David J Thompson
While You’re Feeling No Pain
It’s late. The football game’s over.
All the Miller High Life is gone.
You’re surfing the channels
one last time, then you’ll drag
your old, drunk white ass to bed.
You come to that strange movie
the guys go to see near the end
of Diner – that really weird one
everybody knows, but right now
you can’t remember the title.
It’s in black & white with sub-titles
because it’s Danish or Swedish
or something like that, and there’s a knight
who plays chess against a creepy hooded guy
who you know represents death, even if
it’s been forty years since your last English class.
You smile when you recognize the actor
playing the knight, Max something or other,
as the pissed off artist in Hannah and Her Sisters
who was sleeping with Barbara Hershey.
You tell yourself you should try to watch this
sometime when you’re sober and not so ready
for bed, when, of all things, the doorbell rings.
At this hour? you ask yourself. Then you glance
back at the tv, and you know sure as hell
you’re time has come, death is at the door.
At first, you refuse to get up, feel rooted firmly
in your recliner. Then it rings again, louder
somehow, and you feel yourself getting slowly
to your feet as if you were being pulled toward the door.
It was going to happen someday, you think,
might as well get it over now while you’re feeling no pain.
You feel yourself shuffling across the room
telling yourself that you didn’t have anything
to do tomorrow anyway, or the day after,
for that matter. You turn on the porch light,
and, as you reach to open the door, you think
about praying for some miracle to save you,
then you realize you haven’t played chess
since high school; you barely remember the moves.
All That Streetcar Crap
Do you know who that is? my mom asked
pointing at a photo of the reception line
in her wedding album. No, I answered,
but he looks sorta like Marlon Brando.
You’re right, she told me. That bastard.
Holy shit, I said. Are you kidding me?
We were sitting in the kitchenette
of her little place in Fort Lauderdale,
a year or two before she got cancer and died.
She was smoking a cigarette, drinking
her first bourbon Manhattan of the evening.
No, she explained. I was dating him
in New York before he got famous
with all that Streetcar crap, but then
I found out he was two-timing me
with some hussy from the Actors Studio.
He said they were only rehearsing,
but I knew better. Scene studies, my ass.
She picked up her glass, shook it just enough
to make the ice cubes rattle, then took a sip.
He begged me to take him back, she explained
between puffs on her Marlboro, but that’s when
I met your father, so I told Marlon nothing doing.
And then, she continued, after all that, he had the nerve
to show up at our wedding uninvited. Holy shit, I said
shaking my head and staring down at the photo.
He looks so sad here. He might even be crying.
Well, you know, my mom told me as she stubbed out
her cigarette, they say he was a pretty good actor.
David J. Thompson is a former prep schoolteacher and coach. He grew up in Hyde Park, New York, and now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His interests include The Simpsons, jazz, and minor league baseball. His latest chapbook, Shake My Ashes, is available from Alien Buddha Press. A series of 1400 of his postcards is part of the permanent collection of The Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois. Please visit his photography website at ninemilephoto.com.