Jeremy Allan Hawkins

But Who Thinks of the Skunk

hamburger stands can still be found on certain county roads
where sometimes two strangers are forced to choose
who between them will get the final corn dog of the night
before the cashier yells eighty-six corn dogs to herself
& empties the fryer oil into a huge drum to be collected tomorrow
after which she counts the creased dollars & considers
for the eighty-sixth time if she could make it in Canada
but decides to lock the safe like always & drive away
into a late summer fog which she doesn’t know is harder
to see through with her high beams catching the particles of water
so when she hits the skunk it is a surprise taken in a skid
that ends with one rear tire in the marsh & all she sees
in the mirrors are cattails & the fog flashing red with the rear lights
until another hatchback pulls up alongside with concern inside
the pharmacist coming back from a house call in the country
driving the cashier to a gas station he knows to be open late
so she can make a call & buy a slushie if she wants
just a tiny moment of normalcy after all that fear & stress
& not to worry the car will be fine no it won’t stink for too long
so she thanks him & walks to the payphone to call her mother
because that is who she calls when there is trouble
at the hamburger stand because this is just a summer job
until volleyball starts & she can go back to being herself
the girl who can set the play better than she can spike it
something college recruiters will still appreciate says her coach
as if he could look into her mind to see her fear
of not being wanted & an empty space humming there
where she had forgotten the pharmacist who had died
of a stroke just one week later & also the two strangers
who decided to resolve their corn dog problem
in the spirit of King Solomon & split the thing in two
the two strangers who were now walking together
on a trek across a remote valley in the upper part of Laos
after discovering they both had long harbored like fugitives
a wish to make a pilgrimage to wherever they were going

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