I stared at the poster of some kids, all making the Devil's sign on the deck of a boat. One of them hovered with upraised arms in the foreground focus, prior to a perverse baptism in the Colorado river. On a video monitor in a neighboring Terrible's, a blonde and Lycra-ed woman ran, then drank some sports water. Every time I took a reluctant sip of the soda included with my Happy Meal, I'd look up and saw her sipping too. Some beverage entrainment was going on between us but she failed to uplift me, for the ad was infinitum. The cashier failed too. After giving me my change, she asked me to choose from a list on a card produced from under the cash register, emphasizing that it would cost me nothing to do so. Listed on the card were things like: Commit random acts of kindness, hug a dog, tell someone that you love them. I refused the unconditional offer and she plunked the card back down on the counter, looking at me with suspicion.
There were a few others whiling away their Christmas Eve desperation along with me. As I hucked my Quarter Pounder down, pink slime and all, I could see a Toyota dealership across the road about a quarter mile away, with the All Seeing Eye logo emblazoned on the establishment. I had dreamed about it the night prior. Some hooded members of a coven branded my forehead with the white hot symbol that was on a key chain. Then I saw my full name on the horizontal bar of a cross, in stark Helvetica font.
Worse than the dream import was the Sirius music pumped through the restaurant. I tried to block it with silicon ear plugs, then some ear buds through my tablet. I had some techno cranked full volume but the canned Pop still wormed its way into my skull. Meanwhile the meal solidified like concrete in my stomach.
I returned to my campsite just at dusk and discovered that a friend had re-appeared after a long absence from Craggy Wash. She had parked her camper next to Lupe's tent and I saw her hobbling around with a cane. I cut across the wash and her three Chihuahuas barked and wagged their tails simultaneously. After sitting in a lawn chair, the dogs tried jumping up into my lap. Two of them made it.
"They stole my money. When I was in the hospital." Kelly replied after I asked her where she had been. "Crisp hundred dollar bill. Out of my wallet. Gone."
There were two full bottles of Jack Daniels behind her on the floor of her trashed camper. She asked me to light her cigarette and I did so.
"They hit me over the head with a rock. I know they did, because the lump was not on either side like when you fall and hit something. It was on top."
She took a sip of her drink. "Can't trust nobody."
"Before the accident, I was making six figures flipping houses with my husband. We had the most lavish parties. Funny how people that came to them would switch check out lanes in the grocery store when they saw me in a wheel chair."
I could only pet her dogs which looked at me expectantly. Taking the hint, I got up and put them on the ground, went over and hugged Kelly. Her body was stiff and a bit cold. Over her shoulder I could see bottles of pain pills on the kitchen counter. I had hoped to be blessed with the gift of miraculous healing at that moment but she trembled some more during my attempted laying on of hands.
Returning to my tent in the dark, I laid on my inflatable mattress, clutching my stomach and envisioning myself crucified atop a Prius in the celebratory glare of the coming New Year. It would be a sufficient atropopaic in my estimation, warding off any fair weather friends that may be drawn my own way when the inevitable Good News arrives as hinted at in the foreshadowings described above.