The Humorous Verse Prize
We're Taking the Real Estate Exam
I’m shaking, more from cold
than fear though there’s plenty
of scared running around—seven a.m.,
would-be’s from all over the state, futures,
commissions depending. "You want a drink?"
Martha asks me. "Good god, Martha!
It’s six o’clock in the morning, I can’t
even find my pencil." "Seven," she corrects.
"Here." Hands me a number two yellow, sharp.
She has that kind of mind, precise, alcohol-
razored, lips a flask disguised as an eyeglass case.
I watch her during questions that refuse to stay
on my paper while she swigs, wets the tip of her pencil,
pretends myopia, far-sightedness, going at it
like a safe cracker listening for Fort Knox clicks.
I make sixty-five. Martha ninety-five. A veteran,
they give me five. We drink a celebratory lunch.
"Vodka’s loaded with vitamin K," she tells me.
"Reach in the back," she thumbs, driving home,
the cooler. Bottles. Cans. Mason jars, a ‘Cajun
martini.’ ‘Cajun,’ Louisiana for ‘more,’ for ‘many.’
Ice unfreezes my wrong-answer-cramped fingers.
She speeds up, never veering over the line, cold
jar to her lips, the road a foyer to all the houses
she’ll sell, houses by the side of the road, houses
in gated communities where you’re not allowed
to mow your grass after five o’clock Saturdays,
gothic-lettered For Sale signs; no pink flamingos,
neighborhood parties you’ll never be invited to.