Monday, April 29, 2013

From the Empirical Archives: The Woman in McDonald's by Richard Luftwig

The Woman in McDonald's
Richard Luftwig
PHOTO: David Schott

Originally published in the October 2012 issue of Empirical

With her half-finished coffee she studies
each insert of the Sunday paper
as if sight reading her music for the week.
In quarter-note snips, she clips
any coupon that looks hopeful,
careful not to do damage to bar codes
and expiration dates, shrinking

the usefulness of each page down to size.
Then steadily, she sorts her prodigies
into their proper piles:
veggies, sauces, pasta, meat,
dairy, detergents, paper, pets,
and the always popular “other.”
She writes in her notebook

in a tight, penciled hand each coupon’s
impending date of death, their life’s worth,
and if they can be doubled, then places
each survivor in a clear plastic folder
with expandable accordion bellows.
Later, while leaning her forearms
on her shopping cart, she will poise

her fingers like a concert pianist
and trace along the folder tips
as if playing a waltz only she can hear.
At checkout, she will perform
a masterpiece, counting off
her savings like an metronome,
filling her bags with accompaniments.

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