Groom, Texas, on RTE 66 When I checked my voice mail west of Groom where the Cross of Our Lord towers over RTE 66, a ghostly voice of static told me Carlos had died and I should wait on the shoulder of the road for a message meant for me from the other side— that he had stopped in the dead bar of a ghost town where he had talked with the barkeep’s tattoo of seven faces while using his phone to find me and where they somehow knew of the time when communion and weed tripped me up over worship with the sheriff in the next pew and to warn it does little good to vanish into arid west Texas because the flat road will never lead me out of the looming shadow of the Cross of Our Lord.
Do Not Go Mad Across the River At the Chain of Rocks, the street prophet declared mutation was rampant, the town bars were dead, and the dead were waiting to guide me to the charred wreckage of a boat. A dropped match, he said, lit the lower deck, 300 burned and the shore a mere 50 yards away— they catalogued the teeth and age of bodies they pulled out, then tossed them back into the river. I had an ache, a low-grade fever, I hope the fortitude not to go mad, even as the sorrow of his sermonizing weighed down a raft of bodies I passed over to cross the river.
Home for the Rest of My Life In the bar of the dead saloon the keys of the pianola began playing, and everyone sashayed onto the dance floor for a last dance before the lights went out. I wanted this to be home for the rest of my life—they were joy in the way they waltzed across the dance floor, past the pianola, and out onto the street. But the tattooed barkeep with smiling faces told me it was time to move on and I could pass the night at the Greyhound depot where a body hanging in the third stall was looking for someone to keep it company while it waited for a lover to come home.
Richard Long is a retired English professor in Santa Rosa, California. Since 1996, he has edited 2River, www.2River.org, quarterly publishing The 2River View and occasionally publishing individual writers in the 2River Chapbook Series.