John Cardinal Pinney

The Best Cadillac Salesman in the Midwest


Won 5th place in the Blue Ridge Writers Club Golden Nib 2015


I stand above your casket and look into your motionless face

with its perfectly applied foundation and rouge.

I feel the need to chat before I start this process

of grooming the deceased. The absurdity of it all.

Me with my comb, water bottle and scissors in hand,

like it wouldn’t be you if I didn’t put the waves back in your hair,

those same waves removed by the funereal staff

as they bathed and sponged your body,

in preparedness for your last Big Sale.

Did they not look at the photos we brought?

Had they not met the renowned JC Pinney?

Were they not aware of the thousands of hours

spent on your daily grooming,

extension mirror assuring

every wave was perfectly spaced, sprayed

and patted down with your hand.

That done, you carefully chose your scent of the day

from a lineup of colognes waiting to be selected.

Remarkably, they all smelled the same.


I feel you looking down

to see if we picked the right blue suit and red tie

from your long row of blue suits and red ties.

In an attempt to quiet my nerves, I pat your chest,

feel an object in your breast pocket.


I turn to mouth to Mom, “there’s something in his jacket,”

as I peer around to make sure the staff

are not watching me rob the recently deceased.

My hand sneaks into the breast pocket;

I pull out your favorite Mont Blanc pen,

a well-used tool to close the sale.


I smile and return the pen to its rightful owner.

With one last check of the waves,

forehead kissed, droplets of tears buried with you,

I turn and smile at Mom, knowing my work is done.

We await the throngs of family, friends and clients

who will pay their last respects,

waiting in long lines to peer down on

the last of a dying breed of salesmen,

the men who wrote it all down

in a tiny tablet and remembered

all their clients and children by name.


Little did I know I would spend years sorting through

your life’s treasures: papers, matches, tiny knives,

lapel pins, lighters, and coins, my secret collection

saved for my visits to your grave.

I say hello, hum the words to Amazing Grace as I bend to press

one more minute artifact into the ground around your marker.

No one will ever know the bounty that surrounds your burial site.