A fat girl standing in the

doorway of WALGREENS

“can you buy me something?

I have not eaten all day.”

She follows me inside.

Tells me her name, “Jen.”

“What’s yours?”

I mumble “Wayne.”


“Yeah, Duane.”

In the candy aisle she

reaches for a bag of

peanut butter M & M’s

on sale, 2 for 8 dollars.

“Can I have two?”


She scoots down the aisle

and around the corner.

Returns with a pint of

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

On our way to check-out

I notice she has three bags

of candy, and tell her put one


At check-out she has something

to say to everyone:

asks a woman why she, the

woman, is buying so many

diapers. Compliments another

on her attire. At the register

she introduces me to the

cashier: “This is Duane, he

is helping me. I have not eaten

all day.” The cashier has polished

and buffed fingernails. She and

Jen have a lot to say to one

another about fingernails.

Finally, I get to pay.

Outside the store I bank a right.

“Thank you” she calls from

behind. “OK” I grunt, not

begrudging the girl the food

but hoping she does not make

a habit of asking.


He walks up to me

on the sidewalk: a little

guy, egg-shaped head,

glasses: “They stole my

car,” he says.

“No shit.”

“Yeah. I had it parked in the

parking lot.”

“How they do it?”

“I don’t know. Still have the key.”

He shows me his key.

“The cops gave me a ride home.”

“That’s too bad.”

“Yeah. Now I have to break into my


“Oh boy…Well, good luck.”


I walk away wondering if

I could have helped him.

Maybe drove him around to look

for his car?

A week later: same guy, same

sidewalk: “hey, they stole my car.”

“Is that right?”

“Yeah. I had it parked in the supermarket

parking lot.”

“You get a lot of cars stolen from you

don’t you?”

“The cops are out looking for it.”

“Oh. Well, maybe they will find it.”


“Well, good luck,” I say.

He calls to me as I walk away:

“Afghanistan has fallen!”

“Oh geeze” I say.

“Oh Geeze.”


I go up to the store counter to pay

for my sandwich

and discover that

I do not have my wallet on me.

“That’s alright,” the counter-guy says, “pay

me next time.”

I thank him and leave, feeling

a little ashamed because

I have never liked the guy—

have disparaged him in my head


It is the first time

anyone in this town

has extended credit to


Not so bad a burgh, this town

after all

I tell myself, tootling down the

sun-lit sidewalk. Not so ugly a dump,

suddenly; not as hostile-seeming…

“Don’t go back there,” a voice

in my head says.

“Fuck ‘em.”

One thought on “VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Wayne Burke

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