David J. Thompson
It Might Be Serious This Time
My mother’s back in the hospital,
my ex-girlfriend exhaled as she dropped
her laptop bag on the sofa next to me.
I think it might be serious this time.
I booked a flight out at six tomorrow morning.
Oh, shit, I answered without looking up
from my book. That’s bad. I’m sorry
to hear that. How you getting to the airport?
I didn’t know what time it was, still
pitch dark. We were in the parking lot
of the 24-hour doughnut place on the way
to the highway. What do you want?
she asked. We need to hurry. I’m late.
I told her I just wanted coffee, large
and black. She slammed the door.
I sat there tapping my palms against
the wheel. With good traffic I figured
I’d be back in 90 minutes, just enough
time to shower and get those copies made
I needed for first hour class. I sat back,
closed my eyes. When she got back in,
she told me she forgot her curling iron.
We had to go back. It would just take
a minute. Oh, for shit’s sake, I said real loud,
then jammed the car into reverse pretty hard.
When we turned out of the parking lot she asked,
Why are you acting like this is such a big pain
in the ass? I didn’t say anything, didn’t know then
it was the last question she’d ever ask me,
just kept driving back toward where we came,
no sign of light anywhere to be seen.
No Real Reason
I’m sitting in my car drinking a Coors Lite
at the Gas and Go on the twisting highway
south of Logan, West Virginia. I stopped here
fifteen minutes ago mostly just to pee, grabbed
some beef jerky, Fritos, and beer for the motel
later tonight. I got in line to check out behind
a tiny old woman with a cane in a Steelers sweatshirt.
The cashier was twice her size with long gray braids
and eyes so big I can’t imagine them ever being
fully closed. She slides the elderly lady a pack of Newports,
then leans over the counter toward her. Notice anything?
she asks. The old woman hands her a bill and says,
Oh, that smells real pretty. The cashier takes the cash
and straightens up at the register and says, I don’t know
why, but I just dabbed on some perfume this morning.
No real reason, I just thought it would be nice.
She smiled widely and I couldn’t help but notice
that one of her front teeth was completely grey.
The old woman took her change and limped away.
Bye-bye, Doreen, the cashier said. Say hi to Eddie for me.
When I put my stuff down, she asked me if I had
found everything I needed. I nodded yes and inhaled
deeply, trying my best to get a whiff of something sweet.
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.