Grill and Chill

I ordered up the $6 Deluxe Cheeseburger Meal Deal
and sat by the window rubbing the road from my eyes
The babble of fast food voices blanket bombed my brain
The waitress was telling me to ‘enjoy’ without
the slightest
hint of
interest
in her thin voice

Everyone likes a window seat

She was just a kid doing menial work for a low wage
to go buy some shit to get high with her friends and forget
the mind numbing dullness of her meaningless existence
in this mid-western hicksville of horrors

To make matters worse
she only looked like Sissy Spacek in Carrie
I couldn’t help but think of her covered in blood
at the high school senior prom
as she disappeared through the swing door marked
‘Employees Only’

The food was disgusting
the soda watery and flat
I thought about Sissy Spacek naked in that shower scene
added ketchup to the fries and unconsciously
tuned in
to the conversation
going on between
the family in the seating booth opposite

The twin girls
dressed in identical but different colored summer dresses
sat upright and answered their mother’s questions diligently
The mother appeared twitchy and anxious
picking at her Caesar salad suffering I thought
from a case of serious over-parenting
She talked like a typical ‘helicopter’ mom
dissecting her precious girls’ every utterance
hovering over them
on the lookout
for potential
or imagined problems

No wonder they were so careful with their words
I named them the Test Tube Twins
the products of magical medicine
the hope and determination in a thousand failed fucks

They spoke of summer camp
their goals for the new semester
which books they should be reading before the end of year
their father more interested in his 1/2lb flame thrower
nodding along in agreement with everything his wife said
however nonsensical it sounded
licking his lips and jerking his head spasmodically

Unintentionally I caught the eye of the nearest girl
I smiled and winked and she nervously returned
a weak and worried stare
her father followed her gaze and found
the remnants of mine
He flew into a rage
first at her
then at me

You take your eyes off my daughter you disgusting pervert
I saw you looking her up and down like you wanna molest her
Do you hear me?
He was shouting through burger gristle
You turn away and don’t look back in this direction
else I’ll come over there and smash my fist in your goddamn face
You hear me?

I heard him alright
so did the whole restaurant
The silence was crushing
You just look away you hear?

I turned away but my eyes only found Sissy Spacek
bent awkwardly over a table
cloth in hand
head tilted in my direction
mouth open
work temporarily suspended

I felt the urge to push up her tiny black skirt
and force her face into the spilt salt and grime
telling her all the time to imagine it was a substance
for snorting
with a plastic straw
up her cute little
white trash nose

my pulse quickened
the feeling of injustice growing like an embolism
as I left the Grill and Chill
as I watched myself do all of those things
with every head turned in the direction
of my own misguided rage

(Everyone likes a front row seat.
Fucking Casey Affleck and Mel Gibson -
They’d give them both an Oscar for that)

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I Stole the Soul of Samuel Thomas

Was it okay to take his photograph?

He said yes

 

Canyon de Celly South Rim lookout and thunder

I’d been skirting the storm clouds since leaving Ganado

Aware at Chinle they threatened to catch up with me

The usual visitor centre

The park for lunch

Bread, cheese, tomatoes

Sweet mesquite potato chips

A dog, some trees, scattered picnic tables

Just me and some off-duty rangers

 

Is history ever planned?

He said yes

 

One thousand foot high sheer cliff faces

One thousand year old ancestral stronghold

Red rock scoured by ages

Sunrise and deluge

Teeter on the edge and relive the past

Bareback braves and gatherings

Col. Kit Carson in sixty three

Surrender and removal

Return and reclaim

 

Do you ever come back?

He said yes

 

Every spring and summer after the thaws

We open up the hogan with eight walls

The door facing east toward the rising sun

Pick a peach or two on the remaining tree

In days gone by the crop would be dried

Laid like sunsets on baked ledges

Preserved alongside the corn

Winter’s rainbows

Now I drive a pickup and live in town

 

How much? Ten bucks? I’ll be back

He said yes

 

It was part of the bargain

The waiting and negotiating

White European invader with single lens reflex

Follow the trail, find the clues

Read the unfinished story

Listen to the thunder applaud your glory

And see. Now I am ready to honour my word

The money buying his family time

Carefully skirting around the canyon between us

 

Did you paint that?

He said yes

 

It wasn’t that good

Some representation of things I knew not what

Spirits and stuff for tourists on the back of a board

Crude but hey, it’ll look good on my book shelf

But I didn’t say any of that

He was packing up

The storm clouds were catching up with us

Day turning to night

A time for retreat

 

Can I take your photograph?

He said yes

 

And posed without smiling

Held his artwork without pride

I held out my hand and we shook like men

Looked him in the eye but his was cast to the ground

An uneasy truce ensued

The first drops of rain falling first upon his cheeks

They all seeming to miss mine

I wondered did he ever smile

Samuel Thomas, Navajo, August 2016

 

It’s been nice meeting you I said

He said yes

 

And then, looking away

I have to be here

This is my home

This is my life

If I leave

If I have to go somewhere

It is like somebody broke my journey

I dream of hearing wild horses again

The sound of peaches falling into buckets

 

~

 

On the road out of Chinle

Still within the Indian reservation

The storm had come and gone heading north

Great floods of water surrounded shacks

Island trailer homes and tied-up dogs

The summer hail swept to the sides of roads

Eighteen-wheeler-dealers thundering through

And me? I’m on my way to Horseshoe Bend

The next stop on my whistle-stop tour de force.

 

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