Stopping to buy gas late in the evening, I walk into D&L and immediately stop: the familiar clerk is mopping the floor. It’s so muggy, even long past dark, that he holds the back of his wrist to his sweating forehead.
Go ahead, he tells me. Walk on it. And he crosses the wet tile floor himself.
We talk a little about this hot, sultry summer, now winding down. Already, I’m waking in the dark, turning on the light over the kitchen sink to feed the mewling cats.
In this liquor and gas station on the edge of town, the clerks are sharp-eyed, scanning the crowd, but this evening, it’s just him and I. He leans on his mop handle, nearly finished with his day’s shift, nearly closing time.
I mention that six months from now, in lightless January, I’m going to be complaining to him about the subzero cold.
He laughs out loud. Oh, boy, I can’t wait.
Outside, the gas station lights are an illuminated bubble in the surrounding darkness. Most people sleep at night in this little town. I’m sure there’s mothers and fathers awake with crying babies, the heartsick or troubled who wander their dim rooms, drug users or simply those who are sleepless. The crickets whirr their song, this still night, with not even any passing-through traffic. August: season of t-shirts and sandals, and, this morning, rain sweetly falling.
The Chinese junk
moving on through the mist