by Eli S. Evans
Often, people visit highway rest stops because they need to use the restrooms from which they take their name, “rest stop”, but in this case my primary purpose (though I did use the restroom, seeing as I was there and it was there and so forth) was to acquire a Coca Cola, the reason being that I had been quite nearly falling asleep at the wheel, a dangerous proposition at any speed but especially at highway speeds, and as it happens, when I am quite nearly falling asleep at the wheel only a Coca Cola will wake me up – coffee, for example, is useless. Well, this particular rest stop was home, in addition to its restrooms, to a convenience store and various fast-food restaurants, only two of which were open, presumably due to current labour shortages nationwide. I went first to the convenience store, where I found only one register open – also owing to current labour shortages, I surmised – and an interminable line, and inasmuch as I intended for this visit to the rest stop to be brief, as one does, I preferred not to stand there interminably, waiting to make my purchase.
Yet and still, returning to the car without a Coca Cola could well have been a death sentence, and I also did not want to die, and certainly not in those circumstances, asleep at the wheel. I considered losing all hope; then it occurred to me that the restaurants at the rest stop probably also sold Coca Cola, and as there was no line at either of them I went directly to the one nearest the convenience store, where my hunch was corroborated: in a refrigerated cooler in front of the counter, beside heaps of premade salads and sandwiches, were bottled beverages lined up like soldiers in the long war against thirst and sluggishness, among them several Coca Colas. I placed one of these Coca Colas on the counter and was promptly attended to by a gentleman about whom I can’t say much because there is not much to say: he was regular by all accounts, neither young nor old, handsome nor homely, tall nor short, etc. When our transaction was completed, and the Coca Cola safely in hand, I thanked him, to which expression of gratitude he replied: “You got it, boss.”
But here’s the issue: I do not like to be called “boss.” In situations in which one might call me “boss”, my strong preference is to in its place be called “chief” or “home slice”, or, should my interlocutor be amenable to neither of the foregoing, as a last resort I am also willing to accept “broseph.” I explained all of this to the gentleman with whom I had just transacted calmly, raising neither voice nor fist, and then asked that in deference to my preferences and predilections, he repeat his farewell, this time replacing “boss” with one of the approved sobriquets. Perhaps also owing, at least in part, to the current nationwide labour shortage, which undoubtedly makes it difficult to fire someone for even that for which that individual previously would have been dismissed posthaste, the gentleman not only obstinately refused to accommodate my request but did so in an overtly hostile matter. Specifically, what he said was: “I’ll call you whatever the fuck I want… boss.”
Well, this was too much. If he’d simply denied my request, even with hostility, I may have let it pass, but to call me boss again, and moreover after a dramatic pause – no, it was just too much. Suffused with a spirit of vengeance, I grabbed one of the prepackaged salads from the cooler, opened it, and poured it right on the gentleman’s head, showering him in lettuce and croutons and fatty clumps of ranch dressing. In response, he clouted me repeatedly with a bag of frozen Italian meatballs – it must have been close at hand – before tearing the bag open and emptying its contents onto my own head. Stinking of parsley, basil and beef, I leapt over the counter by which we had until then been separated, picked up a pile of onions that had been caramelising on the grill with one of those big, flat turner spatulas, and flung them straight into the gentleman’s face. This caused him to cry out that he had been burned, but evidently the caramelised onions did not blind him, for the next thing I knew he’d begun stuffing pieces of so-called Texas toast into my various orifices and crevices, and though only God knows where he’d gotten that Texas toast seeing as this was not a Texas toast kind of restaurant at all, it really was filling me up, all this toast, not just with toast but also with rage. Practically raving, I grabbed the gentleman by the back of the head and shoved his face into a vat of cream of mushroom soup, thinking that maybe I would just go ahead and hold it there until he drowned. Alas, he proved not such an easy mark: like a fish, he wriggled free of my grasp and at the same time managed to grab hold of the soup ladle, with which he proceeded to deliver a stinging blow to my right temple. As I staggered about from the force of that blow, he retrieved a large metal bowl filled with macaroni and cheese and clapped it down onto my head like a big, gooey helmet.
Things might have gone on this way for a long time, maybe even eternally, but for the fact that, at what seemed to be the very same moment, we each noticed that the other was looking quite delicious in his current condition, and so, exchanging a nod of mutual understanding and assent, broke off our altercation and began eating one another. As it turned out, we were as delicious as we looked, and we ate and ate, that gentleman and I, until nothing was left of us but these words.
About the Author
Eli S. Evans just keeps on truckin.’ You can buy the DELIGHTFUL little book he did last year at the website for Moon Rabbit Books & Ephemera. You cannot buy the chapbook he did last year because it has sold out and/or excess copies have been incinerated. You can find his work all over the internet, along with pretty much everything else in the world except happiness. For that, you’ll have to wait for the metaverse, we think.
Ann Althouse: Iowa rest stop, 2067 (CC).