By Proxy

Charlie opens his door
to a man he's never met.
"You're late," Charlie tells him
and laughs
as expected.
The man doesn't flinch.
A gold watch
from Chinatown
weighs down his wrist.

Outside, on Main Street
a woman tries three times
to parallel park, but fails.
Her car speeds off down the block
in search of another spot.

"Do I have time for a smoke?"
Charlie asks
tapping the unbuttoned breast pocket
above his heart.
The stranger yawns
tired of his typecast role
without an agent to blame.
He produces a pack of Lucky Strikes
and lights two, handing one
to the man across the threshold.

Charlie, unaware of the rules
takes a free drag and waits for words
from Sleep's tired cousin.
They don't come.

"Making the rounds?"
Charlie asks while exhaling.
The man in borrowed clothing
pulls long and hard
at his cigarette.
Its cherry lengthens at once
and turns to ash
which he flicks
on Charlie's unsuspecting doormat.

His mouth finally opens.
Perfect teeth.
"Time's up."

But the kid is faster on the draw than most
and no one's ever thought
to shoot Him in the knee.
The stranger chokes
on the embers of his cigarette
as Charlie slams the door.

"Jehovah," Charlie shrugs
to the woman
curled up on his couch.
"Where were we?"

Currently reading:
"Chump Change" by Dan Fante.

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