Why I Took This Job

Toby and Donnie go to the library

with me on Friday.

Toby asks for a book on NASCAR

and looks for pictures of crashes

while Donnie talks to everyone.

I’m trying to get him to Say hi and move on

and usually he’s okay with that

but sometimes I have to peel him off

strangers who he’s asking to marry. There’s a young man from one of the group homes,

there by himself, and he’s gentle and helpful

with Donnie, who’s his friend.

We share a vitamin water

and an oatmeal raisin cookie at the coffee shop,

and afterwards go down to Great Falls

where the river is rushing awesome.

I’m elbow to elbow with Donnie,

reminding him children are strangers,

when Toby points into the leaves

at the bottom of the fence where

there’s a little green garter snake

with yellow stripes. Can I kill it?

he asks and I give him heck, saying

No you’re not going to kill that beautiful snake

and he stands there watching it, fascinated.

It‘s a bright, sunny day

and we’re in t-shirts for the first time this spring

and make it up the hill to the observation deck

where Donnie stands beside a group of children

and doesn’t bother anyone.

We press ourselves against the railing

and marvel at the roaring water

crashing on the rocks

and for a moment

there’s no place like home

on this magical earth.

Then we walk to the van

and blast the oldies

all the way back to the day center.