The Iowa Review

in my parents’ garage 3:38 a.m. at the truck stop you think you’ve seen everything

- Justin Hyde

mom says she’s been clean for two months so i’m letting her see my nine-month-old son

i’m out here because my mother is sneaky i don’t think she’s clean

film canisters underneath sheet music in a cardboard box are full of darvocet & unmarked blue pills

i put the box back

& walk to the window at the east wall

still cracked from when i shot it with my bb gun when i was twelve

i thought my father was going to beat my ass when he came home that day but mom told him she’d accidental­ly done it with the broom handle

right now dad’s at one of three bars

he keeps tennessee moonshine in pickle jars on the shelf over there

i’d like to lock myself in here open a lawn chair & empty a few of the jars

i’d like to be a different father to my son

my fist is on the other side of the window.

he sat down at the little u-shaped counter up front

tried lighting a cigarette but kept dropping the matches

his skin was the color of skim milk

you all right honey? waitress asked

having a heart attack his voice came like a skeleton sweat dripping off his chin

waitress ran to the phone for an ambulance

want me to help you onto the floor? i asked him

just light my cigarette will you he said body stiff as a bent nail

he took off an old silver watch

with a white face slid it toward me along with his wallet

you tell her i remember that night under the stars at lake red rock

he made me write it down on a napkin

along with his wife’s phone number in joplin missouri.

silver-dollar eyed guy in the corner of the flying j talking gibberish to himself

that’s nothing we’ve all seen it

but still

after pissing you ask the waitress if he’s all right

a regular she says vietnam vet

that makes sense go back to reading a little sartre

he jumps out of his booth

starts doing the twist

six-foot-three two-hundred-fifty-pound bear of a man

grinding it out like a motherfuck­er

smiling from one end of the room to the other

belting out chubby checker so loud it’s vibrating your ribcage seven booths over

he comes toward your booth

motions for you to get up & dance

it’s not fear & it’s not pity

you don’t exactly know what the hell is going on

you just do it.

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