It Goes Back*

by Arthur Radley

THE waitress at the Time-Less Diner in New Hampshire
Is just perky enough to seem pretty.

The old guy in the next booth has that sort of devil-may-care,
You've-heard-it-all-before about him.
Wears a war vet button, and a Grainger cap.
He and his wife know too much
To say too much to each other.

The waitress takes his order: ''I'll have the 50s Special,
Torch the bacon.
If it ain't black, it goes back,'' he says, proud and sly;
Guy loves that line.

You got it, the waitress says, so very cheery.

Then later on: ''Heeere you are, bacon black,'' as she
Puts the plates down.
The bacon, while well cooked, is not all that well-done.
How is it? she wants to know.

The old guy is suddenly very small. ''It'll do,'' he says,
Looking down and digging in.

And you know now there's no way he'd ever
Send his bacon back, ever. He'd eat it fresh off Porky
If she brought it to him that way.

Nice crisp bacon. Burnt, charred bacon, sizzling, Sizzlean.
All menacing on the grill with that bitter bittersweetness.
It sizzles, then sssshhhhh. Off you go.
Give me my bacon the way I want it

I got your back next time, old man.
I'm at the next booth, and we'll talk, you and I.
Act all jokey-macho, like college kids.
''Torch the bacon, or we'll torch this place—naah, we're just kidding.''
The waitress will force her smile, then bring you the bacon,
Black black black.

So next time, you'll get to eat your bacon.
Not your words.

*Second-prize winner, asinine poetry literary contest, spring 2003

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