For years after Grover died,
the cash register at the supermarket
spat coupons, like lottery tickets,
for Fancy Feast, Friskies, 9Lives
and other cat food brands,
along with my receipt,
having tracked my purchases
through my “bonus card,”
the ID that saves me money
on various store items
(“You’ve saved $256,00 this year!”
the cash register tape declares,
triumphant as a Final Four basketball team).
It was kind of gratifying, though,
to be identified as a cat owner,
a member of the club,
Grover still part of my life,
as if purring away in kitty heaven.
It reminded me of the email
I received from my mother
three months after she died,
somebody having highjacked her account,
spammed her address book
with a promo for a vitamin supplement
meant to prolong our lives.
What a shock to see Mom’s name
highlighted in an unopened email,
as if all I had to do
was press REPLY
to talk to her again.
Public Service Initiative
“We’re from the Mayor’s Office
of Emergency Management,” I smiled
at the elderly black lady
cowering behind the front door
of the dilapidated rowhouse
in the rundown urban neighborhood
that I’d just pounded like a warning.
“We’re here to see if you need
any smoke detectors or energy efficient
light bulbs, or if you need your blood
pressure taken, or anything.”
Volunteer work with the fire department,
health officials, public works and cops.
Yet people had warned me:
wear your Kevlar vest
when you’re in that neighborhood!
But it seemed I was the predator,
the threatening outsider,
not some gang member or hoodlum
come to prey on the weak.
Hesitant, not sure whether to trust
the lime-green vest and ballcap
with something about the city
in white block letters on the visor,
the old woman weighed the alternatives
like blindfolded Justice: free services
or an intrusive government busybody –
there to fine, threaten, or scold?
“We fine,” the quavering voice
“We don’t need nothin’.”
I nodded and left, feeling like a fraud.
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore, where he lives with his wife Abby. He contributes a monthly book review to North of Oxford and is a frequent reviewer for The Lake, London Grip, Misfit Magazine and The Compulsive Reader. A poetry chapbook, Mortal Coil, was published in 2021 by Clare Songbirds Publishing and another, Sparring Partners, by Moonstone Press. A full-length collection, The Field of Happiness, will be published in 2022 by Kelsay Books.