Hank Kirton

The Waitress and the Snake

Dawn. Sitting down to breakfast at The Happy Diner for the first time, eating greasy eggs and ham. As usual, I am alone and slightly high. I don’t know why I mix cannabis and caffeine. I get jumpy and my thoughts turn sour. On the other hand, I haven’t had a drink in over a year, thanks to coffee, weed and cigarettes. Technically I’m not sober, yet I am. Ativan helps too. I drop acid on the weekends just to flush out the Jung.

My waitress (nametag: Bernice) looks haggard and worn, but there’s beauty there too. She looks like Charlotte Rampling after a near-toxic bender. I know just from looking at her that she’s dealing with a bad hangover. Drunk sick. Serious soaks can recognize each other. It’s a psychic bond among lushes. I’ve seen the world through the look in her eyes. I can tell reality is hurting her right now. Her service suffers (I have to hunt her down for the check after thirty missing minutes) but I try to be polite and nice and when I leave, I leave behind a generous tip (25%). I want to give her encouraging words. I wish I could slip her a nip to help get her through the misery of her shift. I have dealt with the same agony she’s dealing with countless times. My compassion is hard won. But she’s tough. She’ll make it through. Not all of us do.

I walk home silently reciting a prayer to protect me from the passing cars. There is no sidewalk. I’m on the street, risking my life for a shitty breakfast.

The litter on the side of the street reminds me of my dissipated history: empty nips, beer cans, cigarette butts. I used to drink and drive like a pastime. Just cruising and listening to sad songs on the radio. I finally lost my license and I don’t want it back.

Halfway to my apartment I am confronted by a dead snake. It is a marvelous specimen. It’s a black rat snake (pantherophis obsoletus), big. It had been a powerful predator but it will slither no more. And then I’m struck by an idea. I crouch down and insert the tail into its mouth, making a loop like it’s eating itself. Like an ouroboros. The next person will come upon it and wonder. Maybe the waitress will find it. Maybe it’ll inspire something. I head home.

***

From: Everything Dissolves

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