Alarm Clocks by John Grochalski

she must be
one hundred and eighty years old, if possible
she’s holding a pile of alarm clocks
dropping some of them
on the floor of the corporate pharmacy chain
while i stand in a line of old biddies
who must think that
paper towels are going the way of the dinosaur
all for a pack of breath mints, i think
because my breath smells like onions
and last night’s duel of vodka and wine
how vain
but still i stand there
as self-conscious and weak as the rest of them
as old lady after old lady hoists
sixteen-packs of bounty on top of counters
for bored check-out clerks to scan
and she is pleading with the manager
an indian man still stuck in his snowcap
that if he’ll please take one alarm clock out of the package
and show her how to use it
she’ll be sure to buy it
i wonder who in the hell doesn’t know how to use
an alarm clock these days
weren’t these senior citizens once free love hippies
fucking in the bushes of woodstock?
sitting in garages creating the digital consumption
that had reborn us all as slaves?
ah, fuck her, i think
i put down the breath mints and get out of line
i get ready to leave
but then i stop and wonder about me
about how some twenty-five years later
i might be in line pleading with some manager
in a corporate pharmacy chain
over e-alarm clocks or e-watches or i-soul divination
while women whom i used to find hot and vibrant
are slouching in line, on the precipice of senility or death
shaking fliers and arguing over the cost of e-paper towels
what then?
to be honest i don’t even know how to use an app
and compact discs are still all the rage in my home
so i watch this woman
practically crying tears of joy
as the store manager begins
to take an alarm clock out of the package
and opens the directions
like he’s unfolded a lost treasure map
bending over the counter with her
to go over the finer points of her soon-to-be-purchase
and a wave of terror and fear come over me
i feel a mortality like i’ve never known
i think about buying a sixteen-pack of paper towels
or making peace with my god
and i pick up the breath mints
and i get back in line again
humbled to stand there
and wait my turn.

John Grochalski 3
John Grochalski is the author of The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), In The Year of Everything Dying (Camel Saloon, 2012), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Books, 2014), and the novels, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013), and Wine Clerk (Six Gallery Press 2016). Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where the garbage can smell like roses if you wish on it hard enough.

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