about seeing someone in a football uniform
and shoulder pads grumble, but I too
was once a nine-year-old.
The neighbor kid's groaning
over being sent back downstairs
by his overweight mother
for the rest of the laundry
waiting in the back of their sedan
parked at the curb.
My smoke's half alive
but I toss it anyway.
"Need a hand with that?"
I ask, reaching out before
he has time to answer.
I know how this goes.
"Sure," he replies
handing me the balled-up blanket
that seemed to be defeating him previously.
Two friendly barflies
guarding the sidewalk real estate
in front of Joe's Irish
cheer from their battle stations.
I suppose it looks ridiculous
especially since I'm still
shoulders-to-shins in denim
slathered with grease from
a day of work next to a man
I wouldn't want in my foxhole.
But it pays, and this kid's laundry
is the lightest thing I've lifted all week.
#42's kneepads are spotless, along with
the rest of him. He's either very good
or very bad. I stubbornly give him
the benefit of the doubt.
"What position do you play?"
I ask as we trudge up the stairs
both tired for different reasons.
"The Line," he confesses.
"I played the Line," I tell him.
"It's boring. All you do
is hit the guy across from you
over and over again."
He takes his bundle back
when we reach the door to his apartment.
I can't remember if he thanked me
not that it matters.
My mind was back on my own Line
wishing I could have a second chance
to unleash my angst
on a faceless, mouth-breathing stranger
for an hour at a clip.
I think I'd be efficient now.
The reasons have amalgamated.
"The Hidden War" by Artyom Borovik.