Escort Service

I didn’t expect a weathered man 

my age wearing a Stetson hat,

one thumb hooked in the pocket 

of filthy jeans, to come drifting 

from behind the rusted yellow 

dumpster in the back-alley of the 

Blue Moon Gentlemen’s Club.

My grandfather, who drank himself 

to death twenty-five years before my 

birth, escorting me to the next plane 

when the bullet torpedoes quick 

through my whiskey soaked brain.

Who makes these assignments,

some cherubic bureaucratic being?

Probably not God. He’d have bigger 

things to see to, what with tsunami’s 

and hurricanes washing people away. 

Unattended toddlers tipping into 

irrigation canals. But it could be He 

purposely picks who the escort will be 

just for a laugh at the look on the new 

ghost’s face when a stranger floats 

into view. Why wouldn’t God have a sense 

of humor too? He must get bored, telling 

the same old jokes to the angelic host.

     “A pirate stumps into a bar . . .”

As it was, I couldn’t stand by and watch Mom 

waste away, age two decades overnight and die 

after the last round of chemo was several 

months behind. Instead, I stood on the other side 

of her bedroom door while she sank, 

awash in a private sea of pain meds.

Maybe she didn’t show at the Blue Moon 

out of resentment for all those days I hid 

doggy-paddling through bottles, drifting    

off on a stone pipe’s smoke. Leaving her 

before she could leave me. 

Mike L. Nichols is a graduate of Idaho State University and a recipient of the Ford Swetnam Poetry Prize. Look for his poetry in Rogue Agent, Tattoo Highway, Ink&Nebula, Plainsongs Magazineand elsewhere.