The Rules of the Station

The gas station closes at 10 pm…

most nights.

Behind miscellaneous isles,

Mike hums obscurely

in the back.

Massaging the floor

with a mop,

his head curved

like a spigot.

The background music tonight is beautiful,

if you understood background music that is.

And everything

seems to be in stock.

Solicitors chew gum with 

zeroing mouths.

Rednecks turn auto trader magazines

steering themselves back to youth and glory.   

Children,

inglorious children,

litter rows of sweet candy

stating: “I want”

then

knocking M&M’s off there racks.

A man approaches with a “life is good” T-shirt

and I can’t help

but notice the stain on the back.

“If we had an intercom”, Ed says aloud,

“things here would run much smoother here.”

as if drunk Ed knew what an “intercom” was.

And in between consumers,

passing through the front door

and the obnoxious ding that follows,

Ed disappears into an unmarked car. 

Takes another hit to

acknowledge the fact that problems never resolve themselves.

So why should he?

Last night,

Mike confessed in private that he was

human. It’s weird what honesty

a place like this

brings in people.

And by the redness in his cheeks

I could tell he was serious.

I didn’t react,

not even a sentimental gesture.

Just looked up at the clock,

and asked him with frankness: “who keeps shitting in the bathroom sink?”

Its better that way.

The biggest weirdo’s come in here.

And my first feeling is concern

when their pockets are empty.

Who made that my job anyway?

Some with Rolexes and fake accents.

I remember once

asking a man

about a scar that was 

peeling down his forehead.

When he looked at me,

his surprise

slowly turned into intensity.

I thought for a moment

that his face was glitching.

Like I’d accidentally cut the “stupid wire”

in the compartment that controlled

his face.

And under malfunction,

he stutters the word: “Prii-ss-onn.”

Then, still pausing, he finally says:

“Guess who I had to beat for that!?”

I snickered, with pristine form,

as I politely blurted out:

“Your wife?”

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