Don’t matter where I am, every fucking diner looks exactly the same, more or less. This one’s a little cleaner. That’s about it for difference.
Couple’a truckers sitting along the counter. Four guys sitting in a booth at the back, making time with the waitress. Nice legs. She’s flirting back but I’m thinking that’s got more to do with getting a decent tip than anything else. She drops the smile the minute she walks away from the table. One other waitress behind the counter and a cook.
We got a quick once over when we came in. I’m used to watching for that shit. People are watching you and pretending not to. Then they disappear and you know the fucks are calling somebody. Obvious as fuck when you know what you’re looking for. Nobody’s paying attention to us cus we look normal. If I’d'a come in hanging onto Rita’s arm, people sure as fuck’d be watching us but nobody gave us a second look.
The kid scoots into the booth, looking out the window like we didn’t just come from out there and his mother moves in beside him. I sit across from them, facing the door so’s I can see whoever’s coming in.
“Mom, look, see, they’ve got stacks, right here.”
The two of them are leaning in close over the menu. Never seen a kid excited about pancakes before but we been living off shit from gas stations since this started so maybe he’s onto something there.
Rita’s looking up at me quick. Fucks left her with nothing, I gotta remember, so she’s gotta ask me. I’d'a paid anyway but I’m trying to think what it’s gotta be like to have to ask. I’d fucking hate it so I’m nodding.
“Have anything you want, kid.”
Can I tell you something? It felt fucking weird to say that. Good. I never been in that situation. Little fuck’s grinning at me as he closes up the menu and hands it to the waitress who’s writing it down. Rita don’t ask in words, just a quick look. I don’t say it out loud cus I think it’d embarrass her and there’s no point in that. Just don’t say nothing at all. Finally she orders and then I do.
Says it quiet and then she’s looking out the window. I don’t know if I’m supposed to say something but it feels like I’m supposed to. No fucking idea what so I don’t say nothing. Quiet don’t last. The waitress brings a couple of cups of coffee and some milk for the kid. Rita fixes her coffee and takes a sip and just like that, that fucking lost look is gone again, like all she needed was the caffeine to pull her shit together. More involved, even I get that.
Never really had much time for small talk, passing the time and shit. Between me and Matty, most of our stories were the same stories so we didn’t need to talk about small shit much. When we did, it wasn’t small or the small shit just seems like more now that he’s gone.
Guess she got tired of getting one word answers out of me and her and the kid are looking out the window, counting trucks, talking about cows and horses.
“Missed one,” I point out to the kid. Two trucks went past the window so close to each other that it looked like one. Just like that I’m up against the window with the fucking kid, pointing out trucks. It’s fucked up, right? Like what the fuck am I doing playing some road game with a kid. He gets bored with it pretty quick anyway and I sit back where I was, watching shit and getting a few more cups of coffee in me. Killing time, waiting for the phone to ring.
I spotted the trooper the second he pulled into the lot. Kid did too but he’s not jumping around, pointing and shit. I’ve only ever seen kids on TV do that. No fucking way any of the kids we grew up with would’a done that, yell and shit. We would’ve got smacked for it. Kid says it low and quiet, like a warning.
Rita don’t turn around but I catch her watching the cop car outta the corner of her eye and then she’s passing a piece of toast off her plate to the kid.
This isn’t new for either one of them. Kid’s munching on the toast, coloring on the back of a placemat with a cup of crayons the waitress left. Rita? She leans across the table and her hand covers mine, making me put down the coffee cup.
“I think we need to go back to that stand we passed a while back and pick up a flat of those berries.”
For a second I don’t know what the fuck she’s talking about. Small talk, passing the time of day. So I lean in and nod, like I’m really thinking about fucking berries or something and close in I get a good look at her. She’s tired and been through hell but fuck me can she pull it together when she’s got to. I met a lot of really stupid broads in my day, enough to know it when I see it, and she’s not stupid. She said she could help, so I let her.
“Ice cream too.”
Matty pulls his head up outta his coloring when I said that. Little fuck’s beaming at me and I got the feeling I just made a promise somewhere in there.
I know I stand out like a fucking sore thumb and that trooper should have noticed. He didn’t. I would have spotted it if he did. Nobody looked twice at us cus as fucked up as this started, we look like some family out for breakfast. We never did that when we was younger but I guess people gotta do it somewhere.
She don’t pull back quick when the guy leaves either. That would have looked off too, so we’re both playing along but I don’t know what else to say. She smiles at me and takes a quick look at Matty. Kid’s pushing the last bit of toast around on his plate making driving noises and fuck me if I didn’t feel like laughing out loud watching the little fuck. All this shit going on and what’s he doing, right?
“Maybe we should get out of here?”
