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Teenage Picaresque

“Sure! When can you interview and apply?”

the woman who fielded my call at the Book Nook

raved when I hunted it down in the

Yellow Pages and asked if they sought summer help.

“Right now.” “Great, see you soon—but we close

at six o’clock.” It was half-past four;

I’d just strolled home from school. I hung up and scrambled out

the door to the Center to catch the F6.


From Dad’s passenger seat, I often saw the store

just beyond Greenbelt’s invisible

limits on the street between Greenbelt Road progressing

into University Boulevard and its spur

skewing left from their junction, a single story

of cinderblocks painted a creamy lime sherbet.

I pictured its inside still, inviting:

spacious bookcases with canvas-backed volumes staggered

in height like a city’s skyscrapers, rockingchairs

for readers to linger over pages’ lineny fiber.


That May, 1992, we repined

in George Bush the First’s economic entropy.

I wore jeans patched at the knee (the hole

would look chic, but sting in winter),

sneakers whose soles began peeling from

their suede. A postal clerk’s stunted pay

couldn’t fund the future college kept in store,

and who knew how far the savings bonds

bought in years of plenty would take me?


At Greenbelt Center, the start of its route,

the F6 idled. I sat under the wooden rain shelter

in the cloudless waning day, counting the minutes

until the door pleated in on itself and

slid to one side. Through blackened glass,

I spied the driver flipping through the newspaper spread

open over the steering wheel. He shut,

crimped, and tossed it on the floor, tugged the wheel

left, and jerked the bus from me into traffic.

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