? SLAB | Sound & Literary Art Book

Issue 4

Contest Winners

David Prodell

Sad Sack

That's what we called Mr. Cummings, the only one
who stpped at the corning stop sign. Grim face
clenched above the wheel, he drove late afternoons
to the town beach parking lot. On cold days he ran
the engine, the window cracked to breathe out
cartoon world balloons of cigarette smoke
packed with dark, hollow whistles, an emptying
of more than he took in that shook his shoulders
and cracked the plaster-filled holes in his memory
where portraits once hung and brass curtain rods
led the sway of white drapes with the morning.
He stared past seagulls culling trash, fishermen
on the jetty, across the water and through the sunset.
We knew his wife was dead, his only son Billy in jail
and the gray shades drawn in every window
never caught his passing. We didn't trick-or-treat
there, just threw rocks over the snarl of cedars
and ran when the gutters clanged. When his car
pulled away, a handful of cigarette butts remained
like teeth after a cremation, a rock cairn marking
a treeless tail or an owl pellet broken open,
the compressed bones, a clot of fear
that never saw the shadows in the trees
or what's bound to wash up—a sneaker,
a stroller, a six-pack, still chilled— and last week
a dog, a golden lab kids poked until their mothers
slapped their hands from the sticks and marched them
back to pails and sand castles, the children
looking behind for the dog to shake
the maggots off and run for the tennis ball
you sometimes catch, if your eyes drift
long enough, bobbing between the waves.