The man in the next lane
gestures for me to pull over.
A broken brake-light?
A balding tire about to blow?
I obey and do the cursory
once-over of the helpless-with-cars.
Everything appears in order.
But there he is, on foot beside me,
pointing to a dent, acquired
God know when or how,
on my driver-side door.
He will repair it, he says.
For a fee, of course. I
wonder at the sheer nerve
of my wandering huckster
trawling marks from the city streets.
He has the patter of a salesman,
the hair of a preacher.
He is ten years younger than I:
not handsome perhaps,
but with a slim mechanic's build
and calculating, teal eyes.
His teeth are long. A small nick mars
his upper-left incisor.
I am middle-aged, middle-class,
a little effeminate as I fuss,
half-heartedly, at his affront.
I have somewhere to be, I lie.
He finds occasion to touch me
twice: once on my upper arm
and, then, when I don't recoil,
more firmly on my lower back.
I yield of course, just as he knew
I would, and un-peel a pair of twenties
to watch him smooth the dent flat
with a ball-peen hammer
and a smudged, faux-chamois cloth.
He drove away. I watched,
a fool and happier for it.
I never saw him again.
The dent lay hidden for a week,
then reemerged one morning,
like desire from flesh,
like regret from memory.
It's still there.
Joe reads "Con Man":
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Joe confesses: "The incident in the poem happened ten years ago, precisely as I describe. From the beginning, I knew I was being conned. My con man knew I knew I was being conned. There was a sexy complicity to the whole proceedings. The dent? I still haven’t fixed it."