Fear And Loathing In An Arizona Cafe

Many years ago I was en route to somewhere in Arizona driving on a two lane desert road with no mileage markers delineating the distance betweeen towns. I was not sure how long it would take to reach where I was supposed to be going as my car raced across mile after mile of arid terrain, the road weaving back and forth like an asphalt snake.

Occasionally a gas station loomed above the horizon, and soon after morphed into a mirage fading in the rearview mirror. Most of the stations were abadoned, their doors and windows boarded up with wood slats and pumps rusting in the noonday heat.

It was almost dark when I approached a nondescript cafe adjacent to a green neon sign flashing “Eat Gas.” A soft tinkling of bells announced my arrival, and the jukebox was playing “Runaway” by Del Shannon as I staggered toward a row of shabby booths. Soon after sitting down I beckoned to a scarecrow waitress in a nearby booth dressed in a faded yellow dress gnawing a toothpick.

My order of vegetable soup and iced tea was met by the waitress’ raspy-voiced reply “Is that all you want, honey?” A few minutes later I watched her lazily ladle some orangeish slop into a red plastic bowl, spilling some of the contents over the edge and onto the counter.

After a long dusty day on the road I was becoming increasingly annoyed and agitated by the waitress’ tortoise-like service and lackadaisacal attitude. Despite my disgust I somehow stifled a scream and remained calm while slowly slurping and swallowing the tasteless liquid. As I reached into my pocket to pay the bill, the waitress asked if I had enjoyed the meal. “Yes very much thank you”, I replied, “and I was wondering if the soup was homemade?” “No,” she said, “it came from a can.”

I left without leaving a tip and continued to drive all night with no end in sight.(to be continued)

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