Some people slide their paper bills
across the counter with a coffee
stir stick. Pocket change from the chute,
then rub their palms down both hips
as a precaution.
Last week somebody bartered me on
a 70-cent can of baked beans.
Mrs. Leewater stuck a package
of Tater Tots into her purse so I put
my hand on her shoulder and she burst
into tears just like that.
Of course I let her have the Tots.
Clark the Army vet who lost his job washing dishes
at the Garissy Hotel upstreet has me ring his Rice
Krispies and six-pack then asks can he pay me soon
as he gets his unemployment check?
I start a ledger for seven dollars and 28 cents.
Soon there is page after page inked up
in this ledger, the sheets oily with perspiration,
crackly from me paging back to add another + sign.
I’m the only grocer around.
Takes two buses to get to the nearest Hy-Vee.
Good thing I got that lump sum when Uncle Miffy
died in December. Weren’t for Uncle Miffy,
I’d’ve closed up in April after all this began.
But I watch that lump sum hemorrhage
every time I learn the ambulance come
for somebody else and it was a one-way trip.
I keep a Magic Marker on a string beside my ledger,
the chisel tip kind. Old Mrs. Lawson. Ancient
Mr. Hilbert. Mrs. Everly and she only 55 this
past Saturday. Her tab up to 92 dollars.
So, I have to draw the line.
Uncap the pen and I draw
a red line right through
Shoshauna Shy is a self-employed cat care provider, and the founder of Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf and Woodrow Hall Editions. Her poems have been anthologized, and her books have won Outstanding Achievement Awards from the Wisconsin Library Association. Her flash fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best Micro Fiction Award.
© 2021, Shoshauna Shy