Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

Seasons Change, Two

Published in Strays.

You’re back. Sugar, you — well, we might just talk for a minute before I get you that menu. I get it, hun, you’re hungry. We’re all hungry. OK. You know? Let me do you a solid though. This one here, this one’s not on any menu in this place.

What’s this?

Well, hun, that is a glass. And in that glass, my hunch is you’ll find the answer to what ails ya. Right? You know how when you feel that pain start to creep in your belly? That rumble, that pain. Before long it creeps and you don’t feel it but only in your head? Then it’s all you can do not to think about it — it’s like an itch on the inside of your eyelids. And there but one help for an itch like that! [Laughs.] When I seen you come in that door and grab hold on your notebook and start writing, I knew you wasn’t here for no hunger pains. There’s some other hurt in you. No, no, no…

I just came here because I’m hungry and this is by my hotel. You’ve seen me here on Tuesday. Remember? You had your hair up?

Right, right. Tuesday. But Tuesday I thought you were just here to eat. Until I knew better, at least. Today, no, today you’re here for food, are you?

Ma’am, I just can’t. You see, I’ve got thi…

Problem? And what kind of problem is going to be fixed by you scribblin’ about twigs and leaves and how life just ain’t right? Bet you didn’t know I read that, did ya? When you went to the can — yeah, I read it. It was sittin’ right there. And I get it, baby. And I get you.

I seen you in here, and on Tuesday you got the special, just like half the other boys who sit in that booth like you’re sittin’. But you put that Coke down below for a minute, took something from your napsack, then that drink I noticed needin’ a refill didn’t need any extra love from me. Bet you didn’t know I knew that, huh?

Look, it’s just… I’m a writer, and what I’m doing is…

Baby, I’m done lookin’. I look at boys like you all day long. Boys who aught do better even if they don’t know better. And, Chuck, I’m setting you free now. You ain’t gonna get it until you got nowhere else to go but up.

Wait? How did you know my…?

I told you, hun. I got you. And what’s going on? You ain’t never gonna see it until you do. You think I’m slow to you. But you’re the one putting down words on a page about how you ain’t livin’ right. You ain’t got but one option as best I see here.

[Chuck slowly drinks from the glass as Sharon sets a menu down in front of him.]

Fine, then. Now I’m gonna go back outside and get a smoke in before the rest of the hamburger train stops back in this place. Oh, some of those boys — they eat. Maybe I’d stick here for a minute until I’m back — will you? I want you to tell me about this writing of yours.

And Chuck. You know, what’s the thing misery loves more than company?

Um. I…

Bourbon! [Laughs.]

And I got enough misery to know that ain’t lyin’.