Friday, November 24, 2000

Two From the Broed

“Have you ever heard the expression ‘bro it on out’ before?”  Michael asks the waitress.  We are sitting in a Waffle House in West Texas, but to tell you the truth it doesn’t matter where we are because we’ve spent the last four weeks asking this exact same question to waitresses, Republican deligates and folk from various other walks of life all across the North American continent.  It is a question to which, of course, we expect no real answer.  At least, we don’t expect them to say “yes”.  If anyone said “yes” our mission would be over, for that would mean that there had been others forging the path of bro before us.  There would then be no reason for us to be out here at all.  That would certainly have punctured a hole in our brozone layer that we could never have repaired. 
Indeed, “yes” was not an option.
“No,” replies the waitress.  She is just as you expect a waitress in a West Texas Waffle House to look; overworked with a face weathered much like the dry flesh-colored landscape outside that stretches endlessly in all directions, only with make-up added.  She looks very tired and for a second I find myself beginning to feel sorry for her, but then I quickly bro that out.
“Well, we’re like prophets,” Michael continues, “missionaries.”
“Oh really,” replies the waitress, sounding none too convinced.  We hadn’t showered in quite some time, so we probably more so resembled, say, broed-out road trash than Missionaries. 
“Yes, we are spreading the word of bro,” I offer.
“The what?” replies the waitress.
“We have brought this hot new expression all the way from California,” says Michael, with mounting excitement, “and we are spreading it all across America.”
“Yeah, we’re like the Johnny Appleseed of bro it on out,” I add, as if this would somehow clear things up.
“Bro it on out?” asks the waitress.  Her name is Sue, says so right on her nametag.  “Now what in the dickens does that mean?” she asks, a smile finally creeping ‘cross the barren West Texas landscape.
“Ya know, bro it on out,” replies Michael.  “It kind of means like “chill out”, you know?  Actually, it means a lot of things.  Mostly people just say it like this..” at this point Michael adapts an absurd falsetto, sounding like a Muppet character, a very broed out Muppet character.  “YEEEEWWW JUS GOTTA BRO IT!  BRRRRRRO IT! BRRRRRRRRO IT ON OW-OOOOT!”
At this little outburst I briefly cover my face with my hands in something feeling suspiciously like shame or embarrassment.  I can feel all the decent, hard working Texan folks looking up from their decent, hardworking breakfasts to find out just what in the dickens is going on with those two weirdo’s with the tape recorder over there with Sue, but then the moment is gone, my hands go back down under the table and I am once again broing it.
“Wow!” says Sue, laughing a bit.  “Ya’ll certainly say it pretty loud!”
“Well,” replies Michael sheepishly, “we don’t always bro it out that loud.  It just depends how things are broin’, you know?”
“I think so,” she says.
There is suddenly an awkward pause, and so as to bro that pause the hell on out I say “so, bro it on out, what do ya think, Sue?”
“Well, California does something it’s like five years later that we get it.”
“So, were broin’ you out in advance” I reply. 
“Yeah, in like five years everyone will be out here broin’ it.” adds Michael.  “Wow,” he says in faux astonishment, turning to me with a religious expression on his face, “just think, D: everyone broin’.”
“It’s only a matter of time, bro,” I say, shaking my head,  “only a matter of time.”
“So ‘yall really spreadin’ it all across the country?”
“Bro yeah,” replies Michael.
“So, ‘yall taught people in like New York City and-“
“Bro yes!” I say. “New York, Milwaukee, uh....” suddenly my mind is too broed to remember anywhere else we had traveled.  ‘There must have something between California and New York’ I think   “..uh... Milwaukee.. and ...”
“We’re on a pilgrimage,” says Michael, bailing me out.
“For ‘Bro it on out’?” asks Sue.
“See?  See?  You’re broin’ it already!” yells Michael. 
“Yes,” I add, “we have enlightened yet another one!”  Michael and I slap hands over the table.
