Wednesday May 30, 2012 § Leave a comment
It is cold when we come to leave, a little after six am. The windscreen of the hire-car is edged with condensation, and a flyer, advertising Deano’s Chicken is tucked under the wiper. Instinctively I look for the person who may have left it but the street is empty.
– I’ll drive.
– You sure, I say.
I take the opportunity to get some rest. On the backseat I stretch out, doze in and out of consciousness. The last time I wake, is to a streak of hot sun across my face, magnified by the glass.
We are a few hours outside Phoenix. Denis turns off into a truck stop where there is a diner, an Audi concession, a tyre yard. A tall totem-pole of a sign hangs over the lot, casting a shadow like a squat spider over the parked cars. The lot is already running a brisk trade for a Sunday afternoon. My neck hurts as I gingerly raise myself up to the window, and we stare out the driver’s side window at the concrete diner.
– You like wings? says Denis finally.
– I like wings.
He smiles for the first time in days.
Inside the hostess walks us up to a booth on the mezzanine. The cavernous, windowless space is loud. Rock music is blaring from gigantic speakers ringing the room. It feels more like an enormous pillbox than a restaurant, or a warehouse. Subsumed in a kind of darkness, it reminds me of places my father used to take me when I was a kid.
– You want a beer?
I resist. Denis has a beer.
When we are done eating he lights a cigarette, reclines against the spoiled leather upholstery.
– I have to make some calls.
– Always with the fucking phone, he says.
Outside the sun is still zeroed at twelve o’clock, even though it is nearly three now. A perpetual state of high-noon. As I listen to the ringing tone I stare back at the sun from the half-shadow offered by the entrance canopy. Blank heat snaps against me and I can feel it burning my skin.
– Hello, its me.
A heavy East Coast accent answers, New York.
– About fucking time, he says.
– You want me to hang up? I will fucking hang up on you.
– No you won’t.
– No, I won’t.
– No, you won’t. What took you so long?
– I called yesterday, but nobody answered.
– No, I had things to do yesterday. Things, they don’t stop because you’re not here.
– Is that supposed to be reassuring?
– Is it? Is it reassuring?
– It isn’t.
– No, it isn’t. It ain’t supposed to be, neither.
– Do you have the guy’s number?
– Now he’s in a hurry.
– I told you, I called yesterday.
– Ok, ok. Get over it already. You ready for this?
– Yeah, go ahead.
Leaning against the thick concrete exterior, cold in the shade, I write down the number on a napkin.
– Call him when you’re in Phoenix.
Back inside a group of old boys have set up at the bar in the pit of the diner. They sit high up on bar stools, sharing wisecracks, Stetsons resting on the countertop, downing glasses of Rye. A slender young woman, a girl, barely out of her teens slaloms through them, in a pink halter-neck and boots. The big screens have come on, noiselessly showing football. The Cardinals are at Kansas.
– I ordered another round.
– I said I didn’t want one.
– Then don’t drink it, he says dragging my bottle towards him. I order water.
– Did you check the crackers sitting at the bar? he says, lighting another cigarette. Hey, he shouts. They can’t hear him. Your trailer on fire or something?
– What is your problem?
– I would have thought it was perfectly obvious what my problem is.
– You’re an asshole.
– What are you, Cardinal fan or something?
The hostess brings the check.