Nat Holtzmann

One day I walk into the sweets shop with its walls of jellybean and M&M dispensers, levered for deluge. Cotton dress, spring day—the first of my fourteenth year. “I’d like to speak to the manager,” I state as rehearsed once the bell above the door quiets.

          “Speaking to ‘im right now,” replies the man behind the counter, bemused. His head drifts above the display case of turtles, brittles, barks. The display freezer’s motor
groans chromatic—blue moon, key lime, Superman.

         “In that case.” I offer him an envelope. He pulls out the sheet with my credentials,
glances, and slips it back in.

          “Seven an hour, highest I go.” He looks me up and down. “What’s a rangy thing like you want with a candy shop?”

          “I haven’t seen a girl in the window lately,” I say, eyeing the gumballs, the licorice stalks. “I figured there was a job.”

One day the store is empty. I check my phone, send a text, and organize the bills in the register so that each man’s face looks up at me the same way. Wait for someone interesting to walk through the door.


One day the store is empty when a man with a son my age winks and drops a dime into the tip jar. It clangs the glass—it’s how I imagined a wink would sound. They smile the same smile and leave, toting their boxed fudge. I close the register drawer, crumple their receipt in my palm.

One day a woman walks past the storefront, all arms, hair, hips. People on the sidewalk slow to watch her that much longer, their bodies angling slightly towards hers. Once she’s left the frame of the window, I remember where I am. Pick up the Windex and a rag and set to wiping the glass.

One day I scoop ice cream into a cone for a child, scraping the bottom of the tub. I hand it over. “She got more,” he says, pointing at a different child licking her lips.

          “She got more,” I affirm. The boy’s mother leaves no tip at all. In a corner of the front window, I see my boss on the sidewalk. I wave. He wags his big fingers.


One day I pull truffles, caramels, and dipped pretzels from their factory boxes and place the unbroken ones neatly in the display cases. The broken ones I place in my mouth.

          I let my boss dress me in different hats for all the holidays. White fleecy ears fall past my shoulders; they feel heavy without weighing much. Like new tits. In the employee washroom, I flatten cash tips with my hair straightener and order delivery as usual. I thought my body would arrive by grander means than buttercreams and MeatZZa pizza.


One day I paddle fudge in its great copper cauldron before the display window. It’s heavy but smooth. I want to dip my head in. I look out to see if anyone slows as they pass.

          I am paddling and ding—ding—ding.

          Clang—wink—clang, money in my jar. Money in my hungry mouth.

One day I reach my scoop into the jar of malt balls above the display case. I’m not tall enough; it crashes to the floor. Customers’ eyes widen, a baby connips—the mood is heavy but perked.

          “That jar’s coming out of your paycheck,” my boss announces to the room by way of apology.

          “What paycheck?” I say, brooming balls.

          Again the store is empty, and my boss is squeezing my shoulder, telling me he’ll buy me a step stool, that’d be nice, wouldn’t it—a stool all your own. Then he leaves to fly his plane that tows a banner of my face.

One day the son, my age, walks through the door; I’m pulling my dripping face from the cauldron.

One day the bell dings when my body arrives; I’m on the employee toilet, hand between my legs.

One day the boss—ding—brings me a stool; I’m sucking sour cabbage from a roast beef sandwich.

Tips come easy in autumn, like pepperoni falling from trees. One day I collect more tips than the price of the largest pizza, so I order pretzel-dogs too. The boss—ding—enters as my one hand feeds me slick, salty dogs, and my other works in his chocolate shop, paddling fudge in the display window.

          We both look onto the sidewalk to see who’s watching. Come, I coax. Come with your money and your hungry mouths. But all are suspended animation. My boss, too, is a cardboard cut-out—his lollipop fingers outstretched to what part of me.


Nat Holtzmann writes fiction, screenplays, and prose poetry—often in hybrid combinations. She also teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, designs books, and serves on the fiction staff of the Chicago Review. Her work has most recently appeared in JMWW Journal.

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