Joe’s Roast Beef

17 Jun


September makes men hot and old men hotter.
Drop like flies. Zip those flies.
Shirt, no pants, tie.
Pushing the wheelchair down the hall,
flag waving in front,
scrotum slung low in back,
collagen loss happens to us all.

Joe can’t see well now,
he’s one of the very old.
He can feel the achingly beautiful
women around him, exotic brown with
silky black hair and eyes like a painting on velvet.
Down the corridor he walks,
with his fedora, without his pants.
Lives at Pinewood Spindrift Hill
Park Manor House Inn. Likes the radio.

Was a sergeant when the war ended, GI bill,
married his girl. She was
a mother, then just Mother,
then left his world while he
slept on the Chesterfield on
a windy Monday afternoon.

Son comes now and then.
Divorced, little money.
This heat waves tells Joe
his birthday is near
and his son is driving
from Fresno, soon through Tule fog.
Won’t visit long.
“But Happy Birthday, Dad.!”
“Cupcakes, alright?”

Cards, gifts on the bedside table,
the one with wheels that adjusts up and down.
That’s right, next to the pink
plastic water pitcher and
cup with a gray toothbrush stiff of bristle.

Time passes like cherry season, sweet and fast.
Like a swatch of 101 through Christopher’s garlic ranch,
like scrambled eggs with salt and pepper.
Will there be more?
Remembers his son.

“Daddy, when is cherry season?”
as they drive past the boarded up stand
on Don Christopher’s land.
Waiting for the fat white blossoms,
black bark against blue clouds, the boy’s birthday always,
“In June.”

It gets dark and TVs quiet down.
Other residents cry out and call bells,
but not as hot. A beckoning
from the bedside table. Joe knows
he saw it, smelled it. Imagined
horse radish and rye bread, pickles, red onion.
But the beef was real. Rump. Rare.
Marbled with glistening fat.

Soon Joe will fade,
from a man to a memory, but not tonight.
The wranglers of sin will come if he calls.
“Nurse! Nurse! Come quick! It’s stole!”
The evening nurse with kind eyes
turns back her socks
before heading to Joe’s bedside.

“What’s stole, Joe?”
“My roast beef!
My son brought me a beef!
It was right here, in a bag!”
Joe is nearly wailing.
But all the nurse found
was a bag of prunes,
sticky with the heat.
She took it to the nurse’s station
and put it in the ‘fridge for him.

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