Thursday, September 10, 2009

A tale for your entertainment, and other times.


There is dirt road in a strange place, and next to the road stands an old pick-up truck. It is burnt orange and battered, perhaps an old Ford. Inside there is man. He doesn’t look like the best kind of man, but honestly – who are we to judge just by looking at his hillbilly hat and ratty clothing. A cigarette dangles from his lips. They have that weird white flaky lip-dandruff on them. He is unshaven and thin.

Next to the pick-up truck is a curious pile of polystyrene ice boxes. They are piled really high, in a shaky tower. It seems impossible that the tower remains upright, yet it does. The tower moves, almost imperceptibly, with every movement of the wind.

Another car pulled up, also old and battered, more people in it. Two are women, one a man. They get up and stand around, the women wearing shapeless flower print dresses, the type now only found at charity stores. They do not speak. They are waiting.

A dust cloud on the horizon signals the approach of another vehicle. They all watch as it moves closer, the women shifting from one foot to another. The driver is tall and skinny, his white pick-up surprisingly clean for this part of the world. He gets out and immediately begins to unload some cases of beer. They watch him, but don’t offer to help – they pay good money for this service.

He finishes unloading, then hands the man in the hillbilly hat a clipboard. He indicates where he should sign. The hillbilly hat pulls his mouth in a semi snarl, revealing dirty teeth. They could have been good teeth, but they’re not. “You’re not done,” he growls, and points to the white icebox precariously balanced at the top of the tower. The courier looks up, then turns and takes a ladder from the back of his truck. He steadies it and climbs up slowly, still having to stretch for the top ice box. It is heavier than he expected, and makes a terrible polystyrene screech when he moves it – artificial, chilling, nails on a plastic blackboard. He almost loses his balance as he takes it from the pile. The eldest woman draws in a sharp breath. The courier recovers and reverses down the ladder, holding onto his cargo carefully. When he reaches the bottom, he looks at the four people, rests the icebox on the bonnet of his truck.

He opens the box. The older woman looks away, bites her lip. Both the men look down. The other woman takes a curious step closer, looks around the courier, then stumbles back, dazed. She whispers something under her breath and shakes her head. Her curly black hair is now a mess. She pulls her fingers through her hair. Sweat sticks to her palm.

The second man walks to the white pickup and pushes the courier to the side. He puts the lid back on the icebox, and turns it on its side so it fits under his arm. Thump. The older woman yells: “Upright! You have to hold it upright!” The courier takes the box back, carefully turns it upright, and puts it on the front seat next to him. He gives them one last look, backs his car up, and drives away.

The woman with the messed-up hair laughs nervously. “Will someone roll me a cigarette?” The older woman gets in the car, the men smoke, saying nothing. The courier’s clipboard lies in the dirt, the pages flicking in the wind. The men both wonder where they’ll get their beer from now. The courier won’t be back.