David J. Thompson
Aqua Velva And Cigarettes
I’m pretty sure his first name was Greg or Craig,
I can’t remember which. He lived with his family
across the street when I was in junior high, a wife
who sold Avon, some daughters we never saw
away in college, and a ratty white poodle yapping
at the window. My dad always joked that he mowed
his lawn only twice a year, Memorial Day and Labor Day
like clockwork, and my mom would make a motion
as if she was drinking straight from a bottle whenever
his name came up.
Wet mornings, on my walk down to the school bus,
he’d stop his Plymouth for me. Inside, it smelled like
Aqua Velva and cigarettes, the defroster on overdrive.
We never said much, no talk of ballgames or weather,
just a swallowed hello when I got in and a muttered
thanks a lot when we reached the stop. I’d slam
the door and jog over to the other kids, watch him
drive away in the rain. They moved away a few years
later, somewhere down in Florida, I think.
The next family had some little kids and a shitty cat
named Patches that our Black Lab chased up a tree.
The dad called to complain later while we were eating,
and my mom said she was sorry, hung up, then patted
the dog on the head. She said he was a little too big
for his britches for the new guy on the block, went on
serving the Jello-O for dessert. Mostly, I remember him
out there every weekend on a riding mower my dad said
we could never afford, and, though he used to drive
a silver Monte Carlo, he never bothered to stop for me,
even when it poured.
Straight For My Pockets
Eddie died last night, my friend whispers,
her head down, eyes on the floor. Oh, shit,
I say, feel my hands head straight for my pockets.
He collapsed, she continues, at one of casinos downtown,
died before they even got him to the hospital. Oh, shit,
I say again, hands now twisted tight into fists.
A few days before, I knew his heavy breathing,
the same every time he climbed the stairs,
but I didn’t turn around, made no effort to hold
the men’s room door for him. I felt him
on my shoulder as I walked to the urinal, unzipped
my fly, tried to start to pee. Dave, he huffed,
I just got off the phone with my bank. If I don’t
come up with a thousand bucks by Thursday
they’re going to take my house away. I let
my shoulders sag, gave myself a little shake,
but nothing happened. Can you help me out?
he pleaded. Do you think you can help me out?
I twisted my neck like I was trying to squirm
out of my shirt, rubbed my left hand over my eyes.
You know I’m good for it, he went on, now
that I’m back at work, right? So, I stood there,
staring at the tile, my dick in my hand, nothing
still happening. I finally said yes, told him I’d get
to the bank at lunch. Great, he says. You’re a real pal.
First of the month, he added. You know I’m good for it.
When I heard him walk out the door, I finally started
to pee. All done, I pressed the handle down slowly,
stood there completely still for a few moments
even after it was all washed away.
Men’s Room, Hattiesburg
David J. Thompson is a former prep school teacher and coach who has been traveling since October 2013. His latest photo/poetry chapbook, And Thou Upon Earth, is available from Nerve Cowboy in Austin, Texas. Please visit his photo website at ninemilephoto.com.