Alvin Pepler at the Gym
by Charles Rammelkamp

He told me he’d left a Chanukah card for me
at the front desk – sweet,
but I didn’t think we were that close,
casual locker room acquaintances at best,
and how did he know I was Jewish?
A convert, without a giveaway name?
I promised I’d pick it up on my way out.

But when I opened the shower stall,
having swum my morning mile,
there he was, card in hand.
I took it in my own wet hand, thanked him.
He followed me to my locker.

He whipped out his cellphone.
“Any music you want to listen to?”

“Uh, the Beatles?” I stammered,
dialing my locker open,
reaching for my shirt.

“I was born a week before
they first played the Ed Sullivan Show in sixty-four!”
I did the math, a man in his fifties.

Pulling on my pants, I downshifted the conversation
to the state of our city,
something we could all get behind.
We’d just gone through a tough year.

“I’ve got a long-standing argument with the mayor,”
he claimed, shaking his head,
and suddenly I had a vision of the nut
heckling from the fringes of the crowd,
though he spoke of the mayor
as if they were colleagues in a policy debate.

“Good to talk to you, Alvin!” I said,
hoisting my gym bag over my shoulder,
Chanukah card in hand,
making my escape.

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