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.