[SCENE: SOMETIME IN FALL OF 2012]
I wake up with a killer hangover, or
a bug that feels like it.
Can’t have a hangover, haven’t had a drink in
twenty-six months and—not that anybody’s counting.
Not that I count, not that I need to count.
Can have the damned flu. Can have wrestled a
bit with sleep last night and said screw it and
got up and grabbed the first Pretenders record off the shelf
and drove up and down I-55.
Kiiiiiiiid, precious kid,
Chrissie moans, over that beautiful rubbery riff, you got all sad,
so I feel sad, too.
I kind of wonder how old she was when she
wrote that lyric. It seems simple isn’t.
I ought to just look it up,
but it’s one of those nites everybody on the highway
is driving like murder, and even a casual glance
down at my phone feels risky,
makes me feel guilty.
There’s a 24-hr. Burger King by where
Video Library used to be, I bet I can get a
milkshake for a couple bucks. I’d rather get a movie,
but I was always bad about picking them out, just another
Robert Altman film festival, and besides
I haven’t had anything to watch it on in a decade.
And Video Library is long gone, but I could really
stand to watch that one long shot at the beginning of The Player
a couple times.
11:17 at nite the Burger King
is a reality show crime scene. It’s sort of amazing
and beautiful, like being under the stands at a
high school football game.
Everybody in the drive-through line is clearly drunk.
It’s hard to miss the window, but the Tahoe in front of me
first blows past it, then backs up, scraping off
a side-view mirror.
You can hear the stoned laughter reverberate
off the beige bricks.
By the time I get to the window
the Pretenders are bragging about how they’re special
soooooo special, you almost believe her, and
Burger King is trying to sell me some kind of mushroom burger.
If it were just me and Mushroom Burger on a desert isle,
(the thought balloon over its head being me dressed like a turkey,
the thought balloon over mine of Mushroom Burger
as a block of tofu), I wouldn’t touch that thing, let alone
pay somebody money for it. There’s nobody else here,
I just want my milkshake, no one like me.
I mash—-> over “Lovers of Today,” it’s too maudlin.
The holy God drums of “Mystery Achievement” kick in,
like the Golden Mean of rock and roll, drums on a
precise mathematical algorhythm, then the bass, then
the guitar chimes in, then ooooooooooooOOOOOoooooo,
it’s all in perfect sequence,
you can count it off to eight each time,
I never wrecked a car to it, but maybe should have.
They hand me some kind of drooling
monster, a liter of ice cream and syrup.
I hand the girl at the window a five automatically.
The girls in the window are still screaming at each other
about the drunk boy in the SUV, how cute he was.
“I had a small,” I manage to say.
“What,” the girl says, no question mark.
I question their commitment to Burger King,
question their taste in boys.
“I had a small,” I say, sober, exhausted, sick of everything.
She shrugs, hands me back three dollars and change.