Charles Harris
V4:E8 August 2002


The softly rounded waitress says she's Heather.
She looks too young to be awake.
Coffee? Yes, please. CreamNo, thank you.
She pours coffee, sets out whitener anyway,
puts her pencil to her order pad, ready.
Well, what do people get here? What do they rave about?
She folds her arms, drums her pencil against her chest.
Nobody raves here, she says.
I wonder if this means
I should order straight off the menu,
nothing on the side, no extras, everything as-is.
I wonder if this means
if she had, for example, visited No. 14 last night at the Eagle Cove,
it would have been straight,
quiet and straight, as purposeful as store-bought,
no relishing afterwards, perfunctorily straight.
But I ask her anyway
How's the bacon? Thick? Fried or microwaved?
I'll see, she says.
She pivots on a squeak and goes.
I'm left with ice water. Coffee.
Non-Dairy Creamer. Paper packets of sugar naming state flowers.
I didn't care enough about the bacon to make her leave.
The state flower of Iowa is the Wild Rose. Minnesota,
White and Pink Lady Slipper.
We're out of bacon. Sorry.

Outside, there's a sudden, long skidding of tires
and the slow moan of metal scrawling heavily across asphalt.
A cattle truck, a load of hogs.
lost on the curve and on its side,
glides in an arc. Wrenching open as it slides,
hogs and hog parts spill out,
blood, shit, entrails, legs, heads.
The screech stops in another sound --
blaring car horns and animal cries --
as the live pigs scatter,
colliding with cars,
running up the hills.

The cooks emerge from the kitchen,
stare dumbfounded out the windows.
I study Heather watching,
precise mascara, a child's freckles,
the sweep of her sandy-red hair into an unkempt knot.
I want to smell her hair and smooth it
where it strays loose along her neck.
I start to tell her about another time
when a truck slowed too late for the ramp
off US-75 in Topeka. How the inside wheels lifted
and the trailer scraped the metal rail and flipped,
twisting off the overpass in a simple pirouette.
Pigs' feet showered down like heavy rain.
Then I spot the sheen in her eyes.
Across the street, a cop draws his revolver
and shoots a hog pinned beneath the trailer.

My eggs are cold now.
I dab at the stiff yolk with limp toast
as flickers of blue and red police lights
careen across the pie case.

Location: Lawrence, Kansas
Occupation: Seeking employment

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