Caricature Artist in a 7-Eleven at 1 O’clock in the Morning

By Emily Dempsey

I’m hiding behind a shelf of thumb-smashed Little Debbie’s
Trying to capture the cashier’s face in less than a minute,
So I’m not suspected of stealing anything
Other than his stale expression.
Scratching a 0.7 ink pen in my olive-green faux leather sketchbook
Where I collect people’s faces.
The purple sacks hanging from his eyes look like pregnant betta fish bellies.
My dad’s eye bags were silly putty.
He used to tell me I gave them to him
When I was in college and stopped going to church.
His hair went gray because I’m a terrible driver
That loves road trips.
When he died, I started biting my fingernails.
I’d bite each one in weekly cycles 
So that I’d always have a fresh one to chew on.

I always draw in ink so that I’m forced to make the best out of mistakes.
The cashier’s mustache is detached from his beard,
But I accidentally drew them connected.
So now I’m fashioning all his facial hair into a long Viking braid
And sketching horns on his 7-Eleven visor.
Borrowing someone’s face to motivate creativity
Feels like raiding a stranger’s photo album
And hanging their pictures in your house
Because you can’t stand to look at your own.
I have a carboard box under my bed
Filled with empty frames and a gallon bag of prints.
Every time I try to take it out, I have that feeling you get
In the seconds before slipping into a familiar dream
Or nightmare, so I slide it back underneath, all the way, against the wall.

I pocket the sketchbook and stare at the screaming merchandise,  
Trying to decide if all these shelves were removed,
Would this place feel more intimate or just empty?
I start eeny-meeny-miny-moe-ing
An oatmeal crème pie and a bag of mini glazed donuts,
But I came here for Cool Whip.
My dad told me you can make any cereal a dessert
If you use Cool Whip instead of milk.
Nazareth is singing “Where Are You Now.”
There’s two of those hot dog grills by the refrigerator section.
I imagine myself as a little cozy sausage,
Greased and dizzying on a hot dog roller coaster.
As I walk home, I pull my turtleneck over my face, 
So that my hair is a patch of grass on the sidewalk.  
I painted my nails to stop chewing them,
But now I like the taste of polish.

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