Late Night, College Town

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic
Just when you think your night-shift convenience store job is completely predictable and boring...

Submitted: April 11, 2010

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Submitted: April 11, 2010



3:35 A.M. At work.
The cigarette packs are counted,
the trash is in the dumpster,
the mop water is waiting
for me to get on with it.

But, hell,
I decide to let the water cool
for a minute
and walk outside to smoke a

I open the doors,
step into a cool, calm
March 31st morning and light up.
The streets are quiet
and I spy a few deer across the
road in the mall parking lot,
chowing down
on the flowers and shrubbery.
Occasionally their eyes catch fire
in the streetlights and twitch at me.

It’s my favorite time of night.
And it’s one of the few reasons
I keep this low-paying
third-shift job:
I love the calm.

as I take a second drag from
my cigarette,
a small red car speeds past.
I don’t think much of it at first.
I figure it’s just another late-nighter
on his way home from the bars.

As I take a third drag
from my cigarette,
the red car SLAMS
into the concrete divider
between the lanes
in the street.

The left front tire goes
like a stick of dynamite
and the sound of it echoes
off of every building
in the neighborhood.
The car straddles the divider
and rides it on down the street.
The grinding of metal against
concrete is unbelievable,
The shower of sparks
that erupts is so great that I
can barely even see the car.

I twist up my face, pained,
and wait for the racket to end.

Then at last,
when the car reaches a gap
in the divider, the driver heaves
the whole shrieking mess
back into the lane.

It isn’t much of an improvement.
The wheel of the flat tire
digs into the asphalt and keeps on
puking a fresh geyser of sparks into the air.

I hear the passenger shout in desperation:
“Just fuckin’ go, man! Keep goin'!”

That’s when I know for certain
they’re heading home from the bar.

The driver takes his friend’s advice
and the car lurches onward
like a maimed braying jackass,
the bad tire and wheel
flupping and flopping and sawing
against the street.

One block down, they make a left turn
and I listen to that mortally wounded
red car as it clambers uphill
toward its end.
Its death throes
against my ears.

Finally, the noise fades away
into the distance.
I shake my head and take
a fourth drag from
my cigarette.

I’ve never been much of a
believer in gods or divinity
or fate or destiny.
But now and then I can’t help
but wonder if someone, something, somewhere
watching me
doesn’t decide that I deserve a laugh.

I sit down on the sidewalk
and, coughing through cigarette smoke,
I have a good one.
It’s the first genuine laugh
I’ve enjoyed all day.

After all, I’m human.
And what’s more human
than to throw a party
over the misfortunes of others?

an interruption in the calm
can be good.

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