THE BANK LET MY DAD GO by J. Scott Bugher

The Bank Let my Father Go

by J. Scott Bugher

I’m alone in a projector booth,
dressed in denim and sweat, prying open
tin canisters, reels of nitrate film.
Tonight’s a double feature, and I’ve been left
holding the bag again. Two years on the job
and my cut is still lower than the take-home
boarded out to cigarette hussies trotting the cool
auditorium, where aisles are carpeted
and chairs are wooden. There is no anxiety,
no perspiration, no fear of burning
for those dames on the job.

I’m like the tail gunner of a B-52.
Everything is metal: the walls, the workbench,
my stool. They say it’s for my protection,
that it’s fireproof, but I’m not made of metal.
And there’s hope for everybody in this theater
tonight, our weekly drawing for fruit baskets.
My only hope: that I don’t burn to death.

After pasting together the cartoons and newsreels,
I mount the spool to the projector and start the film.
With my sweat rag around my neck, I sit on my stool
hot enough to boil a crab and watch the commercials:
a Remington shaving a garden-variety peach,
Lucky Strikes dancing at a barnyard honkytonk.

In this heat, with eyes and nose
fighting parched nitrate, I think of Dad,
his bag of ham salad and apples leaving
for the cigar factory each morning at five.
When he comes home at suppertime,
he kisses Mom, gives me the keys to the Jeep,
and before I leave for the theater, asks me,
has school been doing you any good?


J. Scott Bugher is a poet from Indianapolis. His work can be found in The Baltimore Review, Hobart, Atticus Review and elsewhere. He is the editor of Split Lip Magazine and can be found at



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