He would arrive as I was still struggling
to convince the dog that he didn’t need
to drag me around the neighborhood,
that he knew the backyard well enough.
I’d lose the argument in the end, that
was a given, but he’d concede me
enough time to wolf down breakfast,
and I’d hear the small door in the wall
open and then the clatter of bottles
that the milkman deposited there.
Now it’s paper cartons from the grocery,
the dog and several successors are now
in whatever Valhalla is set aside for canines,
and I suspect I may be getting
lactose intolerant, which has nothing
at all to do with how I now spend
my mornings, with toast and a cortado
on the patio, deep into my New York Times,
trying to remember my long-gone youth.
She parked her cart across the face
of the bin, she fills the only gap.
She has a look of determination
that says “give me space
if you know what’s good for you.”
She examines each banana
with the care of it gemologist
and you imagine that she wears a loop.
She pulls bunches apart, finally picking one,
then five minutes later the line
behind her in awe and frustration, another one.
There is almost a third, until
as she places it in her cart
she sees something beyond our comprehension,
and back it goes amid the host of rejectees.
I glanced at my watch, realize
how long I have been on this few item shop
and grab three of her misbegotten, then
seeing her head for the grapes,
make my own mad dash to get there first,
so I might get home for dinner.
Time seems frozen in the checkout line
stuck between the Mars bars
and the tabloids, you wonder
how Liz could survive a total body
liposuction, and further details of how
OJ killed in a moment of lust.
The old woman in front rummages
in her change purse certain she has
the eighty seven cents, the coins
lost in a blue haze reflected off her hair.
Two aisles over the young mother
her jaw clenched in frustration
keeps putting the life savers back
on the shelf as her child, fidgeting
in the cart grabs another roll, until
she shouts and slaps his hand.
His cry draws stares from all and she
stares at the floor as he grabs
a Three Musketeers and Certs.
A man in the express line swears
that the apples were marked 89 cents
and wants to see the manager
who calmly explains that Granny Smiths
are a dollar twenty nine and only small
Macintoshes are on sale this week.
He puts the bag on the scale
and stalks out of the store.
I would shift to the express lane
but I have 16 items and must
continue to wait and wonder
how many incisions it would take
for a full body liposuction.
Previously appeared in Kimera: A Journal of Fine Writing, Vol. 3, No.2, 1998 and in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, 2008