Shion dropped the job listings on his face and closed his eyes. In a town of roughly one hundred and sixty people, everyone was gainfully employed. Except for him. And no one was hiring.


He opened his eyes and stared at the blurred text, far too close to his face for him to read. "Yes, mom?"

"Are you going to help me with the bakery again today, or did you find a place to send your resume?"

Shion winced. "I'm going to be helping out today."

"Wonderful!" Karan called. Shion could almost believe that she was okay with him being a deadbeat. Almost.

He'd gotten a botany degree, that was the problem. An intimidatingly tremendous college in California specialized in plants, so he'd gone there. And then, when his degree was in his hand and he was throwing his cap in the air, a single white speck in a sea of tanned classmates he'd never talked to, Shion remembered that he was going to have to live with his mother after college. In Alaska. Where plants, for all intents and purposes, did not exist. And now it had been two years, and he had nothing to do here.

If he was truthful, Shion didn't have to go and live with Karan after college. He could have fought for an apartment somewhere, then fought for one of the few jobs with an herbal pharmaceutical company that really, really wanted a smart boy just out of college to tell them what magic could be gleaned from fungi, then fought his way up the ladder from note-taker to tester to…

But Shion was not a fighter. He'd realized this as his mortarboard left his fingertips. He wasn't going to be able to fight for jobs or housing or respect or friends. He'd made it through college with one girlfriend, Safu, a neurosurgeon with control issues and a tendency to call out what her brain chemicals were doing when she was menstruating or horny. She'd been his only friend, too. Classes had been too big and Shion had been too quiet and too smart, so he'd never really talked to anyone else. Safu had a job in San Francisco now, last he'd heard. She'd emailed him pictures of a woman's brain, the skull laid open like a cracked egg, and Shion had walked to the bathroom and thrown up for ten minutes straight before he could email her back. "So proud of you!"

She was working part-time as a dominatrix. Safu said it was to study patterns of atypical arousal. Shion had decided he wasn't going to question her motives anymore. "So proud of you!"

But Shion was jobless, living with his mother, helping her run her little bakery and making her no extra money. She could really use it, too. She'd been renting out his room while he'd been in college to some weird old friend of hers, Rikiga, and now Rikiga kept showing up in the bakery and glaring at Shion. Shion had kicked him out. It was Shion's fault his mom couldn't afford to ship fresh ingredients to the bakery. It was Shion's fault cherry cake had been taken off the menu. He was dead weight and he knew it.

Shion snatched the job listings off his face and reached for his pants. At least he could help his mom out while he was here.