Lunch

I parked in back
and went in to eat.
a small place
very little guy
behind the counter.
that’s nice, I thought,
a little guy like that,
he’s making it, got his
own place but he’s very
nervous, why is he so
nervous?
I put in my order and
told him, “get it going,
I’ll be back, I’m going
across the street for a
newspaper.”
“o.k.,” he said.
there was a young girl
in there mopping.
when I got back the girl
was still mopping and
the guy hadn’t begun the
order.
he was screaming at the
girl, “hurry up and finish
mopping!   people are gonna
be in here soon and you’re
gonna have to help me with
the orders!”

“all right, I’m back,” I
told him.

“just a minute,” he said.
he ran into the crapper
and leaving the door half
open he flipped the lids
down and sat down, yanking
his pants and shorts down
in one motion as he did
so.

“get the god damned coffee
on!” he screamed at the girl
as he sat there.

I watched him do his abolutions
making sure he washed his
hands.
he did, then ran out and got
into my order.
the girl was still mopping.
I sat down at a table and
read the headlines:    the
Russians were on the Polish
border.

“o.k.,” the little guy screamed,
“it’s ready!”

I got up, picked up my order, paid,
came back to the table, began
eating, reading:
Councilman accused of having sex
with 3 minors, giving them
drugs.   the girls were 14, 15 and
16.
he denied the charges.

“finish that mopping!” the guy
screamed at the girl.   “have you
made the coffee yet?”

the girl came mopping by my table.
she must have been 22.
“help me,” she said to me.
“what?” I asked.
“help me!” she repeated.
her eyes were blue and smiling
but I could see the panic in
them.

“oh yeah,” I smiled back.

she paused, then continued her
work, going on past.

“come here!” the little guy
screamed at her.

she put her mop in the bucket
and came around behind the counter.
“you don’t know anything!” the little
guy screamed at her.    “listen to me
and maybe you’ll get somewhere!”

I finished eating and walked out
toward the back.
as I unlocked my car I could
see through the screen door of the cafe.
I could still hear his voice
but I couldn’t decipher the words,
all I could see were his arms
waving and waving as he screamed.
she was in a red dress and flat white
shoes and she stood before him and
listened.
I got in the car, started it and
backed out of parking into the alley,
cut right down the alley, took a
left up the next street, then a
right and I was at the freeway
entrance and on my way.

Author
Charles Bukowski
Written
1980
Source
Original manuscript
This poem appeared in the following books: