by Tim Gavin
I can’t believe it’s still here on the corner
Of Venango and Water Streets with its counter
Of patrons on stools duct taped and rusted as Roy flips
Patties and grills Kaiser rolls – still with the cigarette
Hanging from the corner of his mouth. The soda
Fountain – a waterfall of wonder – still works and Linette
Speaking broken English and chewing a wad of gum
Takes orders and clothes pins them to the line
Above the grill. I side step the sticky fly strips
Hanging from the ceiling and slide into a booth and
Run my palm over the cracks in the leather
And think I should probably wash my hands.
From the chalk board specials, I order a Philly
Cheesesteak with peppers, onions and ketchup.
Linette over my shoulder saying, “Do I know you?” – my
Face a specter of her past. She can’t place
Me nor does she waste too much time. With her left hand
She scribbles my order.
I can’t believe I’m sitting here
Thinking of old friends – ones that never made it out –
Ones that worked in the textile mill across the street,
Making an hourly wage that would pay their beer tabs
But not their pensions. I recall all the times I stiffed Roy
ducking out the front door with him chasing me,
Flashing his butcher knife and
Spatula against a pitiful skyline,
Cursing me as I ran to who I would become.
His cigarette holds a shaft of ash until
He wipes the sweat from his head –
It flurries over onions and peppers and Linette leans
on the greasy counter, counting tips and cracking gum.