I’m nodding at her and signaling the waitress for the check. That wary look is back on Rita’s face but she’s doing her best to hide it. Hard when you don’t know what the fuck is going on. Don’t even know where she’s going. Can’t plan for shit. Nothing I can do about it yet.
There’s a store beside the diner, like something offa postcard, with a big porch and everything. I point and the kid’s bouncing all over the place. Up the stairs and he’s holding the door for us, doing everything but telling us both to hurry the fuck up.
“Grab what you want, just stay close.”
I’m saying as I pick up another case of cold shit outta the cooler, piling some sandwiches and a couple bags of chips on top. She takes the offer and pays attention to the warning, staying in the same aisle with me. The kid pushes on my leg to get me to move out of the way, grinning up at me as he does it. Comes out of the cooler with ice cream and holds it up. He grabbed one for me.
“Grab that one too.”
I don’t eat that shit so he’ll probably get them both. One look from Rita up at the counter and that confirms it. I’m a fucking sap, I know. Like I should be glad nobody can see me do shit like this but I don’t really give a fuck. The kid’s happy.
It’s warming up when we get outside but Rita’s got her arms across her chest like she’s cold.
“What do we do now?”
“Go back and get some sleep. Gotta wait for a call.”
She’s nodding, reaching for the kid’s hand. Everything’s easier when you got a direction.
The motel room’s not much different than the one we were at before. Same concrete walls. Same two beds. TV. Nightstand between the beds. Bathroom. Outta habit I check all the rooms for exits, anything that’s gonna be a problem to me later on. It’s a habit, nothing personal.
“Matty, go wash your hands.”
The tension in the room spikes as she closes the door to the bathroom after the kid’s in there. Not much room but she’s standing about as far from the bed as she can. Last time, this shit didn’t go so good. She’s eyeing the bed.
I pick the bed by the door, grabbing a Coke and a bag of chips, turning on the TV, flicking through the channels.
“It don’t have to be like last time.”
Gotta hold back that little bit, like it could be that way if she fucks around and makes things difficult. The threat’s always gotta be there somewhere.
“I need a shower.”
Still wary so I’m not moving. With her, I got an idea how it’ll go if I do. She’ll either run or she’ll fight and with Matty stuck in the john, she’s gonna fight. So I’m not moving for shit, just switching through a few more channels until something halfway decent comes on.
“Kid’s fine out here.”
If I was closer I could tell if she was breathing or not but it sure as fuck don’t look like it now. Just like that, she’s nodding, turning back to the bathroom door and peeking in. Talking with the kid. Then he comes out and sits on the bed, swinging his legs back and forth, watching the TV.
Kid’s shaking his head. Not at me but at the fucking TV. Some stupid show where they filmed a bunch a guys fishing.
“You ever been, kid?”
Kid waits before he answers, looking like he’s really thinking about it.
“No. But look at them.”
He’s pointing at the screen and I gotta agree with the little shit. It looks fucking dumb.
“I never been either.”
Never been fishing. Never dressed up in stupid shit and shot at turkeys either, so what the fuck do I know about it. We end up watching it anyway, laughing until Rita gets out of the shower. She’s looking at the two of us when she gets out like she’s not quite sure what she’s walked into. Don’t say nothing.
Me ‘n the kid are just nodding but we don’t change the channel, just go on watching the two dumb fucks talking about bass. How the fuck they catch anything with a whole fucking crew, probably in the boat next to them, I don’t fucking know. Probably put a fish on the line when nobody’s looking. I don’t tell the kid but I wonder if he’d guess anyway. Seems like he’s not stupid. He’d figure it out.
She says please but it’s an afterthought. I got the ashtray next to me on the bed, about to light up, and she’s looking at me like she’s about to fucking yell at me but don’t want to. Not good for kids. Fair enough. Get up and move just out the door but I don’t close it.
The air’s clean up here. Never really noticed that before.
“It smells like snow.”
I move outta the way as she comes out and stands at the rail beside me, looking out across the parking lot. I don’t think she sees the same shit I’m seeing. She turns back and looks at the deck of smokes, don’t ask. I hand her one and light it for her. It does smell like snow, but far off. If it was the city it would be far off. I don’t know fuck all about what it would be here, but it’s got a cold smell to it. Just something in the wind.
We’re just bullshitting but it makes me wonder. I never seen snow outside of the city. Van’s probably got tires for it but I’m wondering if Malone’s guy is gonna set us up with a car that’s got the right tires or if I gotta get them fixed before we go on. Just like a woman to make more work with one fucking sentence, am I right?
She shrugs, still looking out over the lot. “It would help if I had an idea where you were taking us.”
Her shoulders tense up when she asks but that’s all she does, just tenses, like she’s not sure what I’m gonna do. Fuck it, what can it hurt. She’s not fucking stupid.
© copyright July 2009 xxxevilgrinxxx