A Rat in the Shop

I watch and I stand

On the street corner

With a dollar in my hand

A great big flashing sign says, “Welcome!”

Beckoning me in

Through the glass I see rows of gum,

Lollies on a table and mints in a bin

The bell jingles as a giggly child walks out

A great big lolly in his great big hand

His shiny eyes glazing over me standing about

And I hide my dollar, bury my head in the sand

Another look to the door with its welcoming sign

I glance around before stepping in

Sweet, thick scents swirl in the air when the door closes behind

me and I feel like I’m trapped in a lion’s den

The man at the counter, familiar to me,

Smiles his big smile and widens his hands

“Pick what you want,” he says, “What you can see.”

And with a sweep, motions to the candy-filled stands

Ignoring the food and the sweets and the shoppers’ white collar,

I go to the counter

And hold out my dollar

“A pack of cigarettes, please, the green,” I say,

while staring at my trousers.

Even so I can feel the man frown–

“Is that all?” he asks once again.

I nod and he takes the cigarette box down.

I hand him my dollar and reach for the case

Before he holds up a finger.

“Hold on one moment,” he says,

and he hurries while I reluctantly linger.

Out of a vase he takes a lollipop,

He holds it in front of my eyes.

I can feel the other patrons eavesdrop

“Free of charge,” he says, and I gently take my prize.

“Thank you,” I murmur, “My brother will love it.”

The man frowns.

“Nothing for yourself?” he says with disappointment.

I shake my head, “No, sir, I’m a hippo-crit.

“While I complain and cry my cares away–

I’m the lucky one.

I was able to get out today.”

I take the cigarettes and the lollipop and leave,

Exiting like a rat who had just stolen some cheese

A shadow of the large kid with the large hands from before

For I cover my face and simply slink out the door.

 

-M. H. Knecht

 


 

Check out my YA novelette Trust Me here.

 

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