“Ya’ll are either real famous or just real weird” says Sue, laughing as she pulls out her ordering pad.  “Now, whaddayall wanna bro out for breakfast?”


“I swear to god, I saw these big signs, they all said “Welcome to Wisconsin” says Michael.
“You are fucking broed,” I reply.  “How can we be in Wisconsin already if it keeps sayin’ “Illinois Turnpike” all the time, man!?”
Michael and I were both fucking broed, in all actuality.  We were getting close to the end of the second of a series of all-nighters, and we were both getting broed constantly.    Michael and I would take turns driving about every hundred miles or so.  We would know that it was time to switch seats when the person behind the wheel begin to make video game sounds or speak at length about the invention of the zip lock bag.  These are both signs of heavy broin’; the kind of broin’ more appropriate to the passenger seat or a rest stop gift shop.
We had also discovered that not knowing what state we were driving through at any given time was another sign of one’s going dangerously over-broed.
“I swear to fucking god, D, it said Wisconsin!” We were both extremely exasperated.  We had been arguing over this one for about an hour and a half.  Michael was of course swearing up and down that he seen this big ol’ sign, a whole host of signs, actually, saying that we had finally broed it all the way to Wisconsin at the last toll booth.  I thought we were still in Illinois because I kept seeing these signs saying “Illinois Turnpike” all the time, but, then again, I couldn’t even remember going through the last toll booth whatsoever.  We were like two senile old men arguing over who took a crap last.
Michael then began making video game sounds over the Amon Tobin music we had playing on our new car stereo.  Our old one had broken back in Nebraska so we stopped at a Wal-Mart in Walnut, Iowa and purchased a new one on one of our credit cards.  Between Walnut and Des Moines, a distance of about 60 miles, Michael installed the thing while I drove.  We were very proud of ourselves. 
We celebrated by getting really broed out in the parking lot at the next rest stop.
Anyway, Michael’s Atarian outburst should have prompted me to evict him from the wheel but I saw, through the rain falling against our windshield, what looked to be the lights of a tollbooth looming up ahead through the night.  Impulsively, I ducked my head under the dashboard of the car and proceeded to get more broed out, just in case there was some sort of wait at the tollbooth.  One for the road, as they say.
Michael stopped his Space Invaders revival and said “oh shit, D! Another tollbooth!  Okay, maybe this is Wisconsin, man!”
I opened up my mouth to respond but all that came out was “a-wooba wooba, a loopable poophole loophole!” which was something that Michael and I had chanted over and over again across the entire state of Utah. I began to laugh uncontrollably.  
“D!” replied Michael with a broed little smile crossing his face, “you know what you are?”
“Hee, hee, hee....what?” I responded, trying to pass him the tool with which one usually bros oneself out. 
“You are the heart!” yelled Michael, prompting us both to launch into the theme song of our cross-country tour, sung to the tune of  “You Give Love a Bad Name”.
“Broed to the heart, and you’re too broed, you bro love a broed name!”
After a few minutes of additonal hysterics, Michael got really serious, saying “Seriously D!  We gotta bro this shit, man.”
Michael did indeed sound serious, and suddenly it scared me.  I somehow climbed a few feet out of my bro hole by taking a deep breath.   Then I noticed something.  Our car smelled like the primate section at the zoo.  Then I noticed something else.
“What does that sign say?”
“Automatic Toll” is what it say,” replied Michael in a silly voice.
“So what does that mean, that there’s no one there to bro your money?”
“Probably, D” responded Michael, giving me a look that said, “did you break your brain?”
“Alright, man, we’ll figure this out.  There,” I noticed another sign, “it says 65 cents.  You got that?”
“Ohhh,.....” replied Michael, switching to some weird, diabolical evil guy voice, “oh, I certainly do, D! Ha ha ha ha!”  He held the three coins in his right hand, performing a little dance with them on the dashboard, like a very primitive marionettist.  “Bloop!  Bloop bloopie!  Bloopie Bloop!” came the soundtrack to the dance.  He had lost it completely.
