He’s been in prison for more than a year. To her credit, she sticks by her jailbird. Every month she orders a custom greeting card to keep him going on the inside. These gloriously risqué cards are festooned with nude pictures of herself in suggestive poses and terrible love poems in comic sans.

The workers at the greeting card factory look forward to her correspondence as much as the inmate boyfriend. Work grinds to a halt when the printer spits out her latest masterpiece, and everyone on the factory floor gathers around for a look.

“I would never stay with someone who got sent to prison,” says one worker. “Life’s too short to wait around like that.”

Other workers nod in agreement as they wait to inspect the card, chiming in with random thoughts on the long-distance relationship.

“She must really love him.”

“He’s lucky to have a woman like that in his life.”

“I bet she’s shagging someone on the side. She’s too hot to stay on the sidelines while he does his time.”

“She’s outdone herself with that pose. She’s all twisted up like a pretzel and still manages to reach her arm out and take the selfie.”

“Maybe she uses a selfie stick?”

“Does she not realise when she orders a card off the internet that actual people are involved in the printing process?”

“I’d be mortified to know all these pervs are looking at my intimate pictures. I feel like a creep for looking myself, but when I see everyone gathered around I get FOMO.”

“Her boyfriend probably trades the pics for cigarettes from the guards and other inmates.” 

“That’s disgusting, I hope not.”

“Back to work, everyone,” says the assistant manager, breaking up the only interesting part of the factory workday. “Before I dock anyone’s pay.”

Everyone groans and rolls their eyes before resuming their monotonous tasks. The printing department feeds stacks of paper into the machines and the fulfilment department stuffs birthday cards for other people’s children into envelopes. 

Working in a greeting card factory numbs the senses. A kaleidoscope of colourful cards pass through the workers’ fingers, celebratory snapshots of personal triumphs and milestone anniversaries. One can’t help but contrast these sunny sentiments to the dismal existence on the factory floor. The workers plod through their paces and watch the clock, wondering how they’ll cope when the boyfriend is released from prison. 

J. Archer Avary (he/him) lives on a tiny island in the English Channel. He writes poems and stories, some of which have been published in Ayaskala Literary Magazine, The Remnant Archive, Kalonopia, and Melbourne Culture Corner. Twitter: @j_archer_avary

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