The Entire Crew Gathered Around My Birthday Cake
which Chairperson Linda had brought in.
“As the senior member of our Department, ” she began,
“Steve Bernstein has helped us with his experience and wisdom.
Now make a wish! ”
I blew out a candle.
“What? ” asked Chairperson Linda.
“If I told you it wouldn’t come true, ” I said.
“That’s only for children. Adults makes their wishes come true! ” she admonished, her voice tinged with annoyance.
“I wish I could cut my toenails, ” I said,
then immediately felt disgusted with myself.
Everyone stared at me, not understanding.
Well, why should they, all young and thin.
“I got old and fat...”
The next day I didn’t go to work.
I needed an action film to boost my spirits.
When I arrived at the W.4th street station at two o’clock
I had an hour to kill
before Arnold Schwarzenegger did his Terminator routine
so I decided to wait in the NYU Loeb Student Center.
I opened the glass door and trudged past two
Security Guards in dark blue uniforms.
Then I plopped down in a wooden frame chair.
Suddenly I heard behind me, “That moron Maloney
said I should pick up papers.
I’m no damn janitor.
I been with the Laverty Detective Agency thirty years
but I don’t curtsy to nobody so no stripes.”
“He didn’t say pick up every piece, Tommy, ” the other guard replied.
“He said, ‘If you see any big pieces of paper
near the door pick ‘em up.’ It wasn’t like an order or anything.”
“Today it’s big pieces.
Tomorrow it’s pullin’ toilet paper outta his rectum.”
Through the large plate glass window
the wind roared into the brittle branches
Behind me Tommy went on about Maloney.
“The dumb jerk couldn’t pass
the entrance exam to the Police Academy,
but since he made Sergeant,
he thinks he’s a damn war hero.”
Then I heard the sound of tearing paper.
I twisted my weary body.
Tommy had ripped a student flyer in half
and thrown it on the floor.
He looked in his late fifties with a big beer belly,
red nose, and thin strands of black hair
combed toward the top of his head from each side.
He ripped another flyer in half.
“Tommy, ” gasped the other guard.
Two minutes later I heard, “Not the phone book, Tommy.”
I turned to see the individual yellow pages
flutter to the floor like huge sad lost butterflies.
“You’re finished, ” sighed the other guard.
Tommy whistling now
couldn’t make out the merry tune
finally the tome tumbling
and the jumping
on the tattered papers
as well as the book itself.