“Okay man, bro yourself a bit.  We’re gettin' close.” 
A strange, broed out silence sat between us.  The tollbooth was quickly approaching.  It looked sinister, evil.  We had spent the last who-knows-how-many hours on one straight, endless road that cut up through Illinois or Wisconsin or whatever the hell; perhaps both. And now this, this interruption.  This clot of a tollbooth standing between us and our continuing flow through the arteries of America’s freeways. 
I looked over at Michael who was suddenly wearing an army helmet and camouflage gear.  His face was painted all green and black.  Then I looked down at his hands and noticed that they were not planted, as they should have been, on the smooth, black, steering wheel of the Acura, but instead were busy manhandling a complicated network of large, cumbersome rods and levers.  The window had shrunk down to a small rectangular port and there was a gatling gun sticking out of it.  From outside I heard and felt some sort of explosion during which the sky lit up a pale purple and then faded back down to night. Then I heard the unmistakable sound of machine gun fire.
I was really broed out.
“Are you ready for this?!” yelled Michael over the wind rushing through the vision port on the front of our tank.  Instinctively I grabbed some controls, I believe they were the ones to the gatling gun.  That tollbooth was only fifty feet away or so, and I knew we had to destroy it, or die trying.  We couldn’t let them take us alive.
“Alright man!  Slow down and I’ll let ‘em have it, motherfuckers!”  I yelled back to Michael.  My hands tightened on the controls.
“D, what the hell are you talkin’ about?  Bro it out, man!  I’ll put the money in, not you, you freak.” came Michael’s voice.  Suddenly it wasn’t so loud in the car anymore.  Then I looked down at my hands and they were clutching the handle right under the glove compartment of the Acura.  “And why are you yelling so loud?”
“Sorry man,” I mumbled, “broed to the heart I guess.........”
“Yeah, well, here we are.”
The tollbooth was right there.  There was only one spot to drive through.  To the right of the booth was a big sign saying “Welcome to Wisconsin” which proved that Michael had hallucinated all those other signs celebrating our triumphant arrival to the state, the place where the first show of the Scatter-Shot Theory “tour” was going to happen.  I was about to start calling him on this when I noticed that Michael wasn’t slowing down very much.
“Hey man, bro it down” I said. 
“Sure,” said Michael. 
That strange silence returned.  That thick broed-out silence, sitting between us like a fog bank of confusion.  We drove a few more feet and the tollbooth was upon us, or we were upon it.  I don’t think that either one of us could tell.  Motion is all relative, especially when one is broed on the road. 
I felt like we were about to land a plane through this tollbooth.  Michael was slowing her down, slowing her down, but I could feel something, some other unworldly force pulling us through the booth at 15 miles per hour.  The tollbooth was now a space ship, all aglow with lights and signs in foreign languages, and the Acura was being pulled in by some sort of energy beam.  A glowing black energy beam, twice as thick as our car, with yellow dashes cutting up through the middle of it.
I looked over at Michael again, and to my surprise he didn’t look afraid.  “Sure,” he replied, even though I hadn’t said anything new since he said “sure” the last time.  As the Acura was sucked into a short passage on the underside of the spaceship, he coolly rolled down the window.  There was a plastic receptacle, much like small plastic urinals that you see occasionally installed in some porto-potys, that you were supposed to throw change in.  In fact, there was a big red arrow pointing to the thing, with a symbol of coins underneath it.
 Michael hurled the coins out the window of the still moving car.  The sound of them hitting the ground and bouncing off of the wall was barely audible over the car’s engine.  Then he rolled the window back up.
A mile or so down the road I turned to Michael and asked,  “What the hell was that?”
“I don’t know, D.  It sure was something, that’s for sure.”
“You missed all of the coins.  Technically we didn’t pay the damn toll.”
