bearclaw morning

I was sitting at a cafe counter
having a couple of eggs
while waiting for the locksmith
to fix the lock on the left door
of my car.

the day before
in the racetrack parking lot
they had jimmied open the door
and ripped out the radio and
the stereo.

I didn’t miss the radio and
the stereo
but I didn’t like
the big hole in the dash
with all the wires
sticking out
like spaghetti.

locks never stopped the pros
from getting in, but anyhow
as I was eating
a little dark-skinned man
in his late fifties
sat down next to me and
ordered a bearclaw and a

he looked over at me.
“the employment office is
closed,” he said.


“yeah.   it’s Reagan.   it’s
closed down.   you gotta go
all the way to Wilmington
now.   it’s a dirty town.
they don’t even use
street sweepers.”

“gimme another coffee, please,”
I told the waitress.

“sure, honey,” she said
bringing the pot, “I guess you’re
out of cream?”

“don’t be funny,” I

“you gonna go to Wilmington?” the
little guy asked me.

“my car’s in for repairs,”
I said.

“how ya gonna get a job?” he asked.
“ya gotta get to Wilmington.”

“I don’t need a job,” I said.

I was watching the two cooks, there
was a new cook and an old cook and the
new cook had an order for a ham sand-
wich and he started to slice into this
mound of ham.
the old cook grabbed his hand:   “no,
no…” he reached under the counter
and came up with a pressed ham pattie:
“give ’em this…”

“you look like you need a job,”
the little man said.

“I’m a gambler,”
I said.


“horses, mainly.   but I also beat the
point spread at Vegas, basketball and
football.   I was
loaded on Leonard in the
big fight.   I also chippy around
Gardena a bit.”

“how do you learn that stuff?”
he asked.

I just smiled at him
picked my bill up and laid down
the tip.

as I stood at the counter paying
my bill
I flashed some green and
stuck a toothpick
into my mouth.

I picked up my change and when
I put my wallet away
I didn’t stick it
into a rear pocket but
into the left front.

in my right pocked I carried my
six inch blade.

as I opened the door
two little old white-haired ladies

“good morning, girls,” I said in a
soothing voice.

I stood a moment
in the sunlight
not thinking about a
damned thing.

then I decided that I’d
better see about the
door lock on the driver’s

but first I stretched
in the sun
while glancing down at a
paperrack full of

then I turned left and
started walking toward
the locksmith’s place.

Charles Bukowski
This poem appeared in the following books: