Sitting in a booth at Andy’s Diner
I can’t help but eye a fellow alone
so thin he’d fit though most gaps
between prison bars.
At a table set for six he’s staring
straight ahead as if a defendant
minutes away from a verdict,
hands clenched in prayer
real or disguised maybe hoping
for extradition to Maine
Idaho or Long Island.
The outcome is a mixing bowl
of mashed potatoes and a basket
too small for the bread it holds.
Attentively dividing the butter
among thick slices and the spuds,
he dines robotically, oblivious
or indifferent to his audience.
His methods whisk me back years
to Laura’s Luncheonette
where a man, much heftier and not
as assiduous with toast
and an identical vessel
containing a wealth
of thick oatmeal.
A woman beside him, chin
on palm, smiles in amazement.
Had her friend somehow made bail
and is making up for stingy
prison portions I wondered.
Devouring, as if any second
a judge would renege, send
him to place where porridge
is instant, servings small.
A chunk flies off his spoon,
lands on his lady’s arm
and they laughed away
any early morning counter
grogginess the caffeine missed.
I do at Andy’s as at Laura’s, sentence
the newest member the brotherhood
of the mixing bowl to an evening
ice cream helping
of equal largesse—
like the filings
off a thousand jailbreaks.
- Thomas Michael McDade 2012
Tom McDade lives in Monroe, Connecticut with his wife, no kids or pets. He's a former computer programmer who served two hitches in the U.S. Navy. He's been most recently published in Literarily Erotic: