“The Reading” – Improptu Poem


“It’s like we’re on

a train,” someone says.

There is four feet

of thin worn carpet

in the northernmost aisle

of this narrow bookstore

Where the local poet,

A published, prolific professor,

Prepares a Power Point

presentation prior to performing.

~Those P’s wrote themselves~

In this single aisle,

A woman has collected

seven seats, six stools

to serve as satisfactory

sitting options squarely secured

~Those S’s were stretches~

for the incoming anonymous

manifest of friends, colleagues

who conduct themselves like

strangers or companions on

a metropolitan commute or

lengthy return to relatives

whom they see less

and less each year.

We’re trained from youth

to be still, civil,

engineered from our childhood

to be polite. Always.

As the bookshop’s car

fills with late arrivals,

We shed our layers

and peel away ourselves

To become more comfortable.

And those who arrive

before the poet’s departure

from real life realize

that they are suddenly

seatless. They’ll see less

with coats draped over

their arms like towels

or plain white bedsheets

that danced in backyards

of our grandparents’ youth.

NaNoWriMo Day 1 – 1700+ words


This is meant to be read by fiction writers.  This is the first day of writing (some after midnight, the rest just now) for my NaNo project.  It’s crazy, disorganized, filled with errors, and probably illogical.  It’s a first draft.

–I’ll never fucking understand why fucking adults think I’m screwing with them when I tell them their fucking plate is goddamn hot.  Never fails.  Every time.  College kid or grandpa.  Men more than women, I’ll grant ya, but they all do it.  So I got tired of it, ya know?  It can’t be their first time in a restaurant, right boss?

–Bill, I know.  People are idiots.  You and I see it all the time.  But you also are old enough to understand liability.  Of course the plate should not have given that guy third-degree burns, but…

–Isn’t it first-degree?


–I think first-degree is the least worrisome.

–That doesn’t make sense, Bill.  First.  It’s top priority in a burn center.

–Well, it was the lowest level.  And I’m sorry it happened, but goddamn.

–I know, Bill.  Look.  Please let me go back and handle it.  Look.  It’s a quarter to ten.  We close in a little over an hour.  Maybe just hang back here and you can start on closing.

–I thought he was kidding, John.  I really did.

–I know, I know.  Look.  We can limit the damage.  The EMTs are coming on our dime.  Let’s just make sure we look proactive at this point.

–Fuckin’ hate lawyers, man.

–We all do.

–I’m not gonna get fired, am I?

He deep-sighed.  And stared at Bill for an uncomfortable four seconds.  Using his peripheral vision, he saw the flimsy red stick click between the three and the four.

–Look, Bill.  I’m going to talk it over with HR now that they’ll know about the EMTs coming.

Bill let his foodslime-covered kitchen shoe fall from his left knee.

–I’ll just go.

–No, please.  Don’t.  It doesn’t have to…I mean…I’m telling you you’re not…

Bill flipped a raggedy single on his desk.

–Just mail my last fucking check, John.  And fuckin’ thanks for the support.

“You did not,” Stacey cried out with that grin that’s all but forced me to hang around with her.

“Yeah.  Fuck that place.”  We’re at Legs, which sounds like it’d be a strip bar, but they are known for their southern-fried chicken after hours.

“Shit, man,” she said, the smile diminshed quickly.  “I don’t want to work there if you’re not.”

Stacey’s a real sweet kid.  Been hanging out for about six weeks off and on.  All the girls at that place have to tie their long hair back or pin it up.  When we go out for drinks after work–like straight after work, still smelling of gravy–she lets it down.  Somehow the dark hair gets curlier the longer we stay.  If we’re at a table, I’ll get caught just looking at those locks.

“Well, I feel a little bad about just taking off–probably shot my chance at a referral.”

“Yeah,” she said, still examining her tall pilsner glass.  She only just ordered domestic bottles before we met and came here together for the first time.  The shit these kids don’t know astounds me.

“Think I shoulda stayed?”

She shrugged.

“You’re too nice, young lady,” I stated, then signaled Bobby for two more tall ones.

She grinned and turned to me.  “I know.  I mean, I know why you took off.  Sounds like you were going to get the ax after you clocked out.”


“Well, anyway…what are you going to do?”

Bobby put the beers in front of us.  Without prodding, Stacey downed the rest of the first and reached for the new one before swallowing.

I offered my glass to be tapped with hers.  A small, congenial smile crept across her face.

“I have no fucking idea.”

We laughed, then chugged.

Bobby dropped a glass while trying to dry it.


“How old did you say he was?” Gina asked me.

“I didn’t say, actually.”

“Stace…come on!  Your first boyfriend since Thad?  I have to know every—”

“I’m just…he’s not my boyfriend.  Just this guy who I hang out with after work.”

We were getting birthday manis–gifts from our moms.  A tradition.  Being born on the same day in the same hospital meant–to our mothers at first–that we were sisters in another life.  I love Gina to death, but she also gets a little too cozy in my personal business these days.

