Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Truck Stop

I didn't even know why I had come back. Obligation. Guilt. Or maybe, a sense of curiosity. It didn't matter. I could tell that nothing had changed in the few years I had been gone. The same buildings sat empty on Main Street. The towns one light continued to blink yellow after 9pm any night of the week. Over privileged teenagers still used the Dairy Queen parking lot to turn around in.

Home was on the outskirts of the town. I smirked at the idea that anyone would call this place a town or suggest that it was large enough to have outskirts. But, that is how my mom always referred to the location of the small two bedroom stone house the six of us lived in. "Just drive past the truck stop and go another 2 or 3 miles and you'll find us there on the outskirts of town," she'd instructed more than one delivery driver.

The truck stop was just ahead. The neon light was partially burned out, but I would have known the smell of diesel and baking grease anyway. Turning into the parking lot, I decided I had better buy a soda and some snacks. The 5 of us kids may not be living at home anymore, but it was likely the cupboards would be bare. A can of corn or baked beans. Some tomato paste and a family size can of Foldger's original were all that ever seemed to inhabit those shallow spaces that the dishes did not overtake.

The glass doors were heavier than I remembered them. The customers lighter. It looked as if times had been hard in the town. I watched as their thinly disguised stares moved off the steaming cups of coffee and smudged chalk menu to follow me around. Bruce sat on his usual stool. He raised his hat with his oil blackened hand. "Well hell's bells! If it ain't little Miss College back in town." He spit into the can that always sat to the side of his stool. The habit had always disgusted me.

"Hey Bruce! How are you doing?" A genuine smile spread across my face as I crossed the black and white checkered floor to give him a hug. "Bruce. The only person I truly worry about from this town. The one person who ever showed me any kindness!" He felt small in my embrace. Times had been hard.

"Now turn 'round and let me get a good look at you darlin'." Lifting my hand just over my head, he nudged my shoulder gently. I happily spun in a circle, bowing slightly when we were face to face again.

"Well? What do you think now that I am all grown up? Am I everything you hoped for me and better?" I felt like that little kid he use to protect from the older, meaner, privileged kids that loved nothing more than to torment me. I realized his response still meant a great deal to me.

"You got some spiffy duds, that's fo' sure. You've done become a nice lookin' young lady, but you are far from grown up little Missy." A slight pink warmed my cheeks. Whether it was from pleasure or embarrassment, I couldn't say. "Now, why you back in town sweetheart?" He eyed me suspiciously, as if I'd given him reason to be doubtful. "You got some pretty boy on a string jus' waitin' to take you 'round the world or what?"

"Nothing like that. I was just feeling a little homesick and thought it was about time I came home to visit my mom. I thought I would stop in here and pick up a few things for the cupboards and refrigerator first. How is she doing?"

Bruce sat down hard on his stool. He chewed a bit before spitting and then he turned to me to answer. "You know your Mama baby. She' a well-respected, hard-workin' women who ain't never been wrong 'bout a thing in her whole life. She gonna die that way too."

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

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