An Ordinary Afternoon

Sue Fagalde Lick

Joe knew horses, but
he ran a service station,
cars being the new thing.
He barely knew where
to put the water and gas,
but everybody liked him,
storyteller that he was,
speaking smatterings of Spanish,
French, German, even Japanese,
daring men to punch him just
to prove how hard his belly was.

Joe and Louise raised three sons
on the bank of the Guadalupe.
They took in their nieces,
orphaned by the influenza.
He drove horses and wagons,
hauled the city water truck,
then hitched up with Standard Oil,
Joe in his woolen vests,
his dirty old felt hat,
pumping gas, telling jokes.

It happened in 1936
on an ordinary afternoon.
Were there cars waiting for gas
when he sent his grandson
across the street for ice cream,
chocolate, vanilla, strawberry?
As the boy and his mother ate
from little cups with wooden spoons
with Grandma Louise at the house,
did they hear the gunshot?

When his youngest son came home
from his own job driving trucks,
he found Joe in the station office,
blood on the papers on his desk,
still-warm pistol in his hand,
the man who told jokes
in every language mute
as his family ate ice cream
from little cups with wooden spoons,
and the horses grew restless out back.
Sue Fagalde Lick is a writer, musician and dog-mom living on the central Oregon coast. A former newspaper reporter and editor, she blogs about writing, childlessness, dogs and life on the Oregon Coast and writes poems, essays and articles for a variety of print and online markets. She won first place in the 2014 Kay Snow Awards for poetry and has recently published poems in Diverse Voices Quarterly, Snail Mail Review, Nexus, and the Oregon Poetic Voices Project. In addition to her writing, Sue sings and plays guitar, piano, and mandolin. She co-directs and accompanies the choirs at Sacred Heart Church in Newport.