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Series On An Unnamed Protagonist

October 29, 2009 

Daniel Klotz

Babysitting for the Last Time

You belch up the acid taste
of the toaster oven pizza
you fixed the two boys,
but the breeze
and their whiffle ball
drown out the noise
so they don’t laugh.

In a month you’ll
grab your diploma and get out
of those locker-lined halls.
But then it’s rolling out of bed at 5
to make it to the building site on time.

You’re lying at the base
of a low embankment,
hard turf cascading from the parking lot
at the far end of their level backyard.

Lying with your legs stretched
up the steep degree, blood rushing
to your head, all you can think is,
get your bikes, guys—what d’ya say
we ramp off this thing?

Before life grows tiresome.

Walking the Dog

That stupid dog, you curse
under your breath
for the zillionth time,
as it trots into a clump
of evergreens, ignoring
your sharp whistles.

Finally, he emerges with just
the stick he was seeking;
you whip out the leash
for the zillionth
time, although you hate
using it, and he trots along,
pausing at the corner fencepost,
marking it for the zillionth time
with the last squirt he can muster.

Mr. Jones calls out from his driveway
across the street. “Hey there, boy!
Working yard?” You grin, reply,
“Yep—hardly working,”
for the zillionth time
and chuckle as you always do.

Church Building Project

The woman in charge tells you no,
you’re not 18 yet.

So you yield your 2×4 with its
stubby pencil mark to Bill
in the red farmer’s hat.

He braces the board with the elbow
of his left arm—
there’s nothing past that—
and pushes it into the table saw,
splinters flying,
that fresh grinding noise.

Waiting with a forced patience,
you try to grasp what makes
a man who’s missing a hand and forearm
more capable than you.

Making Music

bass, bass, bass, cymbal,
bass, bass, cymbal snare bass,
the electric guitar riffs in;
the melancholy keyboard
begins to moan.

These lyrics are terrible, you think,
we’ll have to rework them—
we avoided trite and wound up
saying nothing.

Then you think, so what and
surrender your body to the rhythm;
Jimmy wails the chorus into the mic.

You follow them upstairs
into the kitchen, toss around
a concept for a new song,
snap open Mountain Dews,
dream of a record deal.

Next day, you listen
to the tape; the drum
part’s terrible.

Thanking a Teacher

It’s too sappy just to walk up and say
Goodbye, thanks, I’ll miss you, expecting
It’s been nice having you around, good luck.
So you slip into his room
when it’s empty in the morning,
stick the note on his lesson plans,
and fall back into the turbulent
flow of hallway traffic.

Thirty years from now your memory
will paraphrase it
Thanks, even a dad
couldn’t have matched
what you’ve done for me.

Thoughts of Mortality

Even now it keeps replaying in your mind—
the motorcycle, spun sideways,
on its careening crash into the red minivan,
pulling out without looking. Thank God
he was wearing a helmet, you think;
otherwise you could never shrug it off,
like he seemed to do when he got up
loosely holding his side, having jumped
clear of the bike and flown across the intersection.

You wait until the police and ambulance
are on the scene, make it to church a little late—
you’re just glad your dad’s driving.

The bread shakes in your hand
when you dip it into the grape juice,
even though you tell yourself
you’re calm, it’s OK.
For the forgiveness of sins keeps
running through your ears.
You catch the crumbs stuck
behind your teeth with your tongue,
getting every last bit.

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