Tone Liv And Decay, The Llama – Gas Station Sushi
- Machine Wash Music
- US - Original
Limited Edition of 200 Copies.
Years back I was paid cash to drive a rig from Rantoul to some shithole town in Minnesota. The cash told me not to ask questions, so I didn’t. In a cul-de-sac at the edge of nowhere, two big-knuckled lumpers attached a trailer to my Kentworth. I didn’t know what was in the trailer and I didn’t want to know. It didn’t matter. The same rules always applied. Drive like a motherfucker, get the load there pronto, and avoid the
I headed out on a cold, sunny morning, sticking to the big slab. The open road. I listened to Waylon Jennings and some ratchet jaw rhapsodizing about the beauty of America. I couldn’t see it. I’ve been from Beantown to Idiot Island and America to me was busted out highways and rusted train trestles. Potholes and lot lizards. Lanky, long-
armed pistoleros and the charred husks of dead cities. America: a whore on her back.
Short stop, a voice on the cb said. Short stop, come back.
The land was flat until it wasn’t. I entered Minnesota at midnight, hungry and punchy, heart full of rage. America is so big you find yourself in stretches of land emptied of signs and people. No power lines and no mile markers, just the scarred land and ancient stones.
A gas station emerged from the darkness, bright red Xs against a bone-white illuminated sign. I pulled in, gassed up on go-go juice and went inside the halogen-glowing box. A nervous, bean-pole yokel stood behind the cash register, eyeballing me. Just a kid, really. I flashed a malicious smile and turned my back on him.
I made my way to the deli case. Day-old sandwiches wrapped in thick plastic. Fleshy pieces of oblong meat spinning on aluminum rods. Rancid coffee in an oily orange-tipped carafe. The gamut of junk food surrounded me, with smudgy styrofoam packages of potato and macaroni salad piled in heaps. The whole tableau a buffet of cornstarch and msg and artificial flavoring and packaging so vivid the colors radiated.
My life a procession of lime green and pink neon, cornflower blue and lipstick red, greasy beef sticks and cracklin’ pork rinds, cheap-o beer and gas station sushi.
I bought a couple of colas and a three-pound bag of boiled peanuts. The beanpole stuttered through my change. I blasted him with silent hate. I exited, walked to the edge of the forest and shook out a cigarette. I stood and smoked in the frigid night. I looked at the gas station, laid out in front of me like a cheap painting. A slight, hooded
figure stood in front of the attendant, waving a gun in his face. I watched. It was a woman, you could tell by the shoulders, she must have been in there while I was shopping. The beanpole handed over two plastic bags of junk food and all the cash from the register. The hooded woman waved the gun in his face and then pop pop muzzle
flash. I flicked the smoking butt into the grass, ran to my rig. I turned the keys and toggled the gear shift and drove off. For an hour, I was sure the black-hooded woman was hiding in the trailer.
I stopped at a rest-a-ree 100 miles west, another middle of nowhere bunker with toilets and sinks and rough trade. Two old pros leaned against the luminous soda machines. They popped gum, twirled purses and made bored, do-me faces with hands on their cocked out hips. I approached. I didn’t make eye contact. How much, I asked. For you, darling, one of them said, let’s go with thirty. I doled out the cash and we
walked over to my truck—glistening in the bruised, pre-dawn gloaming—and the busted out lot lizard slid her fingers into my palm and held my hand. I never found out if the attendant died or recuperated or if I imagine the whole thing. Against the long highways that cut through the primeval forests and looming mountains, what does any of it matter.
My dad’s childhood advice rings in my ears: take the long view, rut when you can and die without screaming. That’s an American life.
The prostitute did her thing then hopped out of the rig without word. I tried to sleep but couldn’t. I had only the taste of sugary ashes in my mouth.
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