Kansas. An itty-bitty town. An old cafe. Linoleum floors, vinyl stools. The coffee tastes like ditch water.
In the parking lot: one semi truck, and fifty Fords. George Jones is on the radio.
Thank the Lord these places still exist.
This morning, I visited a river my father used to fish. I had to see it again. I was going to go fishing for old time’s sake, but decided I wanted eggs instead.
My waitress has the personality of a saint, and the smile to go with it. She warms up my coffee. I notice the skin on her chest and neck is marbled red and purple. Burns. Bad ones.
The man beside me is white-haired, wearing a cowboy hat. So are the old men beside him. I don’t know them. But these are the men my father came from.
We start talking.
“What’cha do for a livin’?” one cowboy hat asks.
Men have a biological need to ask this question of strangers. It’s as essential to manhood as
fishing rivers our daddies fished.
“I’m a writer,” I say.
This causes a stir among the hats at the counter. They lean forward to get a better look at the out-of-towner.
“What’cha writin’ about?” one asks.
Between five of them there are four cowboy hats, three pairs of suspenders, and enough white hair to sink the U.S.S. Uruguay. These men are the men I come from.
“This, that, and the other,” I say.
“Well, son,” says Cowboy Hat. “I’m gonna tell you a story about Bigfoot that I been trying to get published for SIXTY years...”
The other men laugh, but the old fella is serious.
“I was a boy,” Cowboy Hat goes on. “Saw this big ole thing in the woods. I’s scared to death, but got me a good view... It was Bigfoot, alright.”