Too late to be honest


We eat our fill then call for a check none of us intend to pay.

Dan, whispers that he will meet us in the van, slaps his pockets, and pretends like he needs a cigarette Ė rising from the booth as the diner full of truckers watches his every move, hatred oozing out of each grim face the way grease oozes out of the burgers we just ate

They watch him as he makes his way to the cigarette machine.

Since we have no money, Dan doesnít buy anything, just lifts out a pack of matches someone left behind, strikes one, lights his cigarette, then steps outside, out of sight, out of mind, and the truckers look at us again.

The cook with his greasy apron hands me a check with his finger print outlined in grease.

Louise and I rise. I tell her as loud as possible that Iíll meet her outside. She heads towards the door. I head towards the menís room, every eye on me as I close the door.

A sink, a toilet, a dirty towel, but no window, the urine scent making me want to puke.

I am going to have to walk right back out there, and somehow get to the front door before the owner or the truck drivers catch on.

Iím thinking Iím going to die and wish I had bummed a cigarette from Dan before he left.

I take a pee, returning a little of the pilfered coffee to diner, even though it floats on top of the wad of toilet paper and floating logs of cigarette butts previous visitors here left as their calling cards.

Finally, with my heart pumping so hard I wonder if my heart will stop, I open the door again to the expectant faces of the truckers who never stopped looking, even to take a bite of their meals.

I am their meal.

One step, then the next, and finally I reach the door. The owner turns from making something on the grill, sees me go out and shouts.

A gun shot could not have seemed so loud or started a race so furious as I dart down the stairs and onto the gravel and towards the van as trucker after trucker jumps up inside the diner to give chase.

Dan pulls the van up to me with the passenger side door swinging open. I hop in. The owner leads the pack flowing out the diner door.

Gun it, I scream, but the VW van just putts, and bounces in its usual lazy movements, gathering speed, but not nearly fast enough to keep the mass of sweating bodies from gaining on us.

They come towards us faster and faster, voices raised along with their fists.

I canít breath.

I want to stop and trade something we might have of worth.

But Dan tells me itís too late to be honest. Those guys want blood.

The van grunts, grinds gears, and starts to leave them behind, with only the most nimble of the truckers still gaining on us, and soon, even those become a fading memory in the rear view mirror.

Will they follow us?

The owner is bound to call the police?

The question is whether or not we can make the Arizona border in time and whether even the cops will think a stolen meal worth the chase through the desert there?

Only time will tell.


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