closing time

Leonard has a reputation
difficult to handle, apparently
(although, it’s probably fair to say,
the person who finds Leonard
most difficult to handle
is Leonard himself)
‘How am I?’ he says. ‘Not good, son. Not good at all
I just don’t want to be me anymore.
D’you know what I’m saying?
It’s all come to a head.
Maybe it’s time I cashed in my chips.
What do you think?’
He shrugs, gesturing to the room
like he’s inviting me to make an offer
on the pug-print scatter pillows, the fucked sofa
the walking frame, TV & box of medical sundries.
There’s a picture of Leonard on the wall
forty, maybe fifty, standing behind a hotel bar,
ruched shirt & reactolites,
the whole ensemble held in place
by a disquieting variety of stump-gapped smile
that – I have no doubt – could
drop from his face as suddenly
as the tea towel from his shoulder.
His right hand’s resting on a beer pump handle,
the left on his hip, with such shotgun bonhomie
it’s easier to imagine him ripping the handle
from the counter and hitting me with it
as pulling a pint of bitter.
‘That must’ve been fun,’ I say, ‘Running a hotel’
‘Fun?’ he says ‘Depends what you mean by fun.
The bastards never went to bed.’

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