Wednesday, June 13, 2007

the meeting

On a day like every other I met a man who smiled and laughed and talked to me for ten minutes until he mentioned his wife. With a different face than before he said she was

“terminAlly ill”

and the sentence started out strong but ended up _the other.

For months, he said, they’d been dealing with thi s. It’s history in the grooves of his vinyl record v0ice. Now he was here thinking he wanted to start being healthier, and when the door opened and he stopped talk|ng, I realized why.

I met his two daughters, young women w^nting a lon g puppy with little ears but not really excite.d about it. In the way they didn’t seem excited about anyTHing from now on.

He sm+led a little and told t hem he _wasn’t sure if he wanted a dog. But then his voi?ce didn’t sound like .::it::.wanted anyTH\ng an ymo re, except m

aybe o ne thin g:

to %not hav e to exp*la:n to a [d0g]

w((hat his wIFe %used t# be like .

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Speed Shop


A place like this will never give you a story that starts with I was there when.

Nothing happens, not even on Saturdays when the hours are longer.

Larry will just grow his hair longer as his scalp thins and Ed will leaf through catalogs of tuner parts and Louie will quietly watch the chests of girls as his kidneys steadily calcify. On Wednesdays Louie will disappear for an hour to walk across the street to the barber. He’ll sweep up around back and take the garbage out and for that they’ll cut the hair he’s still got. When he walks out he’ll put his hat back on, the one with the pins.

Filters will sit on top of gaskets on top of drivetrains. Water pumps on radiators next to ignition wires. Spark plugs and stems, tire chains, warmers and chargers and jumpers against performance boosters and starters and compressors.

The walls will never change here really, they’ll just fill up with cable ties and lug nuts and oily dust until it gets so bad that Larry takes notice. Then he’ll clear something out or sell something or wipe something to make way for the refill. Everyone will make jokes about it or cut out aerial photos of garbage dumps and write the shop’s name across it in red marker, but no one really wants it to change. It’s an easy joke, and the complaining kills some time.

Ed will have a mustache as people wonder if he works here. Leaning over his round stomach he’ll show them pictures of the car he’s spending a hundred thousand to redo the interior of. Then he’ll say how the property taxes are getting ridiculous around here, goddamn almost nine grand and that’s a lot of money.

If you say hi to Larry he might not answer you, because that puts him in control.

An hour after noon a honk will announce the silver truck with the fold-up sides pulling up with hot dogs and Jamaican patties and potato chips and everyone will walk outside for something. Everything slow. Squinting into the weather that wasn’t how they said it’d be. They’ll all come back inside and eat around the counter in a wet chorus and talk about people in the only ways that matter: how much they weigh, how much they make and what’s wrong with them medically. “How’s the wife?” will always be answered with her latest surgery.

When asked a question, everyone will make a sucking sound against their front teeth and pause for ten seconds before replying. Anything negative ends with another pause and then, But it’s not the end of the world. Anything to abort the emotion of the thing.

And Louie, Louie will look like an ashtray with a scar up it’s neck.

Off to the left, a counter will feature fishing supplies where lures are two for five and the friend who runs it hasn’t poked his head around here in months.

And not everyone knows this but if you walk through the back, into the garage, make a left into the tires and make another left at a machine there will be a tiny bathroom with a crate of porno in the corner, mostly girls but some boys too. A sign over the toilet will talk about bulls with short horns standing close when it means to say don’t piss on the seat.

If you come back in five years, this is still the scene. Maybe missing the chair that broke and wearing different dust. Ed will shift on his stool and tell you what cancer took Louie and that it’s not the end of the world. Then he’ll tell you he doesn’t like anything foreign and it won’t sound limited to cars.

Larry will say You never know.

If you look around, you’ll find the dust is winning.