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In the old days they smoosh your credit card 
with a slider and you sign a receipt with an actual pen. 
They rip out carbons and flimsy slips, 
one for you, one for them, one which goes 
to a factory in San Francisco where in 1970 
a hippie can work night shift. 
We whoosh stacks of tissue-thin papers 
through machines that mostly do not mangle them 
so upstairs the bank can send you a bill 
that mostly is correct. 

One dawn as I leave work, 
as my long sunrising shadow walks 
to my old VW beetle, 
a credit slip blows across the lot, 
slaps against my shoe—
so I bend and pick it up. 
Sixteen cans of cat food, eight dollars and change. 
My moral choice to either go straight home and
let some lucky woman get free kitty food 
or return the slip and let the merchant be paid. 

To my surprise I choose to return. 
Feeling the fool I hand in the slip expecting no reward 
from the implacable gods of capitalism, 
hand it to the machinery amid the smell 
of paper dust and carbon inks 
which are actually made of soot and wax—
did you know?—a minute’s delay in my departure 
so on the way home the Porsche 
that loses control on 101 and plows 
head-on into two oncoming cars 
killing six people happens a minute 
before I drive up in my beetle. 

Joe Cottonwood has repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book of poetry is Random Saints.

© 2021, Joe Cottonwood

2 comments on “Kitty Kapitalism Karma, by Joe Cottonwood

  1. Catherine Gonick says:

    Great story!


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