On Alamitos Hill

Clay Mackey sits on swivel stool,
fishes a Marlboro from shirt pocket,
strikes a match with cold fingers,
lights the cigarette.

The waitress’s middle-aged face brightens.
Clay is her only customer.

He sits, shoulders sagging,
elbows hard against Formica countertop,
coffee cup loosely held in left hand.

He looks at the waitress –
belly swollen,

“Son of a bitch put the bun in the oven,
then run off.”

Clay remembers Carrie Lee Keegan:
reclining upon a field of colorful wildflowers,
high atop Alamitos Hill,
next to the cemetery,
spring air swirling with chatty song of common finches.

She had refused to undress – at first.
But he had to have her so he said, “Yeah, I love you.”

He looks past the waitress,
to a chrome strip bordering a glass case with empty shelves.
He notices his reflection –
face gaunt,
a withered apple.

The morning he had left home Carrie Lee Keegan caught up with him
before he could hitch a ride.

At first she said,
“Please stay with me.”
Then she said,
“I hope you die and rot away somewhere by yourself.”

The waitress straightens a row of plastic ketchup bottles.

Clay looks out the window at the fog
pulsing red beneath rooftop sign:

Yesterday he had decided to return home –
to his father’s automobile repair business,
to humble himself to Carrie Lee Keegan.
And so he telephoned her to tell her as much.

It was then he discovered she had died
attempting to rid herself
of their baby.

Her family had buried her on
Alamitos Hill,
in the cemetery next to the meadow
of their lovemaking.

Clay steps into the damp,
neon-red fog.
walks through a vacant lot littered with
broken glass,
scraps of corrugated tin.

He stops at the edge of the 101,
pulls frayed corduroy jacket against his body,
blows warmth into cupped hands.

The highway: vacant in both directions.
Then the throaty drone of a motor.
Dull headlights appear in the fog.

Clay Mackey steps onto the highway,
curls his hands into fists,
faces the oncoming driver.

The bumper strikes him into a drainage ditch
running parallel to a barbed wire fence.

For a moment he tries to free his limbs from stabbing barbs.
Then he doesn’t move at all.

Ron D'Alena's work has recently appeared or is forthcoming
in A cappella Zoo, Word Riot, Cause & Effect Magazine,
Johnny America, Goldfish Press, 94 Creations, Falling Star
Magazine, Persephonous Blue, and Slipstream.

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