The Lineup

My father, working as a prison guard, was often summoned to stand in the lineups when they didn’t have enough people. Regardless of how innocent he tried to appear, he was always selected as the burglar, as the arsonist, as the one who almost got away. No matter what he did to avoid it, he was always named as the perpetrator. He wore false mustaches. He dyed his hair onyx. With three other men he’d slump beneath the numbered lines like a string quartet of crooks. With the musical score behind him, he’d yell out, “It’s not me.” He’d plead with his thick glasses and his false nose. “Can’t you see it’s not me?”

Patrick Lawler has published six collections of poetry, the most recent of which is Child Sings in the Womb. He has published a novel, Rescuers of Skydivers Search Among the Clouds, and a collection of short stories, The Meaning of If.