Exquisite Corpse - Issue 3
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by Richard Fein


Once upon a true time

in a long extinct cafeteria,
(it was one of those roach on the wall, last dime eateries,
an edifice of low cuisine,
where you'd push your tray along rails
and a sneezy server would plop food
half on your plate and half on the floor,
then you'd throw down your copper, silver,
and occasional dollars
and  run to claim a seat
hoping that the fellow slob next to you didn't reek)

I was a 3 A.M. diner.

A disheveled Joe stumbled in looking for the john,
but was evicted by the manager
with a "Scram bum."
He had already spent his last cent;
we inside were yet to spend ours.
And he stared at us all
through the wide front window---
just a glass pane and pennies away.
He zipped down his fly,
and washed away window grime
as he marked his territory.
All the dining denizens dropped their knives and forks
and looked away,
except me.
I raised my spoon in an almost salute
and slurped my chicken soup.
The manager chased him away with a bat.
So much for marking territory without cash.
I would have feigned nausea
and skipped out on the tab
to keep a few more coins,

but I was dining in a cash-in-advance dive.

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