By: Jack Phillips Lowe
THE SHARPEST KNIFE
“So, what do you think of that?” huffed Caleb.
His face flushed red and he was sweating.
Rhonda sat there calmly,
leafing through a magazine.
“Well? Come on, speak up!” Caleb yelled.
“I’ve laid it all out plainly for you!
I’ve broken it down into terms
that a child could understand!
What have you got to say for yourself?”
Rhonda shrugged and turned a page.
Caleb’s eyes flared. He clinched his teeth
and raked his fingers through his hair.
“Damn it! Son of a bitch!
Screw you, Rhonda!”
Caleb tromped out the door
and slammed it behind him.
Rhonda turned another page
Sometimes, silence is
the sharpest knife.
SOMETIMES, A LONG SHOT COMES IN
Deke Bailey can’t sleep. Again.
So he sits in his living room in front of the TV.
He holds a bottle of vodka in his right hand
and a bottle of orange juice in his left,
mixing screwdrivers in his mouth.
Deke tunes in to a late-night infomercial.
The ad is for Flex Seal, a sticky gunk in a can
that will fix any break or breach, lickety-split.
The pitchman in the infomercial even uses Flex Seal
to mend a hole in the bottom of a pontoon boat.
A few daubs of Flex Seal and off he goes,
skimming across the Florida Everglades.
Somehow this makes Deke think of his son, Gabe.
They haven’t spoken to each other in five years.
They had a falling out over Gabe’s wife, Alejandra.
Not a word in five years—
time made it so hard to reconnect.
It’s not that Deke didn’t want to; he didn’t know how.
Deke grabs his phone and orders some Flex Seal.
He has the stuff sent to Gabe and Alejandra.
Sometimes, a long shot comes in.
The pitchman claimed Flex Seal is a fix-all.
We’ll see, Deke thinks. We’ll see.
ON YOUR SIDE
It is snowing outside. On April 27, 2019.
This is uncommon even in Chicago,
where the weather is
always a loaded crap game.
I lay here in bed like a 14-year old
whose father, the night before,
had ordered the kid
to spend his precious Saturday
mowing the lawn.
The lawn, I admit, needs cutting.
The grass is as long
as a hippie’s freak flag
and the dandelions
are brandishing screw-you smiles.
Yes indeed, it’s high time
to fire up the John Deere.
Yet, my inner teenager rejoices
in this unexpected reprieve,
this unforeseen victory
over Dad’s iron rule.
A Saturday he expected to waste
slaving in the yard
can instead be wasted
sipping milkshakes and
popping his girlfriend’s pimples
in the food court at the local mall.
With satisfaction, I roll over
and bury my face in the pillow.
I am, in fact, fifty years old.
My father has been dead
for over a decade.
My most recent girlfriend
had age spots
instead of pimples.
But surprise freedom
still tastes as sweet
as a milkshake
when you find
that Mother Nature
is on your side.
THE FATEFUL QUESTION OF THE CENTURY
Easter Sunday finds Buchman,
Div and Mateo manning the deli counter
in the quite-deserted Savemore Super Store.
Buchman is polishing the counter
for at least the eighth time that day.
Div is screwing around on his phone.
Mateo is sorting through the deck
of Fortnite trading cards
he keeps hidden in his work apron.
Their manager, Mr. Tosser,
afflicted with the brown nose and troll face
of all assistant retail managers,
pops suddenly through the storeroom door,
having snuck in via the loading dock entrance.
“Well,” Mr. Tosser says brightly,
“since you guys aren’t doing shit,
I’ve got some shit for you to deal with.”
“Whaddaya mean?” asks Div,
without taking his eyes off his screen.
“What I mean,” says Tosser,
“is that somebody—literally—
took a dump in one of the urinals
in the men’s room by the service desk.”
“So?” says Mateo. “Call Maintenance.”
“Maintenance is off for the holiday,”
says Tosser. “I can’t ask the cashiers
to handle it and Akbar has seniority.
That leaves it to you three mooks.
So get off the phone, put away the cards
and clean out that whiz box. And I mean now.”
A self-satisfied Tosser turns and leaves.
Mateo, Div and Buchman lock eyes.
Each one raises a clenched fist.
Div counts it down:
“Three! Two! One—shoot!”
Mateo extends his index and middle fingers.
Div does likewise.
Buchman straightens all five of his fingers.
“Way to go Buchman!” brays Div.
“Scissors cut paper, old man!”
“I’d ask him to Instagram it for us,”
Mateo chuckles, “but Buchman
ain’t even got a phone!”
Stone-faced, Buchman trudges toward
the janitor’s closet. Walking, he asks his Maker
the fateful question of the century:
“What, dear God, am I doing with my life?”
God doesn’t answer.
Bio: Jack Phillips Lowe
His poems have appeared in Clark Street Review, Homestead Review and Barbaric Yawp.
His most recent book is Flashbulb Danger: Selected Poems 1988-2018 (Middle Island Press, 2018), available from amazon.com.
A native Chicagoan, Lowe currently resides in Addison, IL, an enchanted kingdom of foreclosed houses & fast food restaurants.
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