“Yes, well, technically,” replied Michael, turning to me, “you just gotta bro it on out.”
He was right.  What was done was done.  At least we had finally made it to Wisconsin.
“So, you saw the sign back there, right?” I asked Michael.  “The one that said, “Welcome to Wisconsin”?” 
“What sign?  I thought you said we were still in Illinois.”

God Damns the Barbecue Man

    “Goddamn it’s hot!” I thought as I went to my car.  I took off my white formal over shirt and fetched my wallet out of the trunk and slammed the lid down, hard.  I was on my “lunch break”, more accurately the endless daily temporal expanse between my split shifts at the Japanese restaurant where I waited on tables.  And goddamn, it was hot.
    I checked my pockets:  “Goddamn no cigarettes!”
    So, off I headed across the baking half-empty shopping center parking lot toward the “Cigarettes Cheaper”.   As I pushed through the doors I saw that there were three old guys languishing in line to buy expensive exotic cigars.  They each held the cigar packages in their fat old hands as they had probably had candy bars when they were children. 
    “Goddamn old-timers, so slow!” I thought to myself, captured behind them in line.  They stood there, all three pot-bellied and suspendered and baseball-capped.  Two of them were having a gravely voiced conversation about guns and landscaping.  One guy favored guns to pass his retirement, the other landscaping.
    “You should come over sometime, see my collection,” said one.
    “Yeah, and you should come over sometime and see my yard,” said the other.
    Eventually it became my turn.  I paid for my single pack of clove cigarettes, asked for a book of matches and left in a hurry as if I had somewhere to go.
    I headed back across the parking lot to the local market.  It was called “the Apple Market” and the theme there was one of unconditional friendliness toward its customers.  One aspect of this theme was their longtime policy of providing free little shot-glass-sized portions of coffee to customers.  Once inside I immediately filled up three of the little micro-sized styrofoam cups up with “French vanilla premium blend”, added a little cream and sugar to each one and, trying my best to ignore the disapproving stare of the woman in the green apron emblazoned with the cheery Apple Market logo, carried all three outside to a bench.
    I sat down.  It was hot, but at least it was in the shade.  And at least I wasn’t serving sushi.  I lined up the little cups underneath the bench.  I lit up a cigarette and had a long drag.  Then I picked up one of the cups and took a sip. One time a waitress that I had worked with had tried to convince me that it was preferable to drink hot beverages on hot days than cold ones, the theory being that with a cold beverage in your gut the body has to heat up more to bring the stomach contents up to normal body temperature.  This had always sounded like bullshit to me, but, alas, there were no free mini iced coffees at the Apple Market, so there I was, gingerly sipping a piping-hot beverage in the dull midday heat of August. 
    I had over an hour and a half to kill.  I took my notebook out of my bag and opened it to a blank page.  I stared blankly at the lines on the blank page and the lines stared blankly back up at me.  Silence.  It was obvious: we simply had absolutely nothing to say to each other. 
    “Goddamn blank page of a day,” I thought to myself, looking up to squint out at my surroundings.  The Petaluma Plaza Shopping Center: Radio Shack, Ross, K-Mart, Longs, JC Penny, Sizzler, goddamn Army/Navy recruiting office...
    Just as I closed my notebook along came my friend Billy.  He was a young, multiply pierced, yet clean-shaven lad who worked at the music supply shop next to “Fuji”, my Japanese place.  He had just moved into town and was thus very friendly to me, especially when he heard that I, like he, was a musician.  He was one of those flailing young artists caught between being the idealist guitar player who hadn’t quite gotten his material up and a burgeoning computer programmer with no in.  Yet another child of California caught between Bohemia and the Silicon Valley.
    “Hey Damian,” he said, sitting down next to me on the bench.  Then, “hey, could I bum a-“
    “Sure,” I interrupted, taking a clove from the pack and handing it to him.  I was only allowing myself one cigarette a day, for fear of falling into the realm of the full-blown nicotine addict, and cloves came in packs of twenty, so I was always very happy to give them away. 
