Old Dogs

DENTAL HYGIENE


close
to dark now
the pharmacist and his family
rumored to be surrendering
after a long frantic week
under relentless siege
by druggies and dopers
and ordinary looters
and of course me
with a different
more noble purpose
at least
in my eyes

or maybe
more accurately
in my mouth
for my teeth
had become an obsessive
point of neurotic fixation
since the sudden breakdown
of martial law
and its relative
order

the back door
eased carefully open
heavy beams
of hand carried light
ripped through the
yielding dusk

"we still have bullets!"

the man shouted
as he
his wife
and two children
cautiously moved away
from their former
business

"dammit, we'll shoot!"

this
we knew already
as they stepped over
the dozen or so bodies
littering the
back lot

"just get the hell outta there!"

someone yelled
from the dumpsters

"we've got some shopping to do!"

nervous laughter
spread sporadically
junkies close to a fix
partially soothed
by knowing the humor
of their torment
nearing
an end

I could already hear
the smashing and crashing
at the building's
now undefended front
as the erstwhile proprietor
and his frightened family
faded into the darkness

I stayed
hunkered down
in the thick bushes
of the parking median
waiting for the rush
of early scum to subside
my mission was simple
and straight-forward
I knew the layout
from better days
and was secure in knowing
that these frenetic dope fiends
would make first
for the pharmaceuticals
giving me a fleeting moment
to conclude my business
before lesser goods
became target

I edged around
to the face of the building
where only a few stragglers
milled about the gaping hole
of broken glass and metal
that once constituted
a welcoming entrance
I hit the switch
of my portable floodlight
temporarily blinding them
as I slipped quickly into
the violated pharmacy
a can of mace ready
in the other hand
to confront any
cold turkey
miscreant

hmmm...
let's see
aisle six b
still miraculously intact
I opened the hard leather
bowling ball bag
that I carried
for such occasions
and began to scoop
the contents of certain shelves
into its waiting emptiness
tooth brushes
tooth paste
plaque rinse
unwaxed floss
the bag quickly filled
taking only a minute
too much time rally
as the real ugliness
would soon commence
once the top cream
of chemical stock
was removed

I closed the zipper
and slipped the strap
over my right shoulder
and holding light and mace
menacingly in front of me
I made a hasty exit
the sounds of gunshots
and breaking glass
bidding me a fond
if foreboding
farewell

in the basement
of a burned out building
that served as my home
I sorted through
the night's take
depositing the items
in their respective boxes
arranged alphabetically
along the moldy walls
of my dimly lit
sanctuary

brushes
floss
gels
mouthwash
pastes
picks
polishers
rinses
my supply
adding up nicely
hopefully soon enough
to last the remainder
of my dwindling days
in this desolate
new world
disorder

you see
I figure
I can always
find food
here and there
but not so the material
for proper tooth care
the only vestige
of my former life
I refuse to relinquish
everyone needs something
that they can hold onto
in such troubles times
as these

in some
unknown future
when they excavate
these then ancient ruins
of this failed
civilization
at least
this one skull
will still be grinning
in enameled glory
a grisly testament
to the human
capacity
for
insanity