by KJ Hannah Greenberg



Quetta slid her finger across her smartphone. Gorgeous sunsets over mountaintops and stunning sunrises over colorful beaches sequentially filled her screen. Quetta sighed. Darren, her manager, had warned her against squandering work hours and savings on exotic vacations.


Contrariwise, Susy, that girl in the cubicle next door, the one with the perfectly almond-shaped nails and the layered bob, the one with endless tales of Tinder matches, and the one who brought sushi rolls, or quinoa bowls, daily, for lunch, had gushed about Phantom Ship Island at Crater Lake National Park and about the Oku Volcanic Field in Cameroon. If Susy was to be believed, nothing compared to visiting sites where volcanoes once dominated or where they still spewed.


Worse, during her annual review, when Quetta had complained about her lack of a raise, Darren had had the audacity to suggest that Quetta ought not to focus on funding travels, but on the campfire marshmallows that she shared with her brother, her sister-in-law, and her nieces. Moreover, Darren had deigned to mention that recently, not one, but three, tourists had died falling into carnivore exhibits, at various zoos, while taking “interesting” selfies.


“Adopt a pound puppy,” he had warmly opined after reprimanding Quetta for not submitting all of her reports on time. He had then added that there was no danger that Quetta would be fired—but there was also no guarantee of her being promoted if her performance kept on being subpar.


For twelve more months, Susy spoke of her plans to vacation in Mali and Bangladesh. She told her watercooler audience about the importance of photographing the Tomb of Askia and about the significance of hiking around Sompua Mahavihara. It was of consequence, to her, too, to rent a boat at Inani Beach.


Meanwhile, Quetta filed her reports on time. Additionally, she continued to regularly host her extended family. Her nieces had progressed to s’mores. Her sister-in-law had organized her coat closet. Her younger brother remained her cherished, only sibling. For their anniversary, Quetta: used up three vacation days, moved into their apartment, and set off balloons as they left for the two nights at a country inn, for which she had paid.


That year, rather than a raise, Quetta received temporary job security; the company was downsizing. Darren had looked authentically troubled when offering Quetta only position retention. Nonetheless, as usual, he had smiled when listening to her accounts of her family.


What’s more, just as Quetta was stepping out of his office, he asked her to reseat herself. Thereafter, he took a ventilated box from a corner, opened it, revealed a puppy, and then handed the young dog to her. “Take the rest of the day off.”


“Darren, this is against company policy in so many ways.”


“Don’t report me.”


Quetta looked her boss up and down. He was mildly pleasing to the eyes. He was also a straightforward man and a loyal employee.


“Besides, you need time to get ready for our pizza date.”


“That’s entirely against company rules!”


“Yup. Do you accept?”


That summer, Quetta used most of her vacation time to visit the local water park, to watch the town’s minor league team, and to stopover at many of the county’s pizza joints. After all, she and Darren had been charged, by her family, with rating all of those eateries.


In the interim, Susy raved about sleeping with a minor rock star in order to acquire tickets to Eurovision and about attending Eurovision, itself. She had posted her bucket list outside of her cubicle and every time that she managed to complete an item, she publicized her feat. Her next two goals were to be cast as a movie extra and to do so via a director’s couch.


Quetta’s nieces had advanced from s’mores to hot dogs. With Darren participating, family cookouts had become more interesting. Equally, waterpark outings had gotten better since Darren, unlike Quetta, was willing to ride the loop-de-loop slide, which was the nieces’ favorite attraction. 


By the time that her next annual review was scheduled, Quetta was wearing a gemstone on her ring finger and was in the process of leaving the company. She had given notice so that Darren didn’t have to—his boss had promised to “look the other way” on their relationship as long as one of them quit.


Although Quetta had only six weeks left on payroll, she participated in her annual assessment since she intended to discuss honeymoon plans. As it was, it had become more and more difficult to discuss serious matters with her beloved. It was his entirely fault that he was so kissable.


“No, and it’s brother, no,” wagged Darren when Quetta suggested traveling to North Korea after their wedding.


“Susy’s been to plenty of countries bearing travel warnings.”


“Tell that to the families of tourists, who flew to places run by organized crime or corrupt governments, and who, after landing, were murdered. Why shouldn’t we likewise emulate that youth, the one who fell off of the lip of the Grand Canyon, or that woman, the one who died doing a backflip on the rooftop ledge of a twenty story building?”


“Point made. Niagara Falls?”


“Could. No barreling over the precipice, though.”


“Wrightsville Beach?”


“Could, but I have no interest in Wilmington’s bars.”


“Cape Cod?”


“Our vacation has to include water?”




“What if, instead, we WWOOFed on a New Zealand farm? I figure two months would be nice. You’ll be between jobs and… I’ve already arranged for an extended vacation time via saved up days and unpaid leave.”


“You love me.”




“I love you, too. Let’s stay on this coast and WWOOF with goats. After hours, we could check out more pizzerias.”


“Cottage Grove, Oregon? White Salmon, Washington? I did some research in anticipation of your burgeoning wisdom.”


“I thought you were marrying me for my smile.”


“That, too.”


“So, I suppose it doesn’t really matter where we go.”


“My thoughts, exactly.”


a line


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