Cattle cluster around the bases of the windmills
that cast their oversized shadows across
the straw-colored slopes. In the ditches,
backhoes and dump trucks huddle.
A plaster statue of a sea captain
grins at the highway, welcoming us to the arid expanses
of the San Joaquin Valley.
We drive through miles of apricot groves
and stop at a stand to buy a bushel of pluots.
We stop again in Oakdale for coffee,
parking illegally in the handicap space
in a strip mall while my friend runs into Starbucks.
I stare out the passenger side window.
A pretty green-haired girl in a flowery summer dress
with a service dog takes off her sunglasses
and steps into the Starbucks.
There is a sticker slapped on the front of the
hadicap parking sign that reads SHARK SMEER,
which I assume is the name of a band,
though I turn out to be wrong about that.
A sign in the window of the Supercuts reads
"Ask us about the tea tree experience."
A pudgy cowboy waddles in just as
my friend comes bursting out, cursing the incompetence
of all human beings, baffled that our species
has made it this far. I hand him a pluot
and take one myself. They are juicy but don't
taste like anything.