    “Right on,” replied Billie as I lit up a match for him.  He leaned into the match, his face young and smooth and somehow not sweaty at all, regardless of the heat.  Kids like him always make me feel old; them with their whole pointless future to look forward to and me already living in mine.  Billy took a drag and I waved the flame from the match.
    We talked for some time about the vanguard of music computer software and such.  Young musicians always like talking about the newest music software.  They love comparing stories and technical stats.  I can always hold up my end, but, to be honest, when it comes down to it I don’t even know what kind of computer I have.  I’ve just ended up with a certain set up and that’s it.  Still, I had a lot of time to pass, and talking electronica with Billy seemed better than driving my car across hot-ass cross-town traffic to my apartment, just to have to fight my way back through in an hour or so. 
    The conversation seemed to be reaching the half-hour mark, with Billy doing most of the talking.  He was telling me of a hot new program called “Tracker” and how I had to have it or else perish in a technologically outdated wasteland when I noticed a sudden breeze picking up seemingly out of nowhere.  It appeared as if it had gathered up all of the leaves from the parking lot and was swirling them lazily about in front of us.  It coaxed one of my two empty styrofoam cups into it’s collection and then Billie and I watched, our conversation quelled, as it quickly began to pick up force, now resembling a mini-tornado as it headed away from us across the parking lot.
    Then, seemingly for no reason, the force of this mini-twister seemed to triple just as it reached a spot in the lot occupied by a small tent structure where a man employed by the market had been barbequing tri-tip steak sandwiches.  The tent was basically a shade structure, a white nylon roof supported by steal poles that ended in cement-filled tires for stability, under which the barbecue man was running four or five different coal grills.  There was also a heavy-looking folding table with condiments galore and other sundry items pertaining to the grilling and serving of tri-tip steak sandwiches. 
    The man stopped whatever he was doing as Petaluma’s first tornado began pelting him and his equipment with leaves and other parking lot debris.  He tried in vein to hold down his stuff, but napkins and styrofoam cups and cardboard boxes began to swirl about him with great force.  Then the strength of the thing stepped up another exponential notch, taking on the appearance of an angry outdoor poltergeist, tearing the roof from its poles and sending it flapping off into the sky like just another napkin.  The poles themselves swung around crazily on their round concrete-filled tire bases, one of them tipping over and landing with a crash against one of the steal barbecues.  A cloud of grease and napkins and bottles and raw meat and cooked meat and garbage formed, out of which leapt the barbecue man, his hands protecting his head from the violent swirling insanity, abandoning his post to the vicious elements, covered with grease and barbecue sauce, attempting now only to save his own life!
    “Goddamn!” I said aloud.
    All of this had taken place in only about thirty seconds.  It had been such a calm day!  No wind at all.  All of a sudden it was as if the tornado had realized this and stopped its merciless hazing of the barbecue man, first moving off about ten feet away and then factoring itself out mathematically to zero in thin air.  All that was left behind was a pile of garbage, the barbecues themselves (these were huge dark cast iron beasts, probably weighing hundreds of pounds each), a pale, shaken barbecue man and a hot calm Summer day.  A few seconds later the tent cloth fell from the sky like a deflated weather balloon, landing on the concrete about 15 feet from the rest of the wreckage. 
    Billy and I just stared for some time, both of us totally speechless, wondering if the twister would return, and then, when it didn’t, got up and went to check on the barbecue man. As I got closer, I could see that he was middle aged, middleweight and halfway bald.  He wore a now filthy green apron.  He had a sizeable cut on his head and the hair he did have was stuck out comically in all directions.  Surrounded by the wreckage he resembled a mad-scientist barbecue cook in the aftermath of the violent backfiring of a recent experiment.  Perhaps he had been working on a new, more efficient way to fuel the grills, or maybe he had erroneously tried to combine pork and a beef to make “Bork”, a hybrid grilled cuisine of his own invention, but unfortunately the enzymes of the two animals had combined to form some new highly volatile compound.  
