by The Poet Spiel
This old fishhook’s worked just fine all these years. Snag a thread — pick at it. Tediously tug it away from your bulky J. Bell Safes uniform without breaking it. Coil it round your finger. Kill a little time.
No one ever notices that Max’s uniform is frayed.
No one ever notices Max — maybe Benny when he takes the shift at four a. m. Being a loser has always been the reason to come back to the booth one more time. Play the game again. Hope you’ll win. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. Sure as hell isn’t the bare bones pay that keeps him coming. Every day of every year, time whittles a guy’s self-respect. Eats him down to marrow. He gets a notion to head straight for a phone booth to change into his blue tights and red cape so he can save this mind-numbing planet from extinction but phone booths are hard to come by these days.
Max comes to look and sound more and more like his pathetic mother. He’s so bored — found himself sitting on the can shaving his legs in front of her dressing mirror last week. Great God Almighty.
And sitting in this gawldarned booth staring at the night, picking at his pantlegs — now beginning to fray his long sleeves down to shreds. Saving the coiled threads in his dresser drawer because they might be useful for something. Something what? They’d be useless as fishing line.
Just thirteen days till retirement. Ten days plus three! Same as his birthday. Thirteen. And if the booth’s walls weren’t real glass he’d climb them.
Mr. Bell’s left his keys in his suede-top pearlwhite Lincoln just two feet from the glass booth while the old fart abandons his perfectly proper wife — soundly sleeping in his palatial Victorian era home. And he goes off as usual to pull off his funnybusiness from eleven to three a.m. with that airhead whore from marketing.
Mr. Bell comes back, frazzled — like a wetsopped retriever, shamed by its strangled duck.
Mr. Bell’s keys start teasing Max. They remind him of the gypsy bellydancer he saw when he was a teenager out back of the New Revival Tent at County Fair. Her tease was a flashy diamond arrow pointing to her twat.
And the truth of the matter is, Mr. Bell has more cars than he needs.
For a long long time, Max has been thinking about traveling up north to try to meet Oprah — maybe have a chat with her about what it’s like: working nights in a four-by-four cell for forty-five years with a forty-watt bulb as your only friend and a boss who doesn’t even know you’re there. Max figures this is the kind of stuff Oprah’d make a bigtime TV show about.
Never mind his final thirteen days; they’ll seem like forever — like until eternity suddenly takes a wrong turn and ceases its spin. Just not worth the wait.
On his roadtrip to Chicago, he whips a swift detour toward Mt. Rushmore.
Wants to stare down a great American.
Like a real man.