By Mark Kraushaar

Featured Image: Landscape by Peter von Bemmel 1685-1754

She’s in the first booth left of the planters.
She’s been waiting an hour now.
She’s been waiting at the Watertown Family Buffet
with her little girl who’s dreamed up
some kind of a costume:
giant glasses, backwards cap, taffeta gown
which is clearly for him, for Al who’s
just now arriving, finally, and now

he’s seen them, and now
he’s walking over, and now
he’s standing there, standing there,
husband and father, or boyfriend and father,
or boyfriend and father figure, except he’s way too late,
he’s too late times two and the party’s over
thank-you, and, no, they’re not having,
not the grin, not the story, not the hug.

The woman gets up, and then, face baggy with patience,
she nods to the girl who scoots out too,
and they exit together.
So over the chips and spilt dip,
over the drained Pepsi and the big white cake
with “Al” in caps and quotes
he watches them go,
looks out at the parking lot,
opens his book.
Here’s the waitress with her pad and pen.
And what in hell is he reading?

Mark Kraushaar has worked as a pipe welder, wig salesman, English teacher, flute instructor, and registered nurse. He has new work forthcoming from Alaska Review, Ploughshares, and The Hudson Review, and his full-length collection, Falling Brick Kills Local Man, published by the University of Wisconsin Press, won the 2009 Felix Pollak Prize.

Originally appeared NOR 7

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