his voice crawls over my shoulder, it could
be for anyone of the souls in shoes standing in line, McDonalds is busy
at lunch, but i know it is for me. how, don't ask, it's just a feeling
and the man in front of me doesn't even flinch, he just stares at the
brightly colored menu, his choices weighing on his leather belt.
boys have wandered over to a table. they picked a booth and are looking
out the window, unhindered by the bright sun streaming through. they
are who i look for first, to make sure they are safe, because i
recognize the voice. they are oblivious though, drunk on the thought of
their happy meals, with plastic panda toys.
is working and we are out, just the men, or boys, all in how you want
to look at it. we are just killing time until the nature center opens at
noon, so we can visit the snakes. they have a hedgehog too, cute in all
its prickly quills, just watch your fingers because if they get scared
and sneeze you might get hurt.
his hand meets my
shoulder and i can no longer look away but face that which i know i will
see when i turn around. hey man. hey man. how long has it been, six
months, but then he could not have touched me with those hands behind
his back encased in steel cuffs. the night he beat his mother. i knew he
was out, saw him hitch hiking, days ago, flipping me off as i whizzed
on by on my way somewhere, anywhere and chances are he had no clue who
my boys are walking across the brown tile floor
toward us, curious who is trying to get dad's attention and i wish they
would just go back to the table. they can not read my mind, but i can
their faces and i know they know something is up and there is no
stopping this moment.
he's all smiles, sunk in hollow
cheeks, skin stretched over bone frame, gaunt compared to before, maybe
twenty, thirty pounds lighter. the pleasantries are quick, we know each
other and he asks about the boys now at my hands. yes, they are mine.
nice, he says, smiling, all teeth.
yeah, i lost
weight, its all muscle now, he says, but underneath it's probably meth,
or something up his nose, shot between his toes. he knows, i know. its
the twitch that be-lies the truth. what cha doin today man, and my boys
let slip the happy meals and he says he'd love one too if he had the
money and gives me a look. i don't bite.
it's quick, we
are next and order, then eat, but i watch his back two booths over,
head bobbing to the music pumping through the buds in his ears leading
to his phone. homeless, i wonder what he sold to get it. he sits by the
door with a friend, watching the comings and goings, looking for
familiar faces. we finish and i nod as we walk out.
dad who is that? was he one of your boys? i feel his eyes and look back
catching them through the window following us across the asphalt. yeah,
something like that. what happened?
soda chortles in the straw as
they suck for the last sip from their golden arches paper cups and i
think of the ones i can not save, not that i can save any of them,