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© Paul Zarzyski. All rights reserved. These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Great Falls Tribune
Dec. 22, 2013, “My Montana” section

Paul Zarzyski


Hot Loaves in the Monte Carlo

In part, because Christ chose hearty bread
to complement both the fishes and the wine, because
Charlie Russell named his favorite horse
Monte, loved Christmas, and Great Falls is
Kid Russell’s hometown,
I place the opened paper bags of hot
Great Harvest Bakery
three-pound round loaves—like nests
snuggled together
tighter than muffins in a tin—
on the saddle blanket seat covers,
then nose ol’ Monte into the Christmas
Eve blizzard. With a “Ho! Ho! Ho!-ski,”
a Polish-Italian-Santa hug or hand shake,
and a “thanks for the friendship,” I deliver
this savory cranberry-orange
bread to the gracious women
working the Saint Vinny and Sally Ann thrifts,
to the father-son mechanics—Monte’s
sawbones faves—of West-Side Sinclair,
to the drive-thru teller at Stockman Bank,
Dorothy, who did not call in the cavalry
(thank the patron saint of foolish stunts)
that day I, brandishing matched cap pistols, 
rode up to her bullet-proof window
in my stick-‘em-up bandana.  Oh, yes,
and to George the barber, who at least tries
to give me the ol’ “trim the sides, fill the middle”
vanity cut.  And to the One-Hour
Martinizing husband-wife team
working their miracles on my risque
girlie ties stained with amoeboid
myriads of mixed-drink
montages from the Mr. Boston
Deluxe Bartender’s Guide,
Apricot Ladies to Zaza Cocktails
to everything in between—you bet,
especially the Mai Tai!  And, most 
rejoicing of all, to those homebound, snowed-in—
long-timers, wisdom-keepers—who I have
not once, since growing up
among the gnarled, blue-collar elderly,
looked in the eye without seeing
myself. To Violet, coming 90,
exclaiming, “heck, ya can’t have summer
all winter long, ya know!” And to Barbara,
so cozy in her 1960 sky-blue trailer house
she shares with Lonesome,
the night-crawler-gulping tropical frog, his skin
white as, yes, snow. All afternoon,
rubbing with my Christmassy red
and yellow Handy Andy chore gloves
portholes in Monte’s steamed-up
windshield, I peer out from within
this vintage Chevrolet ornament
I fantasize dangling from some luminous tree
amidst Orion’s stars and tinseled
Betelgeuse nebulas. “Laughing
all the way,” in a three-fifty-horse
hardtop sleigh, I, the last of the loaves,
steeped in my doughy cologne, glide
home through big lazy hypnotic flakes
drifting me back to 1950’s Wisconsin
Christmases I am so lucky,
maybe even blessed, to catch
sentimental glimpses of myself
still believing in as a kid. 

                              For Pete Rysted and in Memory of George Skaer

© Paul Zarzyski, 2013-2015
created 12.23.13