Reception there was bad. My left arm
kept disappearing up to the elbow. I tried slapping the countertop
but it did no good. It happens sometimes
in those out of the way places, out there
in the middle of the desert. I’d spent the past two days
clinging to the undercarriage of a driverless station wagon
wishing it was jacked up a little higher.
Thing was zigzagging all over the state
and finally came to a stop in parking lot
of some long-empty big box store on the edge
of some town I’d never heard of, surrounded
by red rocks and ice blue sky.
I unclicked myself and wobbled on road legs
across the highway to one of those little diners
that still mercifully exist here and there.
I sat on a shredded plastic stool at the counter
and the waitress came and poured coffee without asking,
which I always find charming.
Her skin had been reapplied so many times
it made her face lumpy and and and in some places
it was peeling off to reveal the different
colored layers beneath. The desert air
is hard on these bodies. She had a nice smile though
and when I asked her what was good the jumble
of words and images that streamed from her was
tinged with a golden glow you don’t see often
these days. Like most of these roadside places
they had a theme to their menu, sports figures
or endangered species or old cars, this one was
various types of architecture. I ordered and
a few minutes later she brought me a plate
upon which sat a translucent blue cathedral,
exquisitely detailed with spires and arches
and when I leaned closely I could even see tiny
gargoyles perched on the parapet.
I took small scoops with my spoon, always reluctant
to destroy my food, even though I knew
it all came from molds and anyways it’s not like
they made them here, just threw them into the
microwave or deep fryer for a few seconds.
My arm kept flickering in and out but she
didn’t seem to mind, the place was nearly empty
and she told me all about the town, which she had
lived in all her life. I finished the last few bites
of my cathedral, which had held its shape
the entire time, which is actually a sign
of poor quality, they’re supposed to sag
and melt a bit by the end of your meal, but
I didn’t mind, I was glad not to be clinging
to the bottom of that station wagon, glad to be sitting here
in the air conditioning, chatting with this charming woman
even if her face was coming apart, and if you looked in her eyes
you could tell they were from two different places, but
it was good to be somewhere, red rocks and blue sky
out the window, one hand perfectly visible
as it held the coffee cup, my smile and nod working fine
when she came over and offered a refill.