May 13


History will ask – “Where were you when it happened?” – it, a disquieting event that will be talked about for years over coffee and television commercials.  “Where were you?” houseguests will demand.  When your children are old enough, you’ll recount tall tales of what you did when it happened and – the humanity! – how awful it was.  The children will ooh and ahh and gape openly with lurid eyes, and when the charades are over, you’ll dismiss them to their rooms, hoping that your panting theatrics didn’t scare them to sleeplessness.

I was at a Burger King drive-through.

My order was a rodeoburger and a small Icee.  That’s it.  I was hungry; I don’t eat breakfast, and I skipped lunch for some damnable reason, making that rodeoburger all the more palatable and that Icee all the more quenching.  I needed them both, now, but as the universe would have it, eternity is defined as the time it takes for time to expire.  The car idled.  My stomach growled.  I tapped the steering wheel.  Tap, tap tap.

The Burger King bade me to roll forth, and I sat even with a little metal box that stood between me and sweet, sweet barbeque sauce dribbling down my chin.

I rolled the car window down and poked my head out – and that’s when I heard it, a mob of tiny lawnmowers cutting through bags of granulated sugar, monstrous and throbbing on an airy spring day, coming from directions that never should exist in spacetime.  There was something sinister about that droning noise–

The Burger King spoke; I could not hear, but the list of possible topics was short.  “Rodeoburger!” I screamed.  “BLUE ICEE!”

I waited with wild eyes staring madly at the metal box.  That infernal noise was growing louder, and I felt as if a great army of Kitchenaid stand mixers was about to skewer me with rusty dough hooks.  I prayed for advancements in drive-through noise cancellation technology; I wondered to which god that request would be routed.

The box squawked – but it was for naught.  The stand mixers were advancing on my position and the phantasmal King may as well have confirmed my order using armpit farts.  What was the use in playing this game?  If I drove to the next window (a beastly metaphor for life, by the way) and my measly two-dollar order was wrong, then the King could fix it right at the window, right before my eyes, without the Roswell landing warping lines of communication.

Great idea, I congratulated myself, and shifted into drive.  But that’s when one of those goddamned aliens landed on my face and shit really started to go the other way.  I shrieked.  Let me tell you – a shriek is never something that you plan to do and it always sounds like you’re auditioning for a paranormal horror movie, one that leaves theater audiences crying and piss-soaked.  I shrieked and slapped my own face.  I tell myself it’s because there was a winged gargoyle crawling up my cheek, but I secretly think it was out of deep, inconsolable shame.  What happened next is still a little hazy, but if I had to guess, I’d say that my foot slipped off the brake pedal and onto the gas, and my car climbed into the backseat of the next one in line.

I never got that rodeoburger and will never know if the King bagged my order right on the first try.  The guy in front of me had some big problem with my little love tap and several cops took what they described as an “active interest” in our shouting match (I tried to explain that we were shouting because of the noise, but since I was shouting at them because of the noise, they threatened me with arrest).  I spent the rest of the day convincing the stone pillars of law enforcement that I should not be thrown in jail for want of a simple rodeoburger and that insurance hell would be punishment enough for anybody.

There are lessons to be learned from this, and I’ll let the more mentally endowed draw them.  As for me – if a few billion cicadas decide to end their 17-year game of hide-and-seek on Thursday, I’m going to set my alarm for Friday.

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