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Martin Rock

They’ll Be Contacting Me

One of the managers asked me

what I would do after I died, and then

they stared at me, two hard-boiled eggs


in little collared green shirts and soft

mouths that sucked the air like

goldfish on ceramic tile. 


I imagined cutting them

both in half just to see the yellow-gray

moons of their yolk.


The second manager was three sizes too large

and fired his phlegm-hums

at point blank range.  I told them


I would rot or burn, maybe leak out a pungent

aroma, maybe grin, like this,

but the egg on the right cut me short.


“No,” he said, “would you remain loyal

to our company?”  And it was

the way he said loyal that annoyed me,


it took on shape, rising in the center.

it made him sound

important even though


he was only the left half of a sweaty omelet.

“I’d be dead, I said quickly, “which is

a bit like loyal,” and they both nodded


quietly and looked at each other,

as though this was the one answer

they had been expecting. 


We sat there for a run of the mill eternity

and sniffed each other’s dread.

Then they both shot their damp


hands out at me and each cocked up

one eyebrow.

“Thank you,” said the first.


Baby’s Buyback and the Cowboy-Man

A man walks into a small town tavern.  He’s wearing a ten-gallon hat.  He

feels like it is only two quarts. 


There’s a woman there, sitting on the short end of the L shaped bar, as if

to say that she’s already gnawed herself down to the short end of Love. 

She grips her drink like it keeps her from falling off the edge. 


Every so often, one of her eyelids slumps over in the man’s direction like

a bubble-gum waitress named Glenda.  She’s been watching the Sumo

Wrestling that’s playing on TV, but now she just wants the cowboy man

to buy her a drink, which is exactly what he does.


Cowboy-man lights a cigarette and offers one to the woman.  I just quit,

she says, and watches smoke curl around his finger like a transparent gray

wedding ring.  He grins, and with a voice like a pepper grinder says, Me too


They talk.  He looks down at her feet and sees that she has blunt

rectangular toes stuffed into her sandals like too many groceries

in a brown paper sack.  She frowns.  Those toes have cost her

so many husbands.


He nods up towards the TV screen where one of wrestlers’ loincloths just

fell off revealing his testicles; blurred yellow eggs.  Then he points to the jar

of pickled eggs on the counter.  Wonder what those are, he says.  She

squeals like a baby pig.


He places his hand on her thigh.  Her skin is rough, thick, tanned.  He

squeezes.  She winks at him again, then feels self-conscious when

the eyelid lingers for just a second too long before being sucked back

into place by her brow.  It makes her look mechanical.  The man orders another

round.  They both drink quickly, silently.  He glances at her breasts. 

She pretends to be looking at her drink, but she leans forward and arches

her back just enough.


The man reminds her of a boy she knew in high school.  She asks what he does for a living. 


While he explains to her why he is in between jobs, she thinks about the

boy.  She wants to take this man to a barn loft and let him hump her with

her clothes on.  She wants to slide her hand underneath his shirt and brush

against his nipples.  She wants to feel his tongue on the nape of her neck,

and smell his breath fall on her like a heavy tobacco fog. 


He asks if she would still work for a man who did that, even though he

can tell she stopped paying attention before she learned what “that” was. 


Hell no, she says, I’d rather sleep in a damn barn.


When he grins, his tongue pokes through the place where his front right

tooth should be like a moist pink worm.  He tells her that when he got

divorced, his wife took everything, even his front tooth.  He takes out his

wallet and shows her a picture of his son, who is missing the same tooth.


He’s got his daddy’s smile, she says.  She starts to smile too, but the

picture makes her think about her own son.  She doesn’t have any pictures

of him. He didn’t live to see his own crib next to her bed.  He didn’t live

long enough for her to sing him even one note.  She almost tells the man,

but he is ordering another round so instead she decides again to finally

throw away the tiny quilt in her attic.


Martin Rock lives in Japan where he teaches English.  He is a graduate of the creative writing program at Florida State University.

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