Bobby McMullen Died Last Night

by M. Scott Douglass

Or the night before,
or last week,
or maybe it was years ago
when his wife left him
or his only son succumbed
to leukemia.

A lifetime of reasons
to cuddle a bottle of Jim Beam.

We could forecast the workday
by the way he walked through the door:

quiet and sullen meant hungover,
hungover meant irritable, outright mean,
loud and talkative meant still drunk,
hangover to follow at eleven.

Even drunk he was a better
finisher than most, and after
some lunchtime refueling, he
was good for the rest of the day.

But it caught up with him.

First he totaled his car,
then the state revoked his license,
liver failing, emphysema and
tuberculosis choking him—
two years ago he retired.

Paper said they found him
face-down in his double-wide.
He’d been dead awhile,
but he went the way he wanted,
the way we always knew he would.

Comment: I spent 22 years as a dental technician. It’s a business that has a high rate of drug and alcohol abuse. Bobby is a conglomeration of former co-workers, but mostly one guy who was just one of those people who couldn’t shake his demons. He’s one of the main reasons why I decided I needed to get out of that business. No one who worked that hard should have had to live like that. Or die like that. He was one of a handful of people who worked arm’s length away from me who died within a few years of each other. Another survived a shooting when a drug deal went bad. I guess we’d all become numb to it after awhile. It was no secret. We could all see it coming, but we couldn’t do anything about it.

Bio: M. Scott Douglass lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, but is originally from Pittsburgh. His poetry has appeared in the Asheville Poetry Review, Southern Poetry Review, Sundog, and Iodine Poetry Review among others. He’s a Pushcart Prize nominee and was the recipient of a NC Arts & Science Council grant which published his first full length poetry book, Auditioning for Heaven. Other books include Steel Womb Revisited, Balancing on Two Wheels and Dip Says Hi. His next book, Hard to Love, will be available in the Fall of 2011.

3 thoughts on “Bobby McMullen Died Last Night

  1. Reading your poem you get a real feel for the person; a pattern starts to emerge – until the tragic end. This happens too often…Great job.

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