Saturday, August 13, 2022

Clockwork by Robert L. Penick

 The alarm wails at one a.m. and you twist involuntarily, clawing at the source of you torment.  Only fools and peons get up at this hour of night.  Your blind, articulate hand locates the clock radio, grasps, shakes, pounds it into silence.  You begin to drift back, fog envelopes you, velvet arms hold you like a baby.  Ten minutes later, the satanic peal stabs you again and you mechanically reach for the light, kill the siren, and swing your legs to the floor.  Shoes, pants, shirt.  Time to move.  Your wallet, car keys, and cash are on the kitchen table.  Do not pause; you’re on a tight schedule.  
     Outside, the first pangs of spring: green buds on the trees, stray birds chirping idiotically in the dark, and now the slight breeze lacks the sting of a month previous.  Still, you should have put on a jacket.  The Hawaiian shirt you wear around the house looks ridiculous in this weather.  Get in the car, start the engine, and shiver.  The heater will be warm on the way back.  It’s now Tuesday, very little traffic.  No cops.  You take the boulevard because it is a straight shot, two miles in four minutes, each green light blessing you.  It’s 1:34 when you pull in.
     Circle K.  You push through the doors and wave at Greg behind the counter.  He’s throwing cartons of cigarettes around and cursing corporate management.  You step into the beer cooler and the 15-pack is exactly where it should be on the shelf.  You pay, commiserate with angry Greg over a district manager worthy of death, then head back out to your car.  By the time you reach home it is two a.m., 
no more sales for the night.  You are safe and your night has just begun

In addition to The Rye Whiskey Review, he poetry and prose of Robert L. Penick have appeared in over 100 different literary journals, including The Hudson Review, North American Review, Plainsongs, and Oxford Magazine. His latest chapbook is Exit, Stage Left, by Slipstream Press, and more of his work can be found at

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