Social Work
by Patricia L. Hamilton

He bore down on us like a bullet train,
a practiced hustler, importuning.

With Christmas five days away,
what could we do but capitulate?

Charging toward the corner sub shop,
he exulted, “I’m’a get two Philly cheesesteaks!”

“One,” we corrected, dragging behind
as if press-ganged, chains clanking.

Bouncing along the counter like a six-year-old
let loose in Toys R Us, he commanded the clerk

to heap his foot-long with bacon, hot peppers,
extra onions. “An' I wanna box of cookies!”

Beleaguered parents now, we intoned, “One cookie,
one drink,” as he tried to pocket a pair of bottles.

The young clerk’s eyes took our measure when
she accepted the twenty my husband handed her.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized for nothing
in particular. Commiserating, she replied,

“He knows he’s not s’posed to come round here.”
Hands stuffed in my pockets, I stood watching

as he bounded off, bearer of God’s image,
already a block away, no thank you, no goodbye.

Illya's Honey Literary Journal

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