by Garrett Hongo
At the grill, the Indian girl with buckteeth and dimples serves us a round
of coffee and sweet rolls. We’re waiting for the guy at Henley’s Texaco,
down the street, to find us a fan belt that’ll fit. It’s early, the sky’s still in
the john, shaving, and the sports page has to wait to get in. Everybody’s
grumpy. We sit around, jab at raisins with our forks, and try to look as
tough as the waitresss.
Her name’s Rita. Her brothers jump fires and pump
oil in Alaska. Her sisters string beads and make babies back on the Res.
Her ex is white, a logger who threatened never to come back and didn’t.
She doesn’t hold any grudges. That’s why she’s so nice, why she pops her
gum filling the salt and pepper shakers, why she adjusts her girdle so we
can see, why the egg spot on her dress doesn’t show.
Outside, the sun eases up over
the parking lot, scrambles across the freeway, and runs for cover behind a
pile of pumpkin-colored clouds. 99 starts shuffling its deck of cars and
pickups, getting set to deal a hand of nine-to-five stud. We don’t watch.
This is Redding, and ain’t nothing thing going on besides the day shift.
Alan says, “Look, there’s Venus,” and
points to a piece of light draining the sky. I want to order a country-
fried steak, talk about the Dodgers, but there isn’t time. Lawson hums a
few chords, stirring the changes with his coffee spoon.
Rita cruises back like
a bus bound for Reno, starts dealing some ashtrays. She says, “How’s it
I answer for all of us—“Hey, Rita. It’s almost gone.”
Last updated September 09, 2022