The To Do List That Never Ends

Get the kids fed.

Encourage them to hurry. It’s getting late.

Run to the mall for a new aquarium nightlight so the kid will sleep.

Get the kids to the car. It’s dark now, and they still need a bath.

Figure out what you want for dinner tonight. Wine? Probably.

     Answer the question from the man behind you: “Late night shopping?”

     Turn so you can watch the strange man while you get the kids in the car.

Need to do some laundry before dinner.

Strap in the baby while he arches against the buckle.

Pull the nightlight out of the stroller so it will fold.

     Respond to the man when he says: “Well, see you later.”

     Note the crawl of foreboding across your scalp and your gut screaming to run.

     Watch him drive away, the wrong direction on a row with slanted parking.

     Look around the empty lot for help.

Tell the older kid to climb over his brother and get in his seat.

Ask the older kid to buckle himself.

Take a deep breath when he says he can’t.

Close the van door.

Try to fold the stroller that never goddamn folds the first time.

Don’t curse—the kids will hear your fear.

Consider the price of a new stroller if you leave it, back over it on the way out.

Consider the bank account.

Sigh with relief when it collapses.

Throw the damned thing in the back.

Slam the back door shut.

     See the man has driven around to the next row.

     See that he’s parked directly in front of your car now.

     See through the sparse shrubs that his brights are on, spotlighting you, obscuring him.

Calculate the distance to the driver’s door.

(originally appeared in HWA Poetry Showcase Volume VIII)

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