She holds her cigarette like a joint
exhales smoke upwards at 45 degrees
and leans against the cold brick wall
by the kitchen’s back door.
Her boyfriend will be drunk by now
their kids gone to bed without a real dinner
just cheese curls and Pepsi.
She hates working the 3-11 shift.
The kitchen took too long.
The cook burned the food.
The house music was too loud.
None of which is her fault but
all of which means smaller tips
because angry customers demand
someone be punished
and who better than her?
As a child she dreamed
of being a veterinarian
or a ballerina
but those visions died
when she was barely out of high school
and she went to bed with the wrong guy
waking up at forty with three children and
a permanent layer of grease on her skin
from serving fried chicken to truckers
five days a week.
She has no health care
no hope for the future
just a ten minute break
to get the nicotine fix
which is the highlight of her night.