Charlie's Dinner – Sue Fagalde Lick

He leads the wheelchair parade,

suspenders slipping off bony shoulders

as he pushes forward toward the smell

of beef and mashed potatoes.

 

Parking at his usual spot,

green tablecloth tonight,

he winks at the girl in scrubs

who gives him milk and apple juice.

 

“Hey Charlie, how are you?” she says.

“Just great, just great,” but she’s already gone,

helping Mary who spilled her juice.

It’s dripping sticky on the floor.

 

Charlie sits with Marvin and Ellie,

who never talk. He says, “Good evening”

as he tucks his napkin into his shirt.

They’re bringing out the dinners now.

 

“Oh boy,” says Charlie, “here it comes.”

Marvin snores. Ellie screams, “No!”

A morsel of beef, a mound of mashed,

gravy on a plain white plate.

 

Besides the meat, there’s applesauce,

soggy squash, some carrot spears,

and chocolate ice cream for dessert.

Charlie eats and pats his happy gut.

 

He hasn’t had a meal this good

since well, he can’t remember when.

He might have had a wife before.

Maybe she cooked; he can’t recall.

 

But now he’s living like a king.

Food served three times a day

by pretty girls who squeeze his hand,

then tuck him safely into bed.

 

A siren wails from down the hall.

He sees nurses running night and day,

people shouting, falling, weeping.

Charlie sips his milk and grins.

Sue Fagalde Lick loves to cook and loves to eat. A former California journalist who escaped Silicon Valley, Lick lives with her dog, Annie, in the forest on the Oregon coast. Her books include Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and the novel Up Beaver Creek. When not writing, she sings and plays piano, guitar, and mandolin at church, where, thank God, Catholics don’t fast as much as they used to.