Redemption at Ray’s Corner Grocery Store
Late three times for work, so it’s night shift
or my job. I’m eighteen, no experience, broke,
so I make the deal. I wear jeans and a T-shirt:
Shop at Ray’s for the Best Deals Around,
a message more pertinent when
there was more than one store in town.
I work with Scott, who with pimples
and just a brush of chin hair, looks fourteen
though he has just turned twenty-one, with Rhonda,
who at fifty-five is too old for this kind of work,
but far too young to retire. At midnight,
I swat away two kids who peek behind
the paper bags covering Penthouse
and Playboy in the magazine aisle,
watch as a tired mother wanders through dairy,
calculates her bill with her fingers, grabs
her diapered son a little too tightly,
when he asks for butter pecan ice cream.
In the lull after 3 a.m., I tackle the dusty shelves
gray dishcloth in hand. Everything I see
is red: leaking ketchup bottles,
broken jars of spaghetti, cherry pits
and skins slippery on the produce floor.
Even the last customer pays for cigarettes
with crumpled dollar bills, all blotted with lipstick.