    Some of the other employees had heard the commotion and had already come out to see if he was alright.  All about him they stood in their green aprons, walking gingerly about the puddle of unknown liquid that was seeping all about under the piles of barbecue-related wreckage.  Some sort of grease was splattered on one of the surrounding cars in the lot, obscuring its windshields with an opaque haze. Another car had a hood freshly adorned with a smear of barbecue sauce. Only three of the original four tent poles remained standing.
 “It just blew the whole thing apart” the barbecue man was telling them.  Most of them were giving him weak looks of disbelief.  However, a few of them had seen the incident, or at least part of it, and were hesitantly beginning to come to the barbecue man’s aid in explaining what had happened. It really had just blown the whole thing apart.
    Although the man seemed like he had more than enough people concerned over his welfare, for some reason I still felt like I should say something.
“Are you okay man?” I asked.  “I saw the whole thing from over there,” I added, gesturing toward the bench. 
“Yeah,” he said, to which he added, “man, that was some strong shit!”
“Where did the ketchup and mustard jars go?” asked an employee.
“I don’t know, man...” replied the barbecue man in a far off, defeated manner.  Someone handed him a piece of cloth for the gash on his head.  It turned out that the injury had occurred when the giant folding table for the condiments and such had been lifted up and tossed about in the chaos.  It now laid upside-down in the muck.  Had the barbecues not been so steady and designed with covers that locked on tight the barbecue man would have probably ended up resembling a piece of medium-rare steak himself from the hot coals that probably would have taken flight.
Billy and I decided to stroll back to our bench.  Once there, we sat down just as we had been during the whole incident.
“Have you ever seen anything like that before?”  I asked him.
“Not here in California,” he replied.  “I’ve seen some pretty mean dust-devils back out in Arizona, but never one that cranked it up like that.  That was really something...” he trailed off as he reached into his backpack and took out a large sandwich that he had been saving.  It looked real good, some sort of barbecued meat surrounded by hearty French bread and wrapped in silver foil. 
“Where’d you get that?” I asked.
Billie pointed at the barbecue tent mess as he began laughing through a mouthful of sandwich. 
“Hey, watch out man, that thing might be cursed!” I joked.  Billy continued chewing his mouthful.  “Well, that proves it, God’s a vegan!” I chortled.  Billy let out a snort of air from his nostrils.  Then I adopted what I thought would be God’s own booming tenor, saying, “Feel the wrath of God, meat man!” as I motioned toward a small spot on the bench with my pinky finger, then adding “this is what you get for cooking up my beautiful creatures!”  Billy covered up his mouth as if he was about to lose his lunch.    
Just then a middle-aged woman rode up on a gray vintage bicycle.  She stopped in front of us and quickly dismounted.
“Would you like a clove cigarette?” I asked enthusiastically.  The twister had lifted my spirits and plus the lady appeared to be holding her looks together pretty well, sporting little-girl pigtails and a tight baby-blue t-shirt.  The bike seemed playful as well, all retro with plastic red, white and blue tassels hanging from the handlebars.  
“No thanks!” she replied with a girlish grin.  Her voice was unbelievably raspy while still sounding like a five-year old’s.  I found myself perversely intrigued. 
“Hey,” I said, arching my eyebrows “there’s free coffee inside the market, you know.”
“Free?  Oh yeah?” she asked. 
“Right near the front.” I told her.
“Cool!” she replied.  She was looking more wrinkled to me than at first.  Still, I was interested.  She put the bike up on its kickstand.  
“Hey, you missed the tornado!” I exclaimed.
“The what?!” shouted Girlwoman with cartoonish disbelief.
Billy finally swallowed and substantiated my claim, “a huge whirlwind just took apart the barbecue man’s set-up over there,” he said.  Girlwoman followed Billy’s finger to the scene of the incident. 
“Wow......” she uttered.  She stood there, looking across the lot at the mess.
“And now I’m eating this here cursed sandwich,” added Billy.
“What?” asked Girlwoman, her gaze returning to us.
“Go in and get some coffee,” I said.
“Will you guys watch my bike?” she asked, shifting her weight and sucking on her little finger.
“Of course.”  I said. 
Girl woman looked at the both of us with a child-like distrust.  After all, we were strangers. 
“Okay!” she burst out suddenly with a spooky smile and ran into the market.  Billy and I looked at each other and both shrugged our shoulders simultaneously and then laughed at that.  A few seconds later she returned with her little styrofoam cup of free coffee.
“How many sugars did you put in your coffee?”  she asked me.
“One.” I replied, to which she burst out
“I put three!”
“Three?!” exclaimed Billy, adopting the same grown-up talking to a child tone that I had been using, “in that little cup?”
“Yeah!” replied Girlwoman triumphantly.  “I like sweet stuff!  Do you guys like sweet stuff?” she asked, somehow without a hint of sexuality.
“Not me,” said Billy, “I’m hyperglycemic.  Sugar gets me all hyper and then I just want to sleep.”
“Hey, that’s what coffee does to me without the sugar,” I said, mostly to Billy.
“Oh not me!” cried Girlwoman, eyes wide.  “I never feel anything!” She was shouting all of this without a trace of sarcasm.  “Hey!  How old are you guys?” she asked.
“25,” said I.
“18,” said Billy.
“Well I’m fifty!” she exclaimed with a strange pride.  Had she fifty fingers she would have no doubt been holding them up to show us.
“Are you serious?” I asked, somewhat facetiously.  I had thought her to be around 40. “I would have figured you to be around 35!” I told her.
“No.....I’m old!” she replied.  “Fifty!”  she repeated.  Then she got back on her bike.  She had finished her shot of coffee and had placed the cup neatly in the garbage can opposite us. 
“You’re not that old!” I said, playing along.  “You’re lying!” I called out to her as she began to ride away.
“No!  I’m old!” she said over her shoulder.  “But I’ve got a new boyfriend so that’s okay!” she added.
“Is he young? “ I called out to her.
“Oh yeah!” she yelled back.
“Well, there you go!” I shouted, not knowing what else to say.
She rode off into the parking lot. 
Why had she stopped to talk to us in the first place?  She didn’t want cigarettes, she bought nothing at the market and hadn’t had any idea about the free coffee.  Had she known about the coffee but not let on?  Had she thought we were older?  I thought she liked younger guys.  And had there actually been a tornado?  What was going on?
Billy and I discussed these mysteries briefly before Billy rose from the bench.
“Half-hour lunch-breaks suck dick.” he said.  It seemed to me that it had been a lot longer than half and hour since he had sat down to bum a smoke.  Billy gathered up his empty sandwich wrapper.  “I’ll catch ya later, man,” he said, extending his young smooth hand out for a slap of five.
“Hey, beware the wrath of God’s pinkie,” I said as we slapped palms, then I pointed mine at him; “you may be next!”  He laughed quietly as he headed back to work.
I sat there, alone once again.  I could feel the stale heat radiating off of the parking lot.  I looked at my watch: still 45 minutes left to kill before the dinner shift. I knew it was going to be a slow one, too, on account of the heat.  People didn’t seem to go for sushi as much during this type of weather.  Maybe it was the thought of all that hot sake and tea.  I guessed that would mean that they didn’t buy my co-worker’s “hot day/hot beverage” theory either.
I overheard a bit of conversation from over by the barbecue ruins.
“ where did the mustard go?”  said a woman’s voice.
“I told you before, I don’t know!” yelled back the barbecue man, to which he added, “Goddamn!”