In aisle three, cookies/ethnic snacks,
German filmmakers approached me:
“You like the Snackwell’s Devil’s Food?”
“Yeah, I eat four every Sunday.”
The thin one with feathered hair
and boom-mike, talked the most.
They followed me to the meats.
“Tell us something for Berlin TV.”
I told how I drove an ice truck
one summer in Ohio.
I would park the truck in back, stacked
a dolly forty-five bags high.
Walked the bags up front to the box.
I walked slowly, like a slug,
through the Hallmark section.
“Shoot the beef,” the thin one said.
His cameraman stood six-five, blond,
with glasses. He panned the camera
over the ground chuck: $1.99 a pound,
red like the painted desert.
I think they didn’t listen to me, so
in dairy I kept talking anyway, how,
at every store jags would say to me,
“That looks like a cool job, man.”
Once, at a Cub Foods,
a guy in a stained white tank said
“Shit, I want your job, man-
cold in this heat all the time.
I’d take naps in the back of the truck,
not tell anyone.” And his woman,
she said “Shit, at least he has a job.”
The camera whirred.
The thin one wore a Texas belt
buckle, yellow and blue polyester shirt-
he aimed the mike higher, near my face,
brushed his hair out of his eyes.
I held a dozen brown eggs, said
how the jag cupped his hand,
like he was half-praying,
and struck his girl in the head.
She fell into the potato chip rack.
I laughed, and put more ice in the box.
“What did you do?”
The Germans asked in unison.
“I said I laughed, put more ice in the box.”
“Oh how marvelous, you’re a cowboy,
an honest cowboy.”
“I guess so,” I said,
“must be why I buy eggs by myself.”
I didn’t tell them she got up
put her fingers between his fingers,
walked through the sliding doors.
Phil Estes grew up in Dayton, Ohio, birthplace of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the Wright Brothers, and hall of fame third baseman Mike Schmidt. His work has been published in Kill Poet, Lamination Colony, Portland Review and Origami Condom with poems forthcoming in Feathertale Review, The Great American Poetry Show, Kaleidotrope, NOÖ Journal, and Poety Midwest. He now lives in Kansas City, Missouri and blogs at Nice is a weapon.
“From the age of 4 to about 11 we lived in a house in West Dayton with a pretty nice porch. One day my mom made popsicles by freezing cherry Kool-Aid in ice trays. Then she set up a bug bomb, to kill some cockroaches and termites she found, and we sat out on the porch most of the afternoon, and ate the Kool-Aid. The neighborhood got pretty bad (drug busts, break-ins, domestic violence in the streets) and my dad moved us to Miamisburg, a suburb south of town. We didn’t have a porch there. My apartment right now has a patio I sometimes sit on when the weather’s nice.”