He woke up in mid-stride as per usual,

holding a ball of wax. A cat he didn’t recognize
was slithering between his legs. The last prospective customer,
he remembered, accused him of saving the ball of wax

for a special occasion, and he didn’t deny it.

But the special occasion he’d had in mind came and went
and wasn’t special at all, so he’d tucked the wax away
in disbelief and quiet shame, and waited once again,

for the real special occasion this time.

He was remembering all of this, holding his last ball of wax.
He looked down at the cat and said, Ah yes;
the butcher took off first and I stared at the baker

through the frosted air and floating carcasses

and told him he had exactly five minutes, starting now.
After that it was every small businessman for himself.
He remembered looking down at his wrist

to punctuate this point, remembering only then

losing his watch during the previous night’s somnambulism.
But he’d stared at his blank wrist without flinching,
Like a man, he’d thought. He was thinking it again.

It was all coming back to him now, the butcher, the baker,

the joint venture capital. The not-so-special occasion
had had nothing to do with it, he told himself.
Like the weather everything just changed,

though he’d lied and followed the trail of flour
after twenty seconds, kicking the cat aside, holding his last
ball of wax in one hand, the butcher’s cleaver in the other.

Dan Hoy

before and after