Sherman Alexie
Sherman a Alexie’s Substack Audio
The Best Sandwich Maker in Seattle

The Best Sandwich Maker in Seattle

A poem

He was a graveyard shift
Deli employee
Who constructed hero
For other workers
Up too early
Or awake too late.
He made BLTs
For night watchmen 
And ham & cheddar
For the nurses
On their midnight
Lunch breaks.
One night, near
Dawn, he made
A triple-decker sub
For a female cop
Who wanted extra
Onions. “Don’t screw
Around,” the cop said.
“Extra means extra.
Give me shallots
And scallions, too.
Not just regular onions.”
A gathering of crows
Is called a murder.
A group of eagles
Is called a convocation.
Look! There’s a shrewdness
Of apes! So what do you call
The enormous stack of shallots
And scallions amassed
On a cutting board?
It’s a Sob of Onions!
His eyes profusely watered
As he sliced
And chopped 
All those onions.
Their fierce fumes
The deli.
There was no way
The cop should
Have been able
To tolerate such
An overwhelming 
But she finished it
In 10 minutes,
Gave him the thumbs-up,
And said it was the best
That she’d ever eaten.
Then she winked at him
And became 
A nightly customer.
Funny how,
Thirty-two years later,
He still remembers her.
She must at least seventy
By now. He called her
The Onion Cop
Whenever he talked 
About her
With his fellow
Sandwich makers.
They teased him
About being in love
With her. He laughed
And denied it.
But he wanted to tell them
That his affection
For the Onion Cop
Was more important 
Than romantic.
He wanted to say
The Onion Cop gave
Meaning to his job.
If he was to be
Making sandwiches
At three in the morning 
Then let him make
A specific sandwich
For a specific
Person. Let the sandwiches 
Comfort a stranger.
Let them be armor
When everything else is
Dangerous. These days,
He only makes midnight 
Sandwiches at home
With ingredients from
His well-stocked pantry
And refrigerator 
While his wife
And children sleep 
Upstairs. Maybe, one night,
He’ll make a sandwich 
With too many onions.
Maybe he’ll whisper
A declaration of affection
For the Onion Cop.
Maybe he’ll wonder
If the cop was in love with him
Or the sandwiches.
He was a young man
Made older 
By poverty
And desperation.
He was prone,
Then and now,
To surges
Of fantasy
And materialism.
He once wrecked
His car
Because he was distracted
By daydreams
Of winning the lottery.
He was sometimes crushed
By rage. He was a service
Worker who, in the presence
Of any attention,
Became an actor. But, hey,
Maybe he’s always been
An actor. After all,
Every fast food restaurant
Is a stage
And every worker is an extra
Playing the role of Extra
And doing it all
For minimum wage.

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Sherman Alexie
Sherman a Alexie’s Substack Audio
Poetry, fiction, and essays by Sherman a alexie
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