Jamie was a mechanic who didn’t have a job

lived with his mom at thirty

traveled the uneven streets of Billings, Montana


Strip Mall


in a late 90s model beater breaking down

in the parking lot of a Lucky Lil’s

where his girlfriend worked

the swing shift

as an assistant manager

polishing keno machines and pouring drinks

for the hypnotized, the sore losers, and the too-talkative,

those who had a line ready for every occasion;

on the dash

or to generalize in a way that seemed like wisdom taken,

short and round, a tooth out of place

her hair in a ponytail, pulled away from 

her square face and slumped shoulders

she lived in the basement with him,

and her daughter was five back in Fromberg,

in a trailer with her ex

except for two days every other weekend.

Jamie wanted a Mountain Dew and to hit for 9

when I clocked in for my shift,

my Assist put on a shuffling windbreaker

and let her hair down limp.

Her father called drunk looking for her.

Outside the main door she was on the phone

waiting for Jamie.

His twenty spent, he fixed his car

next to the pothole he used for an ashtray

and backed out on a trail of fluids

that leaked from his gaskets.


I don’t remember much but one other thing:

“No one is going to help you; you have to help yourself”

sounded so sad when spoken 

by a young woman named Charity.