Monthly Archives: January 2016

A big change on the night shift.

It’s been a long time since she asked for my coffee club card. It’s  at least a couple years now since the young mother with the pink streaked hair stopped asking.  I used to know her name long ago when she started working the 11pm to 7am shift at the seedy convenience store I visit every morning about 430am for a $1.62 cup and a chat about important things.

This morning was a little different.

I pulled up and walked in at the expected time and performed my cream and coffee ritual. She was making fresh pots when we picked up where we left off at the same time yesterday morning in the dark when the store is always empty of customers save the same old nameless homeless guy out front whose hand I always shake as I walk in.

“How’s the kids?” I asked, as she was scooping grounds and wiping up the creamy drips of someone before me. “Oh they’re good, Josh started basketball and we had another birthday for him on Saturday” she replied as we often opened with updates on her family.  She took the night shift so she could be home when they wake up to get them off to school like a ‘regular’ mom. She lives just down the street, an easy walk to and from a job that can’t pay more than $11.25 an hour, which has surely gone up a couple bucks since we first met, if not for her job performance then at least for her change in countenance.

Over the years, we’ve talked about many things. Important things.  She’s read all the 150 stories on my website at least a couple times each and asks me to tell her when I have a new one.  Right about now, she’s probably reading this and surprised to be my topic of the day.

Well, it’s because this morning was a little different.

Our daily devotions together often focus on the themes of my stories about life change, inspiration, humor and paying things forward when we are able. Over the years, we both have changed, but hers has been nothing but remarkable.  The pink streaks are still there, as are the multiple piercings that decorate her face, but she’s not the same angry person I met a couple years ago. I have since wondered if our ten minutes a day over coffee could have helped to change the bitterness of a young single mother into the charming, cheerful young lady she’s since become.

And then she shared with me evidence that our chats had, indeed, been a buoy for a lot longer and a lot more than I’d realized.

Today’s topic centered on some things I needed to do as soon as I arrived at the office that would determine if a few clients will have food for the coming weekend or not and how, in that sense, my job is very rewarding.

Coffee made and winding up our brief morning ritual, she shared with me something pretty incredible.

“You know, you’ve racked up a lot of free coffee over the past couple years.”

I acknowledged that I had but that I’ve never been good at keeping track of it.

Apparently, she had.

“Every time I used to ask for your coffee club card, you always joked and told me to put it in my job description to keep a running tab.  I know you’ll never redeem the cards and the every 6th cup free bonus, so I hope you don’t mind what I’ve done,” she began explaining, asking for my indulgence with an endearing, sheepish grin she’d gradually grown since we’d been friends.

“John out there has been my homeless friend for a long time.  And since you don’t use your coffee club bonuses, I’ve been using them to buy him a small coffee and a donut whenever he shows up.  And we talk about important things together before he leaves, just like you and I do every morning.  I’ve read him some of your stories and heard pretty much everything about his life there is to know.”

I smiled and said I liked her style and think she’s doing a noble thing with my coffee rewards and to keep it up.

She’s a different young woman than I met a couple years ago. She shares better stories of her kids and is quite optimistic about their future as a family. Mostly though, her face glows each morning and she has a smile that makes me forget about all the piercings to see how beautiful she’s become inside.

Time was up. I had to get to work to get some people fed for the weekend, and to write this story.

I paid my $1.62 and said thanks until tomorrow.

And as I walked out, I again shook the hand of a homeless man as I had so many times before..

But this time, I thanked him and called him by name.

Today was the first time I’ve ever seen his smile.

Last wishes

I wish I’d planned better,

worked longer, took the other job, done this and not that.

I wish I’d had someone to tell me what today would look like.

I wish I hadn’t called in sick, took that fall, been more careful at certain things

and more careless at others.

I wish I’d been able to see the world, see my grandchildren, see my lover one last time.

I wish I’d stayed in the game, away from those of some people and closer to others.

I wish I’d lived when I had the chance and taken chances that made me feel alive when I had them to spend.

I wish I could go back in time and take the road less traveled more often or simply, traveled more.

I wish I had more wishes that came true and that I’d been more true to myself.

I wish I’d given more instead of giving up more often.

I wish it wasn’t over when I still have beginnings left.

I wish I’d dwelt on cliffs instead of valleys, nows instead of maybes and I wish I’d been more aware.

I wish it wasn’t so quiet and dark and moist and blurry. And I wish it wasn’t so red.
And I wish I’d kept my eyes on the road
instead of my phone,
and had more time
for a better final wish
than that.

my answer to cancer.

Hundreds of groups
and cancer societies,
“Fun” runs for the cause
So many varieties.

Medical remedies,
And pills by the score
Injections and treatments
But wait…so much more.

Diets and lifestyles
Eat this and not that
Exercise, energize
And warnings like that.

Tobacco and sugar
Red meat, even chicken
Too much or too little
And you mght be stricken.

Research and politics
Pharma conspiracies
Media stories that
No one ever sees.

The answer to cancer
The cure and the healing
Is out there somewhere
But no one’s revealing.

So deaths by the millions
Are an agony still
Marching undaunted
Continuing to kill.

By random selection
Genetics or chance
The villain arrives
And takes the last dance.

So stand up and speak out
Condemning on cue
And pardon the French but
My answer to cancer:

Fuck you.