Sofrito | Fred Arroyo
Sleeping In | Micah Bateman
On The Road Again | Tyson Blanquart
Kohlrabi | Rebecca Bodicky
Chili-Mac | Michael Castro
Breakfast with the New Madrid | Ian Dorward
Delicious | Hilary Hitchcock
Transmigrated Duck Heart | Thom Fletcher
Improvising | John Garcia
Lines in the Van, Lines in the Sand | Chris King
Hermetic Rice | K. Curtis Lyle
Don't Forget About Your Veggies | s.c. truckey
Mastication | Brett Underwood
Tables | Justin Visnesky
Mastication | by Brett Underwood
It wasn’t always like this: your mind: scrambled eggs with ketchup.
At times when you were alive and sure of it, you’re senses were on fire.
You pulled off the highway just as they were dulled and found the perfect place to do what humans do.
And you did.
The booths were empty and you took your pick.
There was time to settle in and take a sip of that first cup of coffee. It was the first you’d allowed yourself in 900 miles, since an incident with a deer under your rig and then a bored game warden who kept ogling your teenage hitchhiker.
Hey, I’m gonna eat this apple and let you tell the story.
So I’m in this cheeseball diner somewhere in the western part of Mississippi.
Fuckin’ Eightball Soup, Mississippi.
There is enough clucking going on in this fucking henhouse that you can sense a symphony in the sound of this commune off-the-road, and just when you are about to set it to a beat of your Kenworth crossing the struts in the highway, an exchange takes your fancy.
“You won’t break the rules”, this bitch with his back to my booth says, when the buck-toothed carrot-top waiter approached him. I mean this fucker was skinny and orange and had fucking green hair. I heard his sleeve rip a bit as his sneakers screeched to a halt and coffee cups clacked together.
”I’m sorry,” the gopher apologized in mock defense as he mentally mounted an offense against his urge to quell an assault before barking, “What?”
“Food”, this stinky fucker behind me said, “You promised food.”
At this point, imagine it is a 1970s radio spot from someone like the fatman, Charles Kuralt. The voice that buttered your pancakes and made it O.K. that you didn’t finish your oatmeal while the VC mounted sinewy attacks and your Mom plopped around the kitchen in a stupid fucking perm.
“The sign says “food”, the cat says, sounding like the fat man.
Get the warmth of the voices, though this may seem like an odd repartee. But the exchanges will lose all of their hostility if they are imagined in such a tone. They drip down over your blueberry waffles like hot Aunt Jemima as if you’ve blotted out that part of your brain that responds to the fight-or-flight instinct.
“Yes,” the waiter said, taking a step back and like this, releasing his sleeve from the clutches of the stranger and shining a cute glimpse at the wackjob.
“Reformed milksops clamber for cous cous and Emmy Hennings craves kelp, Sir.
I shall return to fill your needs," said this booger-topped Q-tip says, though I admit that he skillfully donned a smirk and was off.
Shit, Man! Take it easy on that apple. I’m tryin’ to tell a story over here.
So I can hear this freak behind me steaming.
“Give me what the cannibals are having,” he’s thinking and fuming, his fingers now digging for a cheap smoke or perhaps the fabric clinging at the space between his buttocks as he fidgets, causing the silverware to clatter against my water glass.
Anyway, motherfucker finally settles down and I was able to do so myself.
Now, were it not for my hunger and curiosity, you might, at this point, think that I turned to the gentleman and asked if he’d like a bite of my Twinkie, but instead I asked myself which film of the 99 that they shot about Glenn Gould this enchilada most reminded me of, and while I’m wondering, the billboard shining above my truck changed to indicate that rice was at a dangerously low level…and I really was wondering whether the menu offered Moo Goo Gai Pan, that gentle chicken dish that tends to ease my gastrointestinal woes on many a trip like that one…and besides, I had eaten that Twinky in my dreams east of Fresno yesterday morning. So, my hunger and the coffee are in mad communion and all I see on the menu is grease.
Another face is in mine now and I hear myself order, “Jell-O with whipped cream, I guess.”
“Green or red?” the face asked.
“Green”, I muttered while remembering your mother’s garden…and all those cucumbers. Geez dude! What the fuck?
Man, this is a good apple.
Man, shut the fuck up, I’m tellin’ a story. You said so.
All right, all right. Go ahead.
Aw, fuck it. I’m hungry. You wanna go to Sloppy’s?
Oh yeah! Let’s chow!
Brett Lars Underwood is a bartender and a gadabout who writes, promotes and produces happenings and mishaps. He's quicker with the stink eye than verbal reprimands and favors the brushback pitch over preemptive warfare. He has the wingspan of an albatross.