Playing the Numbers
BY BRANDON NOEL.
My friend Matt starts his new job tomorrow
at Dean’s dairy plant in Sharpsville,
for double the money he made here at Flex-Strut,
where we’ve worked together the last ten years.
A man’s wage is what the world tells him he is worth.
Not everyone gets to choose, sometimes you get lucky.
It’s October, cold and wet.
The month crept into the Mahoning Valley
like a four-year-old goes into their parent’s room
in the dead of night:
No one woke up as it arrived,
even when it kicked the back of our knees
in the dark, under the comforter,
under the new changes.
All morning Matt has talked about hitting 4 numbers
on the Mega Millions last night.
The 1.6 billion dollar ticket was sold in South Carolina.
I told him that, statistically speaking,
he was physically nearer to the winning stub,
than to the right numbers he needed.
He said, “Yeah, but it feels like I was pretty close.”
I never play, but I make the same plans
as the guys who do.
I once wrote about Matt before, “Secretly
we aren’t friends,” though we talk
like friends while we are on the shift.
We joke about spending more time together
than with our wives or our kids, but that’s just the math of it.
I served a farewell cake to our other coworkers.
Joe, the department manager divided it into equal squares,
and then the owners came down and smiled.
All the dowries have been paid.
There is no debt. No remainder.
A wise man knows that math is a way to interpret reality,
but the fool believes it is reality.
I wished out loud for a cheeseburger.
Matt said that if I won the lottery
I could buy all the cheeseburgers,
for the rest of my life--
a never ending supply.
Brandon Noel lives in Northeastern Ohio (Warren) and has worked as a machinist for the last ten years while writing on his breaks and brief moments of down time. He facilitates a local monthly writers group called “The Makeshift Poets.” Brandon turned 33 last December and has two daughters, ages 10 and 5, whom he raises with their mother. He has self-published two poetry collections: Mongrel (2015) and Infinite Halves (2017), and you can follow him on Twitter @the_mongrel.