Blue Beacon, Salt Lake City

In my mind, I have an idea of how I look. I’ve put on some pounds, but I imagine myself proportional. I’ve let my beard grow, but I imagine it symmetrical. I imagine myself one of the great Russian writers of black-and-white. So it’s disconcerting when I see myself on the color monitor above the register.

My bloated gut pushing through my shirt, threatening to tip me over. My beard a messy bib covering my chest.

It’s three in the morning on a Thursday. I’m 1200 miles from home. I can’t remember the last time I slept. I’m jacked up on beef jerky and Mountain Dew and Howard Stern. I’m a truck driver.

I was once a soldier.

Twenty-years ago I was 18. I had just joined the Army. A psychotic drill sergeant was chasing me. I was carrying two plastic cups filled to the brim with ice water. He yelled at me for spilling water on his concrete floor. It was the middle of July. In Alabama. That it would evaporate before he was done spitting was of no matter.

Fort McClellan. Just outside of Anniston. Home of the Military Police Corps. Also the Chemical Warfare School.

A toxic place.

So much so that when the Army shut it down they gave it back to Alabama. But Alabama told them to keep it.

And there was a lawsuit.

Probably I’m dying slowly of cancer. But aren’t we all.

“It’ll be thirty-one dollars,” the teenager behind the desk tells me.

“Okay,” I say. I hand him my credit card.

His friends wash the chicken guts out of my trailer. So I can pick up frozen donuts in the morning with a clean floor.

I watch myself on the TV.

“Sir?” the teenager says. “Your card was denied.”

“Okay,” I say.

And I watch myself on the TV.

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