Larson was supposed to stop by and see
If he could fix my hero. Larson
Has the way with his hands, can figure out
Any mechanical or electrical thing: he has no book
Sense and holds the faith of a child, but has
Saved me more money than anyone should know.
For him to be this late scares me. He loves
The opportunity to work against complexity, cherishes
Being needed by the inept rest of us.
My hero sits on the couch where I left him.
Other people have better heroes, heroes
That break down less often, that come with a warranty.
But this is my hero, and I’ve gotten used to him.
Larson has fixed him before, too. In no time
Larson will have him back on his feet,
As noble and fearless as ever, at the ready:
A credit to the family, even though second-hand.
If he were working now, I’d send him out
Looking for Larson. It isn’t like the man to be absent,
To make a promise, set a time,
Then miss it all without notice.
I worry that I called him out at all.
You know how your mind unnerves itself:
I imagine Larson losing his truck
Around a tree, or fixing a flat
On the wrong side of the road, getting kicked
By a passing car of distracted teenagers
Into the air and into the mad spin of a cat
Trying to right itself to land on all four.
Larson is a good man, but can’t think ahead,
Doesn’t even charge for his assistance.
With my hero useless at the moment, I might
Have to go out myself, start looking
Along the road for skid marks, truck metal,
A man in the rain trudging senseless
Circles in someone’s field. My coat
Crackles to life, its galvanized crease
Straining still to hum. I set my jaw
And toughen the memory of my weary
Hamstrings. Then I realize,
Wait, Larson has his own hero:
Serviceable, well maintained, even optimized.
I can put my coat back, smooth
The steel of the arms, settle
To watching my busted hero blink, and now and again
Ungraciously swallow. He gazes
Into a nothingness as though I were not here at all,
As though Larson might not soon be here.
The world will set itself to balance,
One hero finding Larson, Larson fixing another.
Everything is soon to be pure good and pure bad,
Simply simple action again.
I once was a businessman.
I once commanded budgets, made
Economies, committed personnel decisions,
Selected who our vendor of paperclips
Might be. I had a corner office,
Almost merited a private parking place.
I was too far up the chain
To wear short sleeved shirts.
But don’t get me wrong:
I am glad to have the job I’ve got,
Happy for the paycheck, happy
To be able to put myself to use.
And I plan to build on the fact
That the main reason I won this position
Is that I can move my arms,
Swing my hands, and gesture.
All the other applicants brought only
Straw and flannel; they hung from their poles
Limp and looking like they had never
Done this caliber of work before:
Like they could not fathom
The interplay of a path to success with
The means to accomplish it.
That is what my business sense
Brings to your table: I can adapt
Better than any outfit merely stuffed
With straw, and simply tied closed.
I am learning to yell effectively,
To increase my collective utility,
And I have learned already
It is not the loudness but the suddenness
That sends the crows reeling. I can
Cover twice as much field with my
Gestures and noise as can any
Emotionless, garden variety stuffed straw scarecrow.
I save you way more than the cost of my salary.
So, keep me. Keep me, please.
I took the last whale to a bar on Granby street.
He was not as large as the mythology
Of this very event would have him,
But still the quarters were a bit snug
And a few of the existing patrons
Snarled and offered obscene advice.
I was paying cash and ready to go
All the way to empty pockets,
And the barkeep suspected it.
Nothing would be too much for this day.
The whale started out with beer
But soon was doing bourbon and ginger,
Watching me with my low-calorie draft,
Wincing an air of indulgence. I did not know
How much it would take to get a whale drunk,
But I figured for this singular occasion
We would keep pouring until
The blowhole went scratchy
And I could convince him
That French-fries were krill, or he
Would roll over and let bemused
Coeds rub his belly and fondle a flipper.
But drink after drink he kept staring at me:
Me, holding my weak-sister light beer --
And then he would toss back
Another bourbon and ginger
And stare yet some more. Myself,
Six or eight beers into the ritual,
I began to think his stare -
Dry eyed and the same from either side -
Was not a reservoir of indulgence, but
A sterner opinion: perhaps
Forgiveness, perhaps even understanding.
I don’t know who drove home,
But that last whale and I have not seen
Each other since, and if anyone at all
Has heard more than the last of him
They are not telling. But they likely know.
Ken Poyner’s four collections of brief fictions and four collections of poetry can be found at Amazon and most online booksellers. He spent 33 years in information system management, is married to a world record holding female power lifter, and has a family of several cats and betta fish. Individual works have appeared in Café Irreal, Analog, Danse Macabre, The Cincinnati Review, and several hundred other places. Check out www.kpoyner.com.