Lightly stabbed, wheezing and gripping the steering wheel, I saw you in the parking lot, your hair flying out, covering the face of your husband. Your groceries bagged, your be-hatted husband carrying them. Blood through my fingers, now dripping on to the seat, I shifted slightly, painfully, and watched as you passed.
Ice cream soda, twenty-nine cents. Beneath the panoply of lights, gaudy tubes of gold and red, she took our order. Just the one? she asked as I, quickly checking the coins in my palm, nodded in affirmation.
Denny’s. As we pulled out you saw the sign for the slots and told me how you’d never played the slots. I considered stopping and later regretted that I didn’t.
Just the two of them, Mac in shades and a cape, against the wall, both smoking. Meet us outside Ken’s you said, and bring cash, plenty of cash. Pete with his hat, complaining about the cold. Get in, you shouted. Get in and shut the fuck up.
Ines Grocery, beneath a sign for Coca-Cola, Mr Bojangles and his troop of minstrels, coal-faced and sooty-mouthed, tapped out a serenade involving bicycles, a fire hydrant, a store alarm and a great big puddle of dog piss.
There is, as the sign rightly states, no place on earth like this. One thousand animals, linked together by people clothes and people paraphernalia: pipes, cigarette holders, cars, eyeglasses, pinwheel hats, banjos. Inside, one thousand animals led by llamas and followed by racoons, bears, deer, badgers, cougars, moose, rabbits and banjo-playing chipmunks. In the shop, yours for twelve dollars, stuffed and genuine baby polar bears. Put them on your dashboard. One thousand animals, dead at Lake Placid.
Take it, they said, as we drove into town: take the sky up above, it’s all yours.
Breakfast 7am, Howard Johnson’s. Still dark enough, just, at that time of the morning to justify the neon sign. Is it too early, you asked, for cocktails? Cocktails and ice-cream? What flavour? What flavour what, the cocktails or the ice-cream? The ice-cream. What flavours have you? We’re right out of chocolate. I’ll have chocolate then. No, I said we’re right out of chocolate. I know, I heard you.
Smorgasbord, a home for antiques and deer heads. Moose heads when they can get them. At front, in front of the store, a couple of Texaco pumps and a billy shed for taking a leak. You drive in and the bell rings. They can guess, usually, by the state of you and your car, whether you’re looking for gas, antiques or a place to piss. They also serve coffee, hot, with a Coke machine out back.
It was the swimming pool that did it, and the promise of hot water. A night in this motel. Free TV and full carpeting throughout.
A couple of girls, no more than your age, parading about on the lawn dressed in tutus and tight tops, carrying between them a huge placard that read: Beautiful Cypress Gardens and All Kinds of Grass and Unusual Trees This Way. With an arrow pointing the way. Who wants to see that? I asked myself out loud. I want to see the sausage tree, you said. So I made the turn.
Lurleen B Wallace, wife of George Wallace, the only female governor of Alabama, for one year only. Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever, her husband said, a few years earlier. He later changed his mind.
From Monkey Island it’s a short trip to either the lagoon to the left or the lake to the right. You can go by steamer or by yacht or by dinghy. The choice is yours. Don’t forget to spend some time in the newly-refurbished amphitheater where you can watch cartoon characters of various stripe and popularity tear up the stage with their riotous antics and mouldy old dough. The restaurant, surrounded by, oh boy, the snack bar and the souvenir shop (curios only ten cents each), is home to fries, burgers, steaks, hot dogs, coffees, chowders, shakes and lobsters. Run from here, after you’ve finished eating, and climb aboard one of the fine airplanes we have standing on our private airstrip.
Jerry’s Restaurant sells shrimp, scallops and oysters. We will, I believe, partake. Have you a no smoking section? No? In which case, we’ll move on to Paul’s Restaurant, just five miles along on Route 23.
Past the hockey fields and down towards Lake Tannakeneekie, Florida’s Original Cars of Yesterday where continuous shows, roaring all day long, proudly show off the likes of the Chevron Bumblebee, the Cadillac Nicknack and the Lincoln Subaru. And if you ask nicely, the owner of Cars of Yesterday, a certain Marvin Friedman, will let you sit behind the wheel of one of those rare beauties and bounce to your heart’s content. Good old Marv.
You went through the door marked Lionesses to take a piss. I went through the door marked Lions to take a piss. No, wait, I had a shit.
In Shannon County, South Dakota – somewhere around there at least – we stepped out to spend time at the Badlands National Monument. What we saw there was 64,144 acres of wilderness that, we were told, was full of wild things and bad things, hence the park’s name. American Indians, a firing range, fossils and homesteaders all there too. Do you recall, Shannon, how when we were in Shannon County we laughed at the similarity between it and your name? It reminded us, as we said at the time, of the time we ate lunch in Paul’s Restaurant on Route 23. Burgers wasn’t it? And a couple of shakes. Anyway. In Badlands Monument do you remember how you picked up that rifle and accidentally shot dead that black-footed ferret? Fucking hell. How were we to know it was America’s most endangered mammal?