“If I tell you, will you please drop it for now?”

She doesn’t even take the time to close the magazine she held before tossing it over her head onto a shelf of ancient issues Shape and Good Housekeeping.

“Hold still, please,” Gina’s woman says in Chinglesh, without flinching.

“He’s twenty-eight.”

Her eyes exploded open and I could tell her brain was overloading with simple mathematics.


“Yeah,” I said.  “Now please let me just rest my head and enjoy the pleasurable service these fine women offer.”

“Okay, okay…that’s fair.”

I think I counted to nine this time.

“Have you two…?”

“allGina, come on!”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

My girl tapped my foot to indicate its removal from the buzzing warm water.

“Your friend, she no listen well, no?”

“No, Dang,” I said, then coyly looked at my oldest girlfriend  “She doesn’t.”



(Much later)


So, Bill’s been working–actually just fucking around at–a handful of jobs.  Stacey texted him less and less.  One or two came from her little friend Gina, but Bill never really gaver her much to go on.  Another sweet kid, he thinks, but even less mature than Stacey.  Although two years earlier, breaking up their friendship might have been a little funny, he has no interest in that these days.  He’s starting to really see thirty creep up and fucking around with girls who still have the high school mentality is starting to make him look more and more like a fucking chode.

After putting in applications at more established restaurants and not getting any bites, Bill was strongly considering moving to a new town.  Like, far away.

He is actually packing one day when he hears on the radio in the room that a new place is looking for experienced restaurant help.

He goes in, applies, doesn’t get a chance to see the hiring manager that day but is assured he’ll be contacted either way.  They all say that, but no one has ever called, even just to thank him for his interest.  But he plays the game and feigns enthusiasm.

“Sir?” a voice called from behind him as he swung open the heavy wooden door.

Bill turned and watched a man his age–probably younger though–rushing toward him.  “Sorry,” he said, unnecessarily.  “My ‘screener’ back there just handed me this.  You’re Bill McKenzie?”

“Yes, sir,” he said automatically.  Addressing younger men in that manner was, at first, troubling, but now despicable.

“Got a call just last night from my old manager at Nantucket.  John?”

“Yes.  Good man.”

The man introduced himself has the HR coordinator–Bill thought about the person who comes up with all these different job titles for the same position.  What’s his title, by the way?

“Anyway, John said you might be applying and that maybe I could help you out.”

The door closed and Bill stood at the man coldly.

“Yeah,” he continued without affording Bill any space.  “He says to quote Fuck off unquote and for me not to hire you.”

Tearing up the application was just plain unnecessary.




Bill starts dating.  Maybe a cliche coffee girl.  Whatever.  But it’s the one who changes him.  Let’s name her Jazmine.  She likes him to call her Jazz, but that reminds him of the Fresh Prince’s dim sidekick.  That is, until they (Bill and Jazz) have sex the first time.

I walk into her apartment and am smacked with the odor of a fishtank.  A few steps in and all I can think about is this fish I had as a kid who, in the most traumatizing fashion I can say, committed suicide right after I finished watching the baseball All-Star Game.  I was probably about nine.  I took shitty care of it, I know.  Probably overfed it or whatever.  But it was like it was WAITING for me to walk by to do it.  He or she did three or four vigorous laps around the glass bowl then just popped out like a performance dolphin at Sea World.

“Did you hear me?” Jazz asks.

She’s in the kitchen and searchiing through drawers.  Her question had to have dealt with food.

“No, I’m good.”


“Wait…what did you say?”  I do this with her (and many people) when I don’t hear the question, guess with a vague answer, then try to construct a fictional misunderstanding of the original question.  It rarely gets executed well.

“I asked if you wanted to go to my room instead of the movie.”

Yeah…I’ve got nothing for that.

But I do smile and dart toward her.  She’syoung enough to get over it, especially when I lift her into my arms and spin around.  She’s having a blast and I take her to her room.

It’s our first time at her place.  The very first time was in my car–I know, it’s a tad embarrassing to fuck in a car when you pass twenty-five–but there was a good reason*.  Since then, it’s always been at my place, but now that I’m moving, there’s too much shit anywhere.

It’s her roommate who has the fishtank.  Her fucking door actually has a crayon-based drawing welcoming all entrants to “The Aquarium.”  If a girl ever wants to keep dudes out of their bedrooms, it’s by putting up fucking signs like that.

So we’re in her room and I sort of just dump her on the bed.  I can’t tell her that she’s getting a little heavy.  She’s definitely not fat or anything; it’s just that I’m too far removed from when I last regularly lifted.  A slight twinge in my back makes me flinch and bite my lower lip, though I cover it with a laugh.

She’s too involved in the romance of the carrying-to-bed to notice anything wrong.

It’s at this moment that I looked down and saw the copy of Emma on her nightstand.  I wouldn’t have noticed it, I’ve been telling myself, if I wasn’t meant to.