by Katie Kemple
In the Sprouts parking lot with my teen, hands balancing
soap, sunblock, a bag of rainbow gummy bears,
a dude in mesh shorts and a sport top hollers at us:
“Girls—masks don’t work. The pandemic’s made up!”
His nude face hungry for a reaction. We ignore him,
keep walking, slam doors to cocoon in our car.
“I’m not a girl,” my teen says, unhooking their N95 mask.
Me neither, I think, feeling infantilized.
We watch our heckler bop into the store, ready to spread
his word to masked shoppers and busy cashiers.
I picture my aunt at the hospital hooked up to an oxygen tank,
how hard it was for her to speak to me yesterday.
Some guys stay grubs forever, pestering the roots.
No pandemic? Shut the fuck up. But it’s too late
to say that to his face. “Let’s open those gummy bears,”
I suggest instead. My teen rips into the viscid smiles.
The bitter-sweet of grapefruit’s our favorite flavor.
We bite the heads off first—
Katie Kemple (she/her) is a poet, parent, and public radio consultant in San Diego, CA. Her work has appeared recently, or is forthcoming in, Atlanta Review, Longleaf Review, Matter, Lunch Ticket’s Amuse-Bouche, and Anti-Heroin Chic.