jerks his boy’s arm,

nearly lifts him off his feet,

drags him

out the restaurant door


into the parking lot,

where the kid gets three

open-handed swats

on his tender backside.


Now the father squats

eye-level with his son’s tears,

brushes his son’s hair back

and hugs him.


But I’m making this last part up.

The father cups one hand

behind the boy’s neck,

pulls the kid’s chin skyward


and makes him promise

something I can’t lip-read

from my window seat

where my pancakes have gone cold.


When the father spies me

recording all this by heart,

he stiffens and looks away,

softens his grip a bit.


The father’s not a whit more

than a kid himself, and I confess

at his age I didn’t do much better.

Maybe worse.  It’s never a good plan


to lose your cool in a public place.

Someone’s sure to be watching.

But I’m making this last part up.  God knows

there needs to be someone watching.

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