Mid-January Morning (Duane Erickson speaking)

Yeah, what a beautiful day with snow last night. Trees lovely, white.
Let’s see, you want black, right? large, to-go?

A little hard this time of day since I got robbed.
Yeah, the day after Christmas. He ordered coffee—just like you,
Paid for it, came around over here, and said, “Be cool.”

He made like he had something in the right-hand pocket of his coat,
So I was cool, and I let him take it. Oh I did have to hold back some.
Thought of smashing him up against something.
Used to have a putter near by; don’t know what happened to it.
But just as well. He stood quite a lot taller—
Bigger, and plus he had that weapon maybe
Two against one I could handle, but three, no, not for me.
They all said I did the right thing.

I suppose I could have seen him before. Had that hood pulled down
Over his forehead just above his eyes.
Oh, and the cops have their shift change about now:
Suppose he knew. Three-minute trip but they took ten at least.

Yeah, I’m looking into cameras, they’d take some cash though.
Even a webcam I’d use.
Got some customers who’d said they’re bring their leftovers,
But haven’t seen one yet. Like those that come with the computer
But that you never use. Yeah, I could see one over the front door.
Back door locked now this time of day.

Yeah, I heard too about the other east side shop,
They broke the window and took the whole damn safe.
In the night, window boarded now.
Maybe the same guy. Others robbed too in the night.
We had a meeting, small business owners on this street,
Didn’t come to much.

Well you know I work late too,
You always got others coming in and staying;
No we never throw them out at eleven,
So some stay until after midnight or more, like two.
Sometimes doesn’t pay to put out the lights,
So I guess he figured he might as well come get me in the morning,
After I open, like now.

Was it like Chicago? No, then I just got mugged. I was on the street
And first thing I knew I woke up in the hospital
With jaw wired shut. No memories.
So I guess that’s why this didn’t bother me that much.

Was on an errand the other afternoon.
Out around Seminole, Edgewood, somewhere there,
Nice neighborhood, picture-perfect,
Snow like this: branches outlined white.

And I thought of that Simpsons episode:
Where they showed slides, one a scene like now,
Snow, beautiful, not like what you think of with the Simpsons.
So he showed the slide, and then he said it,
“Death.” It hit me. Yeah,
Like death. Once he said it, it stuck,
Can’t get rid of it.

—Russell Gardner, Jr., Madison, WI