The following poem can be found in “A Man Upstairs,” now available in paperback and ebook on Amazon.
So I look over to the guy and say, “HEY! How about them cornflakes?”
He gives me this look as if I just stole his wallet before stabbing his wife and decapitating the family dog:
A very specific expression they trained me to point out in the US Navy.
You learn a lot when you’re over there.
“What?” he says. “Cornflakes?”
Then he steps away from the bar and begins to fiddle his arms around in his pockets.
“What’s wrong?” I say, and walk over to comfort him.
“Get your hands offa me, I don’t want any o’ your business!” then he storms out of the bar.
I stand there,
The same feeling I had when Mother opened the bottom cupboard and made a mess of my petrified mouse collection.
I try to explain these kinds of things,
But they never listen.
I stumble outside, furiously jamming the key into my car door, and prepare to take the damn thing twenty-past speed limit.
I’m roarin’ down the highway, other cars flying behind like shiny every-colored beetles, sun setting in front of me with those weird long shadows.
Half an hour later I stumble into my apartment.
Can’t give less of a damn about the fact I can’t remember where I left my house keys,
Just that the door was unlocked all day.
I walk into the room and see copies of his awful face plastered everywhere.
Learned to hate the name just as much.
Photo of him standing next to his Chevrolet.
Photo of him on a nice day at the pool.
Photo of him typing emails furiously at his desk…
Even one of him doing dishes in the nude.
I pull up the rolodex or whatever the kid’s call em’, and run my dirty little fingers over them.
There’s the number, I think, then I reach for the phone.
The line is silent for a little while,
Just this periodic ringing that always seems to remind me of hospitals.
Whatever, whatever, I think, pick the fuck up.
Finally there’s a click.
“Hello?” says a woman’s voice. Blunt and shaky… Like an intoxicated bar of soap.
“Yes, well dear, I…” and the thought loses me for just a moment.
Shifting on the other end…
“I just wanted to let you and your lover know, just one little thing… I think. It’s about the cornflakes. Be there in a flash.”
I let the line drop, but not before I catch the tail start of a scream.
She knows now. Probably getting dressed.
I check my boots for silverfish and dart out the front door. Fuck the keys.
I charge down the road a good five minutes until I see Monroe’s house jutting out like all bad men’s houses do.
You can always tell
Because the pink tassels on the fence.
I bust in, and sure enough, my wife’s sittin’ half-naked on the kitchen table, rushing to get her corduroys—
But she’s frozen for a second.
Stopped dead still like I’m some kind of 18-wheeler.
I tell her to wait just a moment, but then the door swings open.
And so before I run over to the kitchen to grab something from the knife rack I carefully pinpointed in my investigation, I give him one square look, and ask: “so how about the cornflakes?”
He gives me that look again—like I stabbed his wife, pissed on his couch, and decapitated the family dog.
Slight variation, but each expression is surprisingly similar.
At this point is seems like he’s just asking for it,
So that’s what I did.
Except he forgot,
It’s MY wife. MINE.
Well, not anymore.
Last time I’ve ever seen anyone use cereal as a coverup.