This story was originally published in Day One, a weekly literary journal dedicated to short fiction and poetry from emerging writers.
The entertainment Jeff once enjoyed in his dead-end job has vanished, and happiness now requires too much energy to fake. What he imagined as a two-year stop-loss has ballooned into what it is—his whole life. Even when he sleeps he dreams in the language of the store, the beeps of the register, the whir of its cooling fan, the blank looks of strangers. It’s not that the work is hard; it’s ridiculously easy, so easy that he has all too much time to think about the inadequacy and disappointment of the work itself. Darkly funny and uncomfortably realistic, Of Equal or Lesser Value is a story that spends one intimate and revealing shift with a retail worker like countless others we often encounter and quickly forget.