"You should be doing that at home."
The elderly store clerk looks up from the trash can she was emptying and spots the source of this unsolicited comment: He's just a few years younger than her - maybe 70 - and dressed in ragged blue jeans and an untucked dark blue polo shirt, unbuttoned at the neck. The clerk blows him off and returns to her work.
The obnoxious old man (let's call him "Carl"), meanwhile, has strolled over to the beer cooler and grabbed himself a 40 oz. bottle of Busch Light. With a donut in one hand, I look at my phone in the other: 8:30 a.m. on a Thursday. I chuckle to myself and fall into line behind Carl, who's just grabbed the morning paper. At the register he asks for a pack of GPC's, pays for his beer and smokes and struts out the door, the scuffled hair on the sides of his balding pink-splotched head whipping around in the breeze.
The clerk and I stand inside at the register, but we're both gawking out the window at glorious Carl as he hops into a spotless Cadillac SUV, the morning sun gleaming off the shiny silver rims. Our jaws drop a little lower when Carl pops the cap off his 40 and takes a few swallows off the top. Finally, he lights up a GPC before driving away, probably off to enjoy the best day ever.
(My buddy, Kyle, sent me a straight account of this story yesterday and prefaced it with: "Thought I'd give you a quick dose of Iowa." So the "I" in this story is actually Kyle and this happened before his very eyes yesterday morning in Granger, Iowa. I took creative liberty with a few details (like "Carl") but when I sent him this slightly-fictionalized version, he replied, "It's like you were there." I took that as permission to publish it here. The phrase from Kyle's account that made me laugh the most was "Probably off to enjoy the best day ever," so it had to stay in the story, verbatim. I love writing these little slices of life, like Francois. Thanks, Kyle, for sending me the story and planting the seed for a quick little creative writing exercise.
Photo credit: mhaithaca, CC license.)