The Road Not Taken, by Joe Cottonwood

The Road Not Taken
by Joe Cottonwood

The job, illegal.
No records; no taxes.
The client paid cash.
Now I stop for gas.
In my wallet, a nest of one-hundred-dollar bills.
Thirty of them.
Across the street, a sign:
          FREEWAY ENTRANCE
          US 101
          NORTH
I hold the gas nozzle thinking: North.
At least once in your married, child-raising life,
comes the thought.
The old truck has new brakes. Good tires.
In three days, maybe four, I can be in Alaska
—alone—
with a truck full of tools.
Pipeline work. No questions asked.
Cool mountains, clean rivers.
To be free, strong, and . . . thirty-four.
Or is it -five?
Inside the mini-mart, I pay for the fill-up
by the wide glass doors of the cooler.
Rose asked me to pick up some strawberry
yogurt on the way home from work.
And—what was it?
Oh yeah. Laundry soap.

Joe Cottonwood is a semi-retired contractor with a lifetime of repairing homes by day, writing by night. He lives under (and at the mercy of) redwood trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His most recent book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast. joecottonwood.com

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