Let's call it Acme, Ohio. That's close enough
I recognized the town as I pulled into it. A railroad and a US highway criss-crossed through it and
main street sported several beauty shops, a grocery store that had fed generations, and a bar called the
I had come to deliver and pick up, no more, no less, and I was told I could park at the factory that whizzed out Ford parts to keep America going.
So that I did.
First thing I noticed, is that I had no cell service, I smirked to my old friend AT&T, tucked it away and wondered what I'd do in Acme, Ohio at seven PM on a Tuesday night. It was crystal cold, the snow was heaped high on the boulevards, but I decided to take a walk anyway.
I started noticing things. The train whistle howled forlornly but the train never came, and the locals seemed accustomed to this as they crossed the tracks as if they didn't exist.
I noticed that the traffic on the U.S. highway drove through like there was a Rottweiler chewing on its own ass.
And the houses wore thin curtains showing my way to the lamp next to the couch where papers were read, babies bounced, and nights buried. There seemed to be a million of these houses; blocks and blocks and blocks of them.
The nicer ones had cut their swath with a snow blower, the darker porch-tilted ones had shoveled with whatever was available, or not at all. There were three pizza places on main street, as there always is in a town like this, and Kayla's Beauty Salon was up for rent.
Kayla had had enough.
I was cold but only because I hadn't dressed for this.
See, this is where I grew up, a thousand Kaylas away, and the flood of forgotten broke the dam and washed me over the rapids, driving me to shelter at the Hunter's Brew.
It was the canker on Acme's ass and I felt uncomfortably at home.
The bar maid was a fifty something we'll call Tina because in another life she had been Tina, but now she just was. There was a guy with too many miles on his dreams and two not-pretty-enoughs singing harmony. There was a girl maybe thirty-five decked out in silver shine and tight jeans trying hard not to look desperate as the guy she was desperate for struggled to make his escape.
And there was me.
I ordered a beer which came in a can but only cost a buck and a half as NCIS played on the scratchy TV.
The flood built and breached the banks as I remembered.
The guy played a few songs on the jukebox and I watched Tina sway and move to the rhythm on her inside bar stool, as a patriotic song played about some soldiers giving all. I watched her eyes close and her lips were right on time to whatever it was that was plucking her sad heart's g-string..
One of the not-pretty-enoughs asked me if i wanted to share their garlic bread and I politely said no.
See, you have to be careful not to take their bread or they'll butter the night with your soul.
I stepped out back in the alley for a smoke and a look around.
I saw cars that were gonna run if the friend of that friend ever got out of jail. There was a yard fenced in where some mongrel sensed my presence and barked to let the town know it had been found,
and there were those apartments; the ones up rickety steps where a person could shack cheap if they had no where else to sleep.
And also, there was the Dodge Stratus. Tina's ride. Her last hope that had really died years ago and I wondered how she made the payment
I went back in, finished my beer and walked out, back through the blocks of nowhere.
Christmas lights were still blinking two months after Christmas and it all might have been serene if not for the flood and the knowing why.
See, I lived in those apartments. I fucked Tina. I threw sticks at that dog. And that guy never showed up to fix my car.
Forty five percent of graduates of Acme High would find work in one of the local factories. Forty five percent would marry them. At best, they'll have a few kids, join the volunteer fire department, and get one of the better houses on one of the better blocks.
There'll be softball leagues and parades and family reunions and now and then the guy will show up and the car will get that timing chain it needs. But in my book, they're going no where in three-quarter time.
I know, I came from there.
I don't know yet where somewhere is but I keep looking down Highway 224 and I keep waiting for that train to catch up to its whistle.
That's not to say these people aren't happy, just that i can't be one of them.
When the girl with the silver trinkets had realized the guy who wasn't her husband wasn't coming back, and the guy who was must be wondering, she said to Tina, "Well, I guess I'll go back to my prison. Fuck, my life sucks." And walked out.
I had walked out just a few steps behind like a ghost who had lost his amnesia.
Tomorrow I'll be in another town, maybe a city, maybe a Gulf Coast beach, maybe on a mountain top somewhere in the Rockies.
I haven't found my somewhere yet but I'll keep looking.
Tomorrow night Act II will begin where Act I left off at the Hunter's Brew with the same players with the same lines minus a ghost with amnesia.