Cheese

One bite taken sandwich

The Limburger sandwich rested on the bar. Stink waves rose from it like heat off a barbecue. The bartender had served many of the sandwiches to weak-kneed gastro tourists, the modern term, or simply Not Locals at Baumgartner’s Tavern. He didn’t need to watch the color leave their excited faces or listen to them gasp and gag. He trusted they’d do what they had to, with most of ‘em asking to have the better part of the sandwich taken away. The decent ones left a good tip out of respect for the cheese that undid them.

 

*

 

The two women sat at the bar with their sandwiches on folded butcher paper in front of them.

“Oh my god. My eyes are watering.”

“It smells like ass. It’s an ass sandwich.”

“Did you mean “a nice” sandwich?”

“Did you see the bartender’s shirt?”

“No and now I can’t see anything through my tears.”

“It says, “Pull my Finger.”

“Oh god.”

“And here we are with an ass sandwich staring us in the face.”

“Is that? No.”

“What?”

“Is that guy behind me smoking?”

“I’ll be damned! He is. There’s a fucking ashtray on the bar!”

“Holy crap.”

“Lean back in your chair. I’ll get a picture of this—the last bar in civilization to allow smoking AND serving ass sandwiches.”

“Hurry up. I need to get the bartender to take this nasty ass sandwich away.”

 

*

 

Vern nodded to the bartender and took the cigarettes out of his breast pocket. A clean ashtray and matches instantly appeared. Damn good bartender.

The smell of the Limburger sandwiches on the bar wafted over to him with every pass of the oscillating fan. The sweat trickled down his chest and over his flat white stomach. He’d been teaching his grandson how to make Limburger all morning. Hardly any competition in that market, he was proud to say. Shipped it all over the world. It made a real nice sandwich, but Christ, don’t forget a thick slice of onion.

Pull my finger

July

My brain is a gritty bike chain grinding in circles,

friction where there should be smooth pedaling,

well-oiled ease.

My face pinches into a squint,

jaws ache from clenching, keeping the words in.

 

My words would slap a person silly,

bloody his lips,

leaving them fat and lisping into next week.

My Pandora’s box is full of words,

none of them worth a damn, not a dime for all of them.

 

Fireworks have rendered us small.

We are a quivering creature hiding under a bush,

with one eye open

while every other part presses to the ground,

determined invisibility.

 

We are the bruised puff of kitten left outside

with the sky raining fire and breaking apart in thunder,

fragile resilience.

We are picked up and put into a silk-lined pocket,

a well-heeled ticket out, but to where, we wonder.

 

Penny Candy

Our mother used to complain that whenever we got our dirty mitts on a nickel, we ran to the corner store to buy penny candy. She often withheld the coinage in her determination to curtail our sugar consumption.

As luck would have it, the penny candy store was next to a used car lot. They must have also had a towing operation for cars that were totaled. The mangled cars were moved to a lot behind both businesses until they were transported to a permanent junkyard.

This was back before seatbelts were required and, in fact, seemed like an unnecessary appendage to the seats. It was also before the push for compact cars had gotten traction. These junkyard cars were heavy metal beasts with speedometers that went up to 150 or 175 mph. On those late summer Saturday nights after the bars closed, groups of people hit the long, dark country roads, some determined to bury the gauge on the far right end of the speedometer.

We were intrigued by the cars, which were frequently mashed like accordions. Sometimes the door would have bent open in the accident. It was likely one of these times that our curiosity beckoned us into the wreckage, where we found loose change on the floor of the car. Afterwards, of course, we knew to try the door or crawl through the holes where windows had been.

Greedily, we collected the coins. Sometimes they were as crumpled as the car was, defying our ability to imagine how it could have happened in the crash. Sometimes the coins had blood on them. At first the blood induced eye-widening amazement, but shortly thereafter it just meant “spit and rub.”

We divided the spoils between us and hurried back to the corner store, slapping our loot on the counter and ordering ourselves another round of Swedish fish, hot balls, and Mary Jane chews.

 

MaryJane