Rituals

He was always busy goin’ somewhere; ‘cross town, out of town, in town; takin’ off in the middle of the night as she lay there asleep. Midnight excursions, he called em; fillin’ up the pick-up with regular out at the edge of town. Seemed like all his money went into that truck; what little money he had.

So, he’d get his gas station coffee, all watered down, with a couple of creams and sugars, light a cigarette and breath in the night air with the sweet smell of alfalfa lingerin’ ’round; the local farmers were harvestin’.

He reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out a quarter which he would toss and catch then place on the back of his left hand. Heads, he said, We drive west. Tails, we head east. The old man caught the coin in mid-air and called it. Heads, he said, right hand coverin’the left then slowly revealin’ it to be tails. He grinned, turned on the radio to some talk station, call-ins from ‘cross the country, talkin’ in half sentences, quarter phrases, nothing whole, nothin’ you could sink your teeth into. Just incredibly lonely people talkin’. Wantin’ to hear their own voices on the radio. He laughed.

And, he took off east towards the Ohio line. Drove on 30, big semis hoggin’ up the road, chasin’ bright tail lights ‘cross the state. Drove through towns like Delphi, Zanesville, all the way to the middle of Buckeye country where he’d stop at a diner for more coffee and cherry pie. He liked bein’ served by waitresses. This ginger one inparticular. Hey Jimmy, she’d say to him. The usual, he’d nod his head like a love struck teenage boy. First two buttons on her blouse were undone.

Jimmy was one of a few in the place. Worn out truckers eating high caloric breakfast complete with hash browns and buttered toast. They all had guts on em, includin’ Jimmy, whose little paunch stuck out over his belt. More coffee hon?, she asked. He said yes and please. The old man had manners. And, he looked out the windows to see the orange ball risin’ in the sky. Better be gettin’ home now, he mumbled, wishin’ he could stay just a bit longer. But no. Soon his wife would be wakin’ and the day would begin. Just like they always did.

So, he tipped her a five and bid ginger farewell. Got into his pick-up and began to drive back. Back to his small town, his small house, back to his small wife, and back to doin’ it again tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.

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