Curtis Hayes


it was the Reagan 80’s,
the big hair
violent cop
“Greed is Good” decade.
I was in a Long Beach rental
not far from the navy base.
my motorcycle was running rough
I was in the alley around back
hunched down with a wrench,
trying not to be late for work, again.
an old man, bent and scowling
shuffled up.
I was sure he was gonna bitch
about the loud pipe.
he blurted out-
“You shouldn’t ride that Jap shit.”
I looked up,
he was in shorts and a golf shirt.
“I was at Pearl Harbor when those bastards
came in on us.”
“Yeah? That’s all you got to say?”
he looked lonely,
retired too long with nothing to do.
the timeclock was calling.
I pulled on my jacket
and left him standing there
breathing exhaust.

a week later I was back in the alley,
trying to synch carburetors by sound.
I cut the engine and he was there.
same shorts. same shirt.
what was left of a flattop.
“I saw a Sergeant so pissed off he was
shooting a machine gun, alone, from the hip.”
I knew it would be a mistake
to show any interest.
he stood there waiting for a response.
I went back to the carbs,
said absently-
“Yeah, I think I saw that in a movie.”
“It was no fucking movie. ‘Lotta boys died that day.
And your smug ass is riding a jap bike.”
he stumbled angrily away,
disappearing between
two apartment buildings.
it was hot,
the end of September
but still summer.

Lorene from next door
stepped into the alley.
“What did Fred want?”
“He’s not happy about my motorcycle.”
she shook her head.
“His daughter married a Japanese man.
He hasn’t seen her in twenty years.
There are grandchildren he’s never met.”
Lorene looked across the alley
to the empty walkway.
I picked up an 8mm wrench.

the sun burned down from above.


Curtis Hayes has worked as a grip, gaffer, and set builder in film production. He’s been a truck driver, a boat rigger, a print journalist, and a screenwriter. He is the author of the non-fiction top-ten NYT bestseller, I Am Jesse James, and his first poetry collection, Bottleneck Slide, has recently been published by Vainglory Press. His work has been featured in numerous anthologies and small press journals.