A Jar Of Grave Dirt, A One Handed Acupuncturist, And Several Pictures of Gabe Kaplan On Fire

After coming down from you various highs (and lows, har fucking har) and mourning the death of your origami friend you find yourself on the road again.

You ponder for a while how your life came to this point. What started out as a trip to clear your head turned into a drug fueled cross country nightmare on a bad stretch of highway that never ends. Sure, everyone dreams of running away from it all, but here you are, shooting up speed in a bathroom that hides its glory hole behind a lenticular portrait of Jesus.

Your life has gone to filth, but it’s your filth. Authentic Dumpster Aesthetic, hand made and thrown out the window by a glassy eyed tourist near the world’s biggest ball of twine.

You decided to keep a diary at some point. The pages are a smear of bad choices and strange faces. There’s a stack of receipts, faded and threadbare, that tell the tale of some of your travels. The rundown strip club with the surprisingly good omelettes, the music festival the you’re pretty sure was held in an active junkyard, the thrift store where you found a surprisingly startled stuffed deer head that became your best friend until you traded him for a taco.

It was a really good taco. You hardly even miss Jeff.

Yes, your travels have brought about a lot of strange tales to tell. A collection of items and memories that would be suited for the big screen, well, the big screen of a porno theater, maybe.

Fucking sticky floors.

 

Paper or Plastic?

Harsh yellow fluorescent light rams itself into your eyes. Liquid rains down on you.

“Where the fuck am I?” 

A soft tinkling melody jangles overhead, interrupted by a voice saying something you can’t quite pick up.

You realize you’re laying on the ground and pick yourself up off the smooth terracotta colored tiles.

How long were you unconscious in this grocery store? Why did no one seem to care? The voice on the loud speaker cuts in again “There’s a call for the meat department on line 3, meat department, line 3.”

The last thing you remember was your friend from the desert who was carrying around a ladies shoe full of Ketamine and a book about frogs. He said he was a fallen god on a quest to jack the sun off so he could birth the redeemer and you thought that sounded really cool at the time.

A woman with a beehive shuffles her cart past you, sniffing disdainfully as she narrowly avoids running your foot over.  You search your pockets and find a stick of gum, an origami frog, 36 cents, and a gathering of hair and small twigs.

Cool.

 

You’ve Been Away For Far Too Long

Time seems to have slipped beyond your grasp. You could have sworn that it was only a week ago you left the campsite, leaving the bits of food you didn’t feel like taking home for the deer and raccoons. How is it that you wandered, unfocused for this long?

You remember bits and pieces. The truck stop, a fight in a diner where a man got body slammed through a table, soap carvings of Victorian’s dying from diseases. Surely you lost a page in the calendar.

You charge your phone for the first time in what has to be 3 weeks, you’re not a social person and the places you’ve been, the phone wasn’t getting a signal anyway.

A voicemail: the word’s “job abandonment” float around the car, hovering like a lead ghost.

Oh well, you hated that job anyway. You’ll just have to go back to Madame Zofia’s and help her carve soap tragedies.

Too bad you never got to tell Joan to fuck off.

Truck Stop Soup, A Trailer Hitch, and Bibles With Your Name On Them.

You pull into the gas station that also doubles as a rest area for truckers and are taken in by the weirdness of it all. You step out of the car in the middle of nowhere and are greeted by harsh lights and the sounds of Arrested Development’s “Tennessee” playing at full blast. It’s late, but you need to fuel up so you can go to another place, another land.

As you step inside, a wave of tacky washes over you as your eyes scan the shelves. Sure, there’s the usual gas station fare you’d expect to find, but among that you see shot glasses, personalized bibles, half birthday cakes, and a soup and salad bar. The beverage fountain flickers it’s light at you, beckoning you into 128 ounces of corn syrup-y refreshment. Further back in the store you find screwdrivers, trailer hitches, a hunting jacket, 3 rain ponchos and a poison sign for a hazmat truck. Something catches your eye and you double back to a strange little hallway.

There’s a slot machine at the end of the hallway. And an arcade cabinet of some fighting game, 3 tables, and a tv. There’s also a washing machine and a shower. It’s all a bit odd to you, having never been at a proper truck stop, but everything seems both out of place and right at home here.

You pay for your gas, your 128 ounces of soda, and a shot glass while the clerk sings “I challenge you to a game of horseshoes. A game of horseshoes!”

You decline her challenge, as you have to get to Holly Springs to meet with Eshe.

Breakfast In a Tchotchkesque Nightmare

A knock at the door and a few half hearted barks from Lucky Jim wake you up. Rusty leads you into the dining room, a place you would only feel comfortable calling knick-knack’s 7th level of hell.

Porcelain figures of children fishing or getting the mail or doing other precocious bullshit things clutter the shelves alongside snow globes, a framed picture of Jesus so old it’s only got one side, 3 urns, and other assorted odds and ends. The flowery wallpaper sags with age and probably also the weight of all those fucking snow globes.

Norma comes flitting into the room, all too happy to have a guest. Norma looks like everyone’s mother got together and had a sketch artist draw them as one person. Her hair is dark but giving way to gray (or is that just dust from all the tchotchkes?) Her smile is warm but her eyes have a distance to them, dreams she had to bury swam around behind that smile. She has on a yellow and pink apron that could make Easter wince. Her voice is sweet and oddly heavy, like old molasses being poured off a cliff.

“It’s so nice to have a guest around here! We don’t see quite as many visitors as we used to and Lucky Jim doesn’t care to hear my stories again.”

Norma fills you in on her and Rusty’s entire life over plate after plate of waffles and bacon. Every time you try to resist more food she simply piles your plate and keeps talking. Luckily her waffles taste like the kiss of 1000 angels after the bad diner food and questionable snacks you’ve endured thus far so you manage to make room.

She tells you about how the town had a boom period in the 40’s and how her and Rusty bought the property that is now the hotel waiting for the money to come rolling in, but the boom didn’t last long, and all the people had fled before they opened. Now they just waited for tired people to stop on their way to somewhere bigger and flashier.

Time seemed to stand still for Norma and Rusty, even though they and their businesses showed signs of age, they never moved on from the idea that the town could be a diamond in the rough.

Pretty soon you realize Norma has been talking for 4 hours. It’s nearly 3 now, and you really need to get going. You thank her for her food and hospitality and settle your tab. You head out to say farewell to Rusty, but not before Norma can shove a basket full of homemade goodies into your arms.

Her house turned hotel may have been where tacky goes to die, but God damn it that Norma is a sweetheart wrapped in the most gaudy apron you’ve ever laid eyes on.

As you pull out of the gas station you toss a muffin to Lucky Jim who gobbles it in the blink of an eye.

You chuckle to yourself as you wonder if there’s any Yelp reviews for Rusty and Norma’s.

A Home Never Gives Way To Rust

It’s late, the tank is almost empty, so you pull off to the only gas station this side of town. It’s a building that looks as though if it had ever had a good day, that day probably ended in 1953. There’s 5 pumps, 2 work. Rusty always would talk about getting the others fixed, but the money was never there and they got by just fine anyway.

You distract yourself with petting the 3 legged dog sprawled out by the front door. You can smell the faint hint of oil and old tobacco clinging to the cobwebs that blow in the breeze like streamers on a fan.

You step inside the gas station, it’s 15 degrees warmer than it is outside, which is odd since it’s a warm August night. The posters on the wall are nearly transparent, having not been updated in 30+ years. There’s a shelf of home baked goods, they look fresh and are well wrapped, so you pick up a blueberry muffin, if you die now, at least you died from a muffin.

You ask for $10 for pump 4, a scratch off, and recommendations for a hotel. The clerk mentions he and his wife Norma own the hotel in town, naturally. He offers you a room that comes with a home cooked breakfast and if you choose, the dog can even stay the night with you.

Tired and looking to avoid more driving or sleeping in the car, you thank him and accept his invitation. When’s the last time someone named Norma killed anyone? He asks you to stick around for 15 more minutes so he can close up the store, you step outside, sit on the curb and split your muffin with the dog.

“Name’s Joe by the way, but people call me Rusty.” He says. “Figure you might want to know a man’s name before ya sleep in his house.”

You offer a smile and a “nice to meet you.”

“Dog’s name is Lucky Jim.”

Of course.

Joe points to the hotel situated just behind the gas station. You opt to leave your car at the gas station and walk over with him, room 7 is your home for the night. Lucky Jim jumps on the bed and is asleep before you have a chance to step in the room. You’ve shared a bed with worse guests.

You turn to thank Joe but he’s already gone, you shrug and climb into bed.