by Kaleigh Johnson
The stench of chicken gizzard sweat
and crisp cockroaches beneath my feet,
hours old Folgers and the sticky sweet remains
of the broken slushy machine.
I squat and climb and squat and climb and squat and
stack mini mountains of Modelos and Marlboro Reds —
Sometimes, men ask for cigarettes they’ll never smoke
just to see me bend over. I learn to turn sideways instead.
Then again, an open button brings in big tips.
$300 in scratch-offs, $20 profit.
Freezer-chapped lips and chemical-coated hands,
unzipped pants and muck-smothered boots.
Five packets of ketchup exactly and
Hola mami, can I get a taste?
Red and blue lights emblaze weed-glazed eyes —
A smoker at the wrong place, wrong time.
I sweep and mop and scrub and sweep and mop and scrub
but the fucking floor never stays clean.
Carefully count the change —
never owe them anything.
The long walk to the car in the dark,
pepper spray in hand.
Lock the door. Turn the key.
Buckle the vodka into the passenger seat.