of compelling stories. During July 2020, we present short takes on work and working.

Summer 1980s
Roach Trap Line

by María Luisa Arroyo

I twisted orange earplugs in to muffle the cacophony of conveyor belts. One roaring belt pushed shampoo bottles down the line as nimble women’s hands like my mother’s picked them up, four at a time, to pack. Newbies like me started on the roach trap line, alcohol fumes pinching our noses. We dipped long-stemmed Q-tips (like the ones they’re now using up people’s noses to test for COVID-19) into alcohol. Then we pushed the peeping yellow poison back into black roach traps. Full-timers moved on to pack vitamins. Summertime workers like me, though, stayed here on tall stools, eyes burning.


by Chelsea L. Smith

I push the body pillow aside and press my belly into my husband’s back while he sleeps. Already, he’s aware of the baby. He leans into me ever so slightly, a subconscious turn of affection, and moans.

 “Can you feel Loren moving?” I whisper into the rough hairline at the nape of his neck.

“No,” he mumbles, half-asleep, “but I like the idea that he’s there.”


by Pamela Lear

The 14 boys prepared to leave after a creative writing lesson on Mark Twain. As the guard arrived to escort them to math class, they each stood in “safety position” with arms crossed as if shielding their chests, hands clasping the shoulders of matching prison-issue T-shirts. The young men shuffled through the open security door, looking down at the floor. A boy named Roberto, 15-years-old and a foot taller than me, surreptitiously glanced up and whispered, “Hey teacher, want to put me in your purse and take me home?” He winked at me, and then they were gone.

On Keyboard

by Clifton J. Noble

Practicing the piano as a five-year-old, I had no inkling that I was preparing for my life’s work.  I was doing something I loved—reading and speaking a language shared by musicians for centuries, opening doors to other worlds as surely as a reader of books travels via the printed word.  Five decades later, I perform and record using the same 88 keys, thankful and amazed that my employers’ checks are being deposited in my bank account. Doing what I love and getting paid for it? That ain’t workin’.

Wrong Team

by Maria Smith

He kept his graying hair slicked back, dressed in three-piece suits with expensive silk ties. He wore shiny, black leather shoes and overpowering cologne, which always arrived before he did. He was the boss at the satellite office of a national insurance company. An executive assistant in my early twenties, I was one of four women who reported to him. Sometimes during late afternoons, he would call us into his office, joking around, coaxing us to sit on his lap. While the others fawned over him, I refused. “You aren’t a team player,” he said, when he fired me.

About the Writers

Born in Manatí, Puerto Rico and raised in Springfield, MA, poet María Luisa Arroyo pays tribute to thirty-two women poets in her latest original collection, Destierro Means More than Exile.  She is an Assistant Professor at Bay Path University.

A recent graduate of the Stonecoast MFA program, Chelsea Smith is working on a series of essays that celebrate the joys and difficulties of growing, delivering,  and protecting life during a time of isolation and physical distancing.

Pamela Lear lives with her husband in Miami, where she is thrilled to have grandchildren nearby. A first-year student in the MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Bay Path University, she is following the Narrative Medicine track.

Clifton J. Noble is a composer, arranger, performing musician, and music critic who works in musical genres ranging from art music to rock n’ roll. He serves as the Staff Accompanist for the Smith College Music Department.

Maria Smith is a writer and multi-media artist living in Bluffton, South Carolina. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction and a PsyD in Conflict Resolution & Mediation.  She served for 16 years as an officer in the Air Force Reserve.

The Quick Work series is curated by Multiplicity Contributing Editor, Kate Whouley.

Submissions to Quick Work (100 words or fewer) will close on July 15. We also welcome stories up to 5,000 words for our work-themed Fall issue of Multiplicity Magazine. More details here.