The Second Most Dangerous Job In America chronicles a young man’s long, dark nights of the soul working graveyard shift in a convenience store, featuring minor celebrities, bargain brand cigarettes, and cup after cup of bad coffee. It’s a microcosmic meditation on work, self, and ambition set against a comic backdrop of mid-1990s fatalism, and is available as an ebook exclusive from Atticus Books.
Here’s how the story begins:
Stubborn daylight fades black as the bells above the door jingle with my arrival. Gloria looks up from the end of the counter, where she’s hunched over a spread of sales charts and display strategies and secret incantations for boosting beef jerky profits. She lays down a chewed white pen and stares at me with dark gerbil eyes that seem more sunken than they really are because of the shadowy bags underneath, no doubt the product of late nights at home modeling countertop arrangements of plastic lighters shaped like fishnet-clad legs that flare when you squeeze them together. She claps her hands, smiles like Marty Feldman’s walleyed Igor — who, now that I’ve noticed, she resembles more than she doesn’t — and asks, “Okay, ready to go?”
Mistaking my shudder for a nod, she hands me a dark blue apron with orange piping and watches as I slip it over my head and tighten the neck strap. “Tighter,” she says. “It’s loose in the front.” Then she holds out a plastic rectangle with a pin on the back and a patch of matte gold ink, printed with my name in blocky black letters. “It came a little while ago. Just in time!” Her hand sways between us like a mother bird feeding its chicks until I reach out a palm.
“Make sure you wear that all the time,” like she’s handing me keys to the kingdom. I slide the pin through two fang-sized holes with embroidered edges near the top of the apron, beside the store’s logo, and imagine the last person to wear it was drained by a vampire while working.
“That’s what makes the difference,” Gloria says.
And here’s what Ben Tanzer, author of You Can Make Him Like You, My Father’s House, and other books had to say about it:
From outward appearances Steve Himmer has it all going on. Best-selling author. Loving family. A beautiful head of hair. And yet, despite, or maybe, in spite of all this, with The Second Most Dangerous Job In America, Himmer continues to stake his claim as the writer most attuned to how the intersection of isolation and work not only comes to define our identity, but shapes it and warps it and by extension also defines